WASHINGTON -- A key Republican chairman is trying to dramatically widen Senate Republicans' probe into how the FBI handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and the top Democrat on his committee is branding the effort an "orchestrated, partisan smear."
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis. is participating in a political attack on "the FBI and our federal law enforcement officials," said a spokesman for Sen. Claire McCaskill, the most senior Democrat on the committee.
"Senator McCaskill hoped that last week's unsubstantiated rants about secret societies and informants would have caused the Chairman to take pause, but instead he's forging ahead," said her spokesman Drew Pusateri.
"The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has a long history of aggressive, bipartisan, important oversight -- but it's also served as a warning of what happens when Congress wields its authority as an ideological weapon -- and the actions we've seen in the last week are deeply troubling."
Johnson on Thursday asked the Department of Justice to turn over texts, emails, memos and voicemails from 16 FBI and DOJ officials, including former Director James Comey, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and outgoing chief of staff Jim Rybicki.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein posted on the committee's website, Johnson demanded the communications from employees between Jan. 1, 2015, to the present.
The request stems from text messages between FBI official Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page that were already turned over to the committee.
Johnson noted in his letter that in those texts, Page and Strzok -- who were reportedly having an affair -- made reference to communicating with other FBI employees via text message, phone calls and email.
Additional text messages also suggest that FBI officials used non-official email accounts and messaging programs to communicate about official business, Johnson said.
His letter also requests emails between 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama that Johnson says were exchanged while Clinton was in the "territory of a sophisticated adversary."