Most GOP senators have been purposefully avoiding the campaign by Donald Trump and House Republicans to trash the FBI.
Top Senate and House party leaders and Intelligence Committee leaders from both parties will be briefed on whether an informant was embedded in President Donald Trump’s campaign on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The briefing comes after complaints from Senate Democrats and some Republicans about the adminstration’s plans for an unprecedented briefing for two prominent House Republicans from FBI Director Christopher Wray and and the Justice Department on Thursday. At noon, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy will meet with White House chief of staff John Kelly, deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, according to guidance from the Department of Justice.
But two hours later on Capitol Hill, those same officials with meet with House and Senate Democratic Republican leaders as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the Intel Committees, a stunning shift after the initial exclusion of Democrats. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) hinted that the meeting would come on Thursday afternoon after he said he’d “leave it up to the process” regarding whether he and the top Intelligence Democrat in the Senate would be included.
The developments marked a major break from the partisan play from House Republicans, who have largely joined President Donald Trump’s war on the Justice Department. Their counterparts in the Senate, by comparison, are deliberately avoiding the crossfire.
It’s not that GOP senators aren’t interested in potential misconduct by law enforcement officials. But their default is to defend the FBI rank and file, not trash its leadership, as House members did at a news conference on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the politics over in the House have become the issue. And in the Senate, we’ve tried not to become the issue, we’ve tried to investigate the facts,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who recently gave a speech defending FBI agents in the face of attacks from the House.
Senate Republicans are not dismissive of the FBI informant matter and are still demanding documents from the Justice Department about it. Plus, a trio of Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee quietly asked to attend Thursday’s event, including Cornyn, who serves on both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
But Burr and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) have maintained a cooperative bipartisan rapport during the panel’s probe into Russia’s influence on the 2016 elections. And senators don’t want it to turn into into the months-long food fight that the House Intelligence Committee has become. After securing a Gang of Eight bipartisan meeting that would include Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for June, the Gang pushed to have it moved up to right after the House-only briefing on Thursday.
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