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US Senate panel approves subpoenas in Russia probe

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, left, listens as then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on the Defense Department's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2016. (Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee has approved subpoena power for a politically charged congressional investigation of the Justice Department’s probe into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and its contacts with Russia.

The committee on June 11 voted 12-10 along party lines to grant its chairman, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), authority to subpoena dozens of current and former Justice Department officials.

Graham, a close Trump ally, said the panel would look at how the department went “so off the rails” as it investigated Trump and his campaign.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (California), the panel’s top Democrat, accused Graham of negating committee rules that require separate approval for individual subpoenas.

The president and his Republican allies contend that the Justice Department’s investigation, which led to a 22-month probe by then-U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was an effort to undermine Trump’s candidacy and later his presidency.

Democrats view the Senate probe as a political ploy to help Trump’s reelection in the November 3 election.

Mueller’s report, issued in April 2019, detailed multiple interactions between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, but did not find sufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin to tip the election.

A December report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found multiple errors and omissions in the applications the FBI submitted to conduct surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide in the early months of the probe.

However, it found no evidence that the FBI had acted with political bias.