After years of foot-dragging and empty threats, Senate Republicans finally seemed poised to hold ObamaGate conspirators publicly accountable for their complicity in the biggest political scandal in U.S. history. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last month issued a list of more than 50 Obama-era officials he threatened to subpoena and compel to testify before the committee he has controlled for nearly 18 months.
The list includes key figures such as former FBI Director James Comey; former acting Attorney General Sally Yates; former CIA Director John Brennan; and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Graham’s committee, according to a May 14 statement, “would debate and vote on a subpoena authorization related to the FISA abuse investigation and oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Open hearings, long pushed by rank-and-file Republicans frustrated with the lack of culpability and slow pace of ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations, would force ObamaGate accomplices to explain their malfeasance to the American people. Testimony on Wednesday afternoon by former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein again underscored how top law enforcement officials have escaped any measure of accountability. Rosenstein played dumb, claimed he was misled by his FBI underlings and that’s why he signed an illegal FISA warrant on Carter Page, appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and expanded Mueller’s reach a few months later even though he had no solid proof of any crime.
But thanks to opposition from his own party, Graham had to postpone a vote to issue the subpoenas until next week. Senate Democrats successfully hijacked the discussion to instead vent about police brutality and racism. “Instead of engaging in political partisan gains on behalf of this president what the American people want this committee to do is to be relevant to why they are shouting and marching and crying in the streets of our country,” California Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) scolded Thursday morning. “I would dare say the conversation we are having today is irrelevant to what…is happening on the streets of America today.”
Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) shared Harris’ disinterest in Graham’s attempt to call ObamaGate accomplices to account. Sasse, who has been silent on this unprecedented abuse of federal power against a political foe despite his spot on the Judiciary committee, ranted that “some of us have other work to do” and asked how much longer the meeting would last. “It’s bullshit the way people grandstand for cameras in here,” Sasse scolded. “The Senate doesn’t work…ninety percent of our committees are about people trolling for soundbites.” (Sasse gave a similar dramatic, weepy monologue to an empty Senate chamber during the Kavanaugh-Ford debacle in 2018.)
Sasse’s brief tirade was his only contribution to the meeting; he didn’t even bother attending Rosenstein’s 3-hour testimony on Wednesday. The Nebraska Republican spent more time authoring a statement to condemn the president’s “photo op” at St. John’s this week than he did exposing corrupt Obama-era Democrats.
After winning his Republican primary last month, Sasse is back to his old anti-Trump tricks.