The expected federal indictment of former President Trump, which former Attorney General Bill Barr predicts is “near,” is teeing up a Capitol Hill battle over funding for the Justice Department and FBI.
Trump allies, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), have threatened to cut Department of Justice and FBI funding if those federal law enforcement agencies target Trump — but that’s not a popular idea with Senate Republicans, who fear it gives political ammo to Democrats.
The issue is heating up as lawmakers turn their attention to the annual spending bills to fund the federal law enforcement agencies.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a Trump ally, has called on Congress to reform the FBI in “a major way.”
“Maybe we need to break them up,” he said.
“I do want law enforcement available to do law enforcement tasks. My concern with the FBI is they don’t seem very concerned about law enforcement; they seem focused on these political witch hunts,” he added.
Hawley believes Trump will be the Republican nominee for president in 2024, potentially creating the appearance of a political conflict of interest if he is charged and brought to trial by a Department of Justice that is part of President Biden’s administration.
“I think Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, I really do,” he said.
Hawley said if federal prosecutors charge Trump for his handling of classified documents while not charging Biden for sensitive documents he kept in his personal possession after leaving the Obama administration, it “would be a big mistake on this administration’s part.”
“The political outcry on that, and rightly so, would be huge,” he warned.
Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) does not support Trump’s bid to win the Republican nomination for president, but he nevertheless criticized the FBI’s limited cooperation with Republican lawmakers in both chambers who are seeking more information about the agency’s investigations.
“All I know is that the FBI and Department of Justice, there’s an oversight role that Congress has, and when [lawmakers] request things, I think the expectation is that they’re going to produce them,” he said.
Thune pointed out that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “feels very strongly that the FBI has not been forthcoming.”
“That’s a problem for them. So I expect that will change, certainly hope that will change because the alternatives aren’t good,” he warned.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has accused Republicans of wanting to defund federal law enforcement, flipping the script on GOP leaders who accused Democrats of wanting to defund the police in 2020 and 2022.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) took a shot at Republicans when asked about talk among Republicans about using the appropriations process to push back on the Justice Department.
“Honest to God, they run a campaign against Democrats saying we want to defund the police, and then they turn around and want to defund the FBI and Department of Justice. It just shows how radical the MAGA Republicans can be,” he said.
Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo in April that, “We’re gonna have to look at the appropriations process and limit funds going to some of these agencies, particularly the ones that are engaging in the most egregious behavior.”
Asked whether he was referring to the FBI and Department of Justice, Jordan replied “yeah” and added: “What I’d really like, frankly, I’d really like for the government to just stay out of the election process.”
The debate among Republicans over whether to use their power of the purse to dissuade the Department of Justice from prosecuting Trump comes while the former president holds a commanding lead in the polls over his Republican rivals ahead of next year’s presidential primary.
Any federal indictment of Trump, either because of his role in trying to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election or his handling of classified documents, would come amid escalating tensions between GOP lawmakers and the nation’s top law enforcement officials, Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Asked whether there’s an appetite among Senate Republicans for using Congress’s power over federal budgets to rein in the Department of Justice, Hawley, a member of the Judiciary Committee, quipped: “We could zero out Merrick’s [Garland] salary.”
“Maybe we start there,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, on Monday called Garland the most “political” attorney general in U.S. history.
“This attorney general, Merrick Garland, is the most partisan, he is the most political attorney general in our nation’s history,” Cruz told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “I believe Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump. He wants to indict Donald Trump because he hates Donald Trump.”
Cruz accused the attorney general of carrying a grudge over getting blocked from getting confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2016, when then-President Obama nominated him to fill the seat held by late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Texas senator predicted Garland would charge Trump with obstruction of justice for hiding classified documents stored at Mar-a-Lago from federal prosecutors to rationalize the decision to charge Trump but not Biden for improper handling of top-secret information.
Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general but has more recently been a critic of his former boss, told “CBS Mornings” he expects federal prosecutors to indict Trump soon.
“If I had to bet, I would bet that it’s near,” he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Hill on Wednesday he would wait to see whether the Justice Department moves ahead with an indictment before deciding the next steps.
“Call me when that happens,” he said.
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Source: The Hill
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