FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) participates in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining liability during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Pool
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. Democrat on Thursday accused the Republican chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee of trying to misuse subpoena powers for an attack on President Donald Trump’s political rival Democrat Joe Biden.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the judiciary panel’s top Democrat, said Senator Lindsey Graham wants “unbridled authority to go after Obama-era officials,” including Biden’s presidential campaign chairman, Steve Ricchetti, “to bolster the president’s conspiracy theories.”
Ricchetti was Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president under former President Barack Obama.
Graham’s request for subpoena power, which requires committee approval, is part of his scrutiny of a Justice Department probe that led to former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. A committee vote is set for June 4.
“It appears that Republicans want to use the subpoena power of this committee to attack Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic candidate,” Feinstein said in a statement entered into the committee record during a brief Thursday meeting. “The committee should not conduct politically motivated investigations.”
A Graham spokeswoman had no comment on Feinstein’s statement. A Biden campaign spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the November presidential election, is leading Trump in several opinion polls. His businessman son Hunter Biden is already a target of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is seeking information involving his former seat on a Ukrainian gas company’s board.
The Mueller investigation found that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 campaign to boost Trump’s candidacy and that the Trump campaign had numerous contacts with Russians. But Mueller concluded that there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Moscow.
Trump and his Republican allies in Congress contend that the Russia probe began as an illicit effort by former Obama administration officials in the Justice Department to undermine Trump’s candidacy and later his presidency.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Leslie Adler