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Raw feelings abound as Senate turns back to Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Republican-led Senate committees have launched election-year investigations into the Justice Department’s Russia probe, resurrecting the issue at the urging of President Donald Trump while reigniting the partisan hostility that comes along with it.

In two committee rooms Thursday, tensions boiled as lawmakers considered a raft of subpoenas for current and former Justice Department officials. With the country suffering through civil unrest over police brutality, mass unemployment and the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats and even some Republicans questioned whether looking back at the Russia investigations — now dating back more than three years — should be a top priority.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was defiant, angrily stating that there are people “who are real good candidates for going to jail” in the Justice Department. Rhode Island Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse countered that he was concerned that the panel was turning into “political errand boys” for Trump’s reelection.

As the senators bickered, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., burst out that “it’s bullshit the way people grandstand for cameras in here” and “some of us have other work to do.”

Graham shot back: “If you’ve got to go somewhere else, go.” He later postponed the vote on more than 50 subpoenas, saying he would give people more time to talk.

In a Senate office building next door, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved its own slate of three dozen subpoenas related to the Russia probe over strong Democratic objections. The panel’s top Democrat, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, dismissed it as an election-year defense of Trump. But while all Republicans on the panel voted to authorize the subpoena authority, two urged the committee’s chairman, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, to change course.

Speaking on the committee’s investigation, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told Johnson that “I continue to be concerned that this is politically motivated” even as he voted to move ahead.

“The committee’s inquiry is not entirely without basis, but as you know, I believe there are far more urgent priorities that the committee should address, particularly given the trauma in our country from COVID-19, the shattered economy, widespread protests against systemic racism, foreign cyberattacks — and the list goes on and on,” Romney said.

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