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GOP-led Senate panel allows more subpoenas in inquiry into Russia investigation, 'unmasking'

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 9/16/2020 Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – A Senate panel on Wednesday allowed additional subpoenas as part of a politically fraught inquiry into the FBI's Russia investigation and on the so-called "unmasking" of Trump aides and advisers by the Obama administration.

The Republican-led Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to authorize its chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to issue subpoenas for documents and testimonies from people tied to the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation, the probe that was later taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller. The committee has previously authorized subpoenas on more than 30 former Justice Department and Obama administration officials as part of its investigation, and Wednesday's vote would allow for seven more. 

Ron Johnson wearing a suit and tie: In this Oct. 29, 2019 photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Johnson is taking on the unusual and high-profile role of being one of President Donald Trump's most vocal supporters at the same time he has emerged as a witness to key meetings and conversations at the heart of the ongoing impeachment inquiry and could serve as a juror who will decide the president's fate. ( © Andrew Harnik, AP In this Oct. 29, 2019 photo, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., appears on Capitol Hill in Washington. Johnson is taking on the unusual and high-profile role of being one of President Donald Trump's most vocal supporters at the same time he has emerged as a witness to key meetings and conversations at the heart of the ongoing impeachment inquiry and could serve as a juror who will decide the president's fate. (

Some aspects of the panel's investigation are similar to ones either already underway or have been concluded by other agencies and committees. But investigating the Russia probe, which cast a dark cloud over much of President Donald Trump's presidency, continues to be a dominant issue for Republicans. 

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Durham's inquiry: Ex-CIA chief John Brennan interviewed for 8 hours as part of Durham's review of Russia probe

John Durham, the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut, has been conducting a separate inquiry by the Justice Department into the origins of the Russia investigation. Attorney General William Barr, who has been critical of the Russia probe, told Fox News earlier that there would be "significant developments" before the November election.

Barr has also appointed another federal prosecutor to look into episodes of "unmasking" by Obama administration officials. Unmasking is a common and, until recently, an obscure government practice to reveal the identity of someone who's mentioned in an intelligence report. Republicans have seized on the issue of unmasking to raise questions about possible wrongdoing during the Obama administration. 

DOJ looks into 'unmasking': Attorney general taps prosecutor to look into episodes of 'unmasking' by Obama administration officials

Earlier this year, the National Security Agency declassified a document listing the names of Obama administration officials who requested to unmask former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn in the weeks before and after the 2016 presidential election. The list includes former Vice President Joe Biden and several high-ranking intelligence and law enforcement officials. 

The declassified documents state that the officials who requested to unmask Flynn had authority to do so, although the Justice Department and Republicans have raised questions about the motivations behind the unmasking.

'Counterintelligence threat': Republican-led panel singles out former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in new report

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has also released several reports from its own Russia investigation. The committee backed Mueller's findings that Russia intervened in the last presidential race to help Trump win. The panel's last report, released last month, offered new details on the roles played by Trump campaign advisers and their willingness to take advantage of a Kremlin-directed attempt to undermine the candidacy of former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  

The Russia investigation led to the indictments of half a dozen former Trump aides and associates, including longtime ally Roger Stone, whose sentence the president has commuted.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP-led Senate panel allows more subpoenas in inquiry into Russia investigation, 'unmasking'

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