The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday postponed a vote to authorize subpoenas for 53 Obama-era officials, a move that would have dramatically ramped up its investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
After a two-hour debate on the matter, committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said the panel will schedule a vote for next Thursday.
“I think it’s best to carry it over so we can talk,” the South Carolina Republican said. “This is an important issue.”
The Republican-lead panel debated compelling testimony and documents from scores of officials, including former FBI Director James B. Comey, ex-CIA Director John O. Brennan and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Mr. Graham is investigating the FBI’s decision-making in its probe of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia as well the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The senator said the warrants are necessary to get to the bottom of multiple unanswered questions in the investigation, including how so many mistakes were made in the Page warrant.
Last year, the Justice Department inspector general uncovered at least 17 errors in the warrant, including the omission of exculpatory material.
Mr. Graham is also focused on how an infamous unverified dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele was used, in part, to obtain the Page warrant.
The report funded by the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign was later disavowed to the FBI by a Russian source amid questions about its accuracy.
“I can’t talk to these people,” Mr. Graham said. “The FBI won’t let me talk to the case agent and the intel analyst.”
“I think the committee has an obligation to find out what happened when the Department Justice and the FBI were put on notice the central document to get a warrant was no longer reliable,” he said.
Democrats opposed the motion saying it was granting Mr. Graham “unprecedented” power to conduct a partisan investigation.
“Put simply, this motion grants the chair unbridled authority to go after Obama-era officials,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat. “I can’t support this kind of dragnet authority to support politically motivated investigations.”
In a bid to upend the subpoena vote, Democrats sought to add a series of amendments to compel testimony and documents from President Trump’s allies.
Among the individuals who Democrats want to be subpoenaed are former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and Trump campaign figure Rick Gates.
“At least it shows that the committee is willing to follow the facts where they lead and give an opportunity for this side to gain a subpoena providing the full context surrounding the Russia investigation,” Ms. Feinstein said of the amendment.
Mr. Graham insisted he was not running a politically motivated investigation.
“It’s not lost on me of what you think of me …. but if you expect me to punt, you can forget it,” he said. “We are not going to punt. We are not going to have a rule of law for Republicans and a rule of law for Democrats.”