Senate Republicans recommit themselves to Trump—no matter how much he endangers the country

Sure, Donald Trump is unfit. Sure, Trump may have begged yet another country—China—to help him win reelection. Sure, Trump is emotionally damaged and intellectually addled, according to a written account by his former national security adviser John Bolton. 

But does that matter to the Senate Republicans who cosigned Trump's presidency by saving him from conviction without hearing from a single witness? Are you high? No effing way do they have the integrity required for a little self-examination, according to CNN reporting. They're in the tank for Trump—always have been, always will be, no matter what.

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Asked whether Senate Republicans should have sought to secure Bolton's testimony now that his book is out, the ever-reflective Sen. Ron Johnson responded, "No," adding, "We never should have had an impeachment trial."

Of course, that's not what Bolton said. Based on Trump's persistent pattern of placing his own personal and electoral needs over duty to the country, Bolton said Trump should have been investigated and impeached for more, not less. Trump engaged in "obstruction of justice as a way of life," as Bolton said, referring to his interventions in criminal investigations for personal favors.

Still, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who's likely one of the top two most-endangered GOP senators seeking reelection, had the nerve to speak up and blame House Democrats for not taking Bolton to court over this unwillingness to testify. "The House didn't think it was important," Sen. Gardner quipped. What a weasel. Bolton, who's no hero, did publicly express his willingness to testify in front of the GOP-led Senate—the Republican caucus just refused to hear from him, or any other witnesses for that matter.

The sole Republican senator to express regret about not hearing from Bolton also voted in favor of having witnesses at the trial. “I wish we had a trial with the people testifying under oath,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters.

But most Republicans did the only logical thing one could do in the face of a 500-page manuscript documenting the myriad ways in which Trump is selling out and endangering the country: They refused to comment. 

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, however, really went the extra mile, affirming that he's more convinced than ever that Trump's the right guy for the job despite begging China to buy more agricultural products in order to secure his reelection. "Different people use different sales techniques," Barrasso offered. Whether they’re legal or not apparently isn’t relevant. "Every president has, one way or another, thought they ought to be reelected. I think President Trump should be reelected. I support his reelection, I'm for it."

Do Republicans even know the Constitution exists? They are  proving themselves more useless by the day, and have no business stewarding the country.

The worse Trump does, the more pathetic Senate Republicans’ blind fealty to him looks

Republican lawmakers are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to save their own hides without attracting the rage and fury of Donald Trump.

Four of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans have already disappeared Trump from their TV ads as if the bloviator in chief doesn't actually exist. In essence: Trump? Yeah, never heard of him, except that one time I voted to clear him of all impeachment charges without ever hearing from a single witness.

That would be Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. All of those Republicans, while trying to dodge Trump's ire, have figured out there's no upside to overtly aligning themselves with a guy whose approvals are cratering as he blows it on the nation's two biggest crises. 

But stuck in the middle are GOP senators like Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas, and David Perdue of Georgia—who haven't yet reached the point of no return where they realize Trump is clearly dooming them. 

Perdue, for instance, wasn't willing to answer reporter questions on Trump spinning conspiracy theories about a 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police officers. But asked about attacks on Perdue's fealty to Trump, his spokesperson offered: "Bring it on," according to the AP.

Anti-Trumper and GOP strategist Tim Miller calls Republicans "hostages" but is still mystified that they couldn't find the basic resolve to separate themselves from Trump's insane attack on an elderly protester. 

“I’m not asking them to become Twitter trolls,” Miller said. “But I don’t see why they don’t take opportunities to put a little distance between themselves and the president.”

Of course, that's how we arrived here in the first place. Republicans are truly spineless—they haven't shown a lick of integrity or concern for their oaths of office since the day Trump took office. Just reckless acquiescence to a man who is clearly physically and mentally not well. So the idea that they might show a bit of dignity or put country first at risk of drawing a mean tweet from Trump is just unthinkable to them.

What remains to be seen is how many Senate Republicans running for reelection this November are willing to get on a stage with Trump. Remember, the last GOP politicians in tough races to do some high-profile campaigning with Trump were 2019 GOP gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin in Kentucky and Eddie Rispone in Louisiana. They both lost.

Trump mysteriously disappears from Senate Republican campaign ads

In early February, all but one Republican senator outright voted to acquit Donald Trump of impeachment charges without so much as hearing from one single witness. But judging by Senate Republican campaign ads four months later, you'd be forgiven if you thought Trump had been convicted and booted from office.  

In 15 campaign ads released since March by Senate Republicans in competitive races, pictures of Trump were nowhere to be found in any of them, according to a review by the Daily Beast. Trump managed to get a single mention in a late April ad by North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis bragging that the senator had been appointed to the now irrelevant White House coronavirus task force. That ad has likely already been benched since Trump's all but tweeted “uncle” at the virus. 

Tillis, who has voted with Trump more than 93% of the time, has gone through quite the transformation in the last several months. When Senate Republicans voted to save Trump's presidency, Tillis released a Trump-centric ad defending that vote, touting Trump's trade deals, and reminding voters that Trump would indeed be on the ballot in November. Oops.  

In a do-over this week, Tillis sympathizes with the economic difficulties many residents in his state are facing while entirely abandoning Trump and his happy talk about jumpstarting the economy and "TRANSITIONING TO GREATNESS."

A similar erasure of Trump is happening in ads from GOP incumbents in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and Montana. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who's voted with Trump 89% of the time, skips over Trump completely while hyping his bipartisan work with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to confront the coronavirus. Maine Sen. Susan Collins appears to have switched parties in one ad featuring her alongside Democratic senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Looks like GOP senators took to heart that memo released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee advising against defending Trump. None of these senators are trying to defend the indefensible, even after they voted to keep his presidency alive. Instead, many have taken the memo's advice to scapegoat China for Trump's failures at every turn.

Even Arizona Sen. Martha McSally—who has voted with Trump 95% of the time—moved away from ads earlier this year skewering her Democratic challenger for supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal. Now, McSally's busy playing up the business ties of Democrat Mark Kelly, who's trouncing her in the polls, to China. 

Sure, Senate Republicans are fundraising off Trump in targeted emails, but they're not touching him with a 10-foot pole in their large-scale ads. Expect to see more of the mysteriously disappearing Trump since more GOP Senate seats are in play by the week, it seems. Trump's simply too toxic to touch—too bad all the Senate Republicans up for reelection this cycle put their personal stamp of approval on Trump with their acquittal votes.

Below are several examples of recent ads.

Sen. Cory Gardner

Sen. Martha McSally

Sen. Susan Collins

Prospects for Senate Republicans in November just keep getting worse, worse, and worse

Senate Republicans just can't put out the fires Donald Trump keeps setting fast enough. At first, their effort to maintain their majority in November centered around defending four main seats in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina while hoping for a pickup of Sen. Doug Jones' seat in Alabama.

But Trump's cratering approvals and his spectacularly horrible leadership skills in a crisis just keep sucking more states into play.  

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For starters, Trump's approvals keep sinking. Gallup just put him at 39% in a poll taken from May 28 to June 4, slipping 10 points from 49% in late March. Notably, only 47% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy according to Gallup's latest survey, which is a steep tumble from 63% approval in January. The economy has always been Trump's strongest issue area.

Bloomberg News reports that Trump huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday, the same day Gallup's new poll was released. Neither one of them disclosed their private conversation, but it hardly matters—Republicans are irrevocably tied to Trump at this point. Not only have they simply surrendered like a bunch of lemmings, they built him into the lawless monster he's become and then voted to save his presidency without even fielding a proper impeachment trial.

What that means is that Democrats' pickup opportunities in the Senate just keep expanding beyond those seats held by Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, and Thom Tillis. Overall, Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats to just 12 for Democrats. The new states that Democrats are eyeing include Iowa, Montana, and Georgia. Here are some basic data points for each:

Iowa: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put $7.3 million into TV/digital ads targeting Sen. Joni Ernst's seat, with two recent polls showing Ernst's Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, up by several points. 

Montana: The DSCC also directed $5.2 million to Montana to help Democrat Steve Bullock, the state's current governor, topple incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.

Georgia: No DSCC action here yet, but Cook Political Report recently re-rated incumbent Sen. David Perdue's seat to "Lean R," making it more competitive. Ernst's and Daines' seats are also in the Lean Republican category, as is the seat of the other Georgia GOP senator, Kelly Loeffler. 

Other possibilities remain, such as in Kansas, where GOP right-winger Kris Kobach—who lost his 2018 gubernatorial bid—could become the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. 

Republicans are also putting money into defending states beyond the original four. The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super PAC, reserved $10.1 million in radio/TV space this month in Montana, and Iowa was part of the PAC's $67.1 million ad buy in March. That buy also included Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Kentucky (McConnell's seat!).

A spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee made the laughable argument that once more money was spent defining these Democratic challengers, they wouldn't look so hot.

“A lot of these Democrats haven’t had much money spent against them yet and once their records are litigated voter opinion will turn against them,” Jesse Hunt told Bloomberg.

The idea that any of these Democrats' records could be worse than voting to save Trump's presidency just in time for him to screw up a pandemic response and a national reckoning on race is sheer folly. Senate Republicans can spend all the money they want—they will rise and fall with Donald Trump. He is their fate.

Senate Republicans saved Trump’s presidency. Now they’re ducking questions on his use of force

A day after Donald Trump deployed police force against peaceful protesters outside the White House for a photo op, the cat's got GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell's tongue.

Asked Tuesday about Trump's threat of unleashing military force on American cities, McConnell dodged, declining to answer reporter questions as he exited the Senate floor.

McConnell was uniquely responsible for saving Trump's presidency, convincing his caucus to not only acquit Trump of impeachment charges but to do so without even hearing from witnesses at the show trial they staged. 

As law enforcement officer-turned-Congresswoman Val Demings wrote on Twitter Monday night: "When we impeached this president, we warned that he was a dictator in waiting. I believe now what I believed then: this president is a threat to our democracy, our families, and to us."

As I have noted before, McConnell and Senate Republicans are uniquely responsible for turning Trump into the monster he is today precisely because they have condoned every single one of his lawless actions, from colluding with Russia to enlisting Ukraine's help in stealing the upcoming election to blocking all congressional oversight.

Now Trump wants to use the U.S. troops to deploy military force against American citizens and they've got nothing to say?

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas went a step further, criticizing Joe Biden's speech Tuesday morning as a campaign stunt.

"What we expect from leaders is to try to unify us, not point the finger of blame," Cornyn told Fox News. Is he f-cking kidding? Trump has spent his entire presidency sowing division among Americans and blaming everyone in the world but himself for his unprecedented string of failures. 

A quick check of the Twitter feeds around 11:30 AM from Sens. Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and Thom Tillis turns up zilch about any of the events Monday night or Trump's threat of force against American citizens.

Through their silence, Senate Republicans are complicit.

They are embracing the dictatorial tactics of Trump without saying a word, just like they have condoned every other lawless act Trump has committed since setting foot in the Oval Office.

They must be voted out because they clearly no longer support democracy.  

Senate Republicans made Trump a monster. Americans deserve answers

When Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas asked me last week whether I had any burning questions to ask at the White House press briefings, I had an immediate sense of revulsion at the idea of being in that press room. Even though I spent several Obama-era years as a White House correspondent, nothing about the idea of sitting in that COVID-infected room only to be lied to by Trump's latest media hack sounded even remotely enticing or worthwhile.

But after reflecting on my reticence, I realized there was a place I'd like to be wandering around asking questions: Congress. Specifically, for a journalist looking to make newsworthy inquiries, Senate Republicans are the people to be bird-dogging, buttonholing, and peppering with questions. That's where the juice is this election cycle.

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Practically anything at all Senate Republicans say about Trump right now is newsworthy, particularly those in tight reelection bids this year. Naturally, I'm thinking of Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, David Perdue of Georgia, and others too. Precisely because they are the caucus that voted to save Trump's presidency and keep him at the helm of the country's pandemic response, reporters should make Senate Republicans own up to that decision and either stand by it or flee. And Trump offers a never-ending stream of material with which to work.

For instance, do any of them regret voting to acquit Trump without even staging a real trial? Gardner pitched a fit last week because the GOP caucus was leaving town without acting on more coronavirus relief—inaction initially backed by both Trump and McConnell. "Senator Gardner, do you stand by your vote to keep Trump in charge of the national response to the coronavirus?" Gardner could either run down a hallway or say that wasn't what the impeachment vote was about. "But you voted to keep Trump in charge of the country without hearing from any witnesses, right? Has he proven worthy of the vote of confidence you gave him?" Don't Coloradans deserve to know how their junior senator grades Trump's performance over the pandemic response?

As a reporter, when you know approximately the type of response you're going to get, the newsworthiness is usually about the phrasing of the question. Not every interaction goes as anticipated and by no means do they all end up being newsworthy. Plus, sometimes as a reporter, you're really just trying to gauge the progress of certain legislation, etc. But just five months out from November, my full attention would be trained on the electoral fate of the Senate.

"Senator Ernst, has Trump come through on the promises he made to Iowa farmers? Now that he's blaming China for spread of the coronavirus, do you think he'll really be able to seal the trade deal?" No, he won't. But don't Iowans deserve to know whether Ernst thinks Trump will deliver for them? "Senator, why isn't Trump prioritizing the trade deal over scapegoating China? Is finger pointing more important than saving Iowa farms from going under?"

I'm a little rusty, but you get the idea. "Senator Collins, if you really wanted action on coronavirus relief last week, why are you still voting to rubber stamp Trump's nominees?" Collins could be leveraging her votes in order to get action on more relief, or she could easily be registering protest votes and she’s not. One could also ask at-risk senators about the comments of other senators and GOP leadership, in particular. "Senator Collins, do you agree with Leader McConnell that there's zero urgency about bringing more relief to Mainers and other Americans?" (Mitch McConnell is currently changing his tune on that relief, but time is still of the essence.) Of course, McConnell is up for reelection too in Kentucky and while unseating him will be tough, he has more than just the GOP caucus to think about—he still has to get himself reelected. 

The Senate GOP is actually a total mess if reporters would just take the time to explore the fissures. Does Sen. Perdue think his governor made the right call to reopen Georgia? And if he does, does he support the notion that Trump should butt out of the state's business since Trump himself left it up to the governors? (Trump initially objected to Gov. Brian Kemp’s rush to reopen.)

Again, there's a million places to go. Do GOP senators support Trump promoting conspiracy theories and piddling away precious hours on the links right as America was reaching the deeply unsettling milestone of 100,000 deaths due to coronavirus? Do they worry that Trump still hasn’t developed a legit testing, tracking, and containment plan in case of a second wave? Every day, there's something more to ask about, and there's almost always something state specific—because Trump is a terrible politician and he is constantly hanging out GOP lawmakers to dry.

Every one of those GOP senators should have to answer for their failures to rein Trump in. They should all be held accountable for the fact that their repeated failures to act in the country's best interests helped turn Trump into the incomprehensible monster he is today. If you're a reporter in D.C. covering electoral politics and asking these kinds of questions isn't your mission in your life, you're entirely missing the biggest story of the election. Constituents should hear what Republican senators have to say for themselves. After all, Americans will be determining the fate of the GOP majority this coming November and they deserve answers. 

Vulnerable Senate Republicans have a ‘morbidly obese’ problem weighing them down: Trump

It's suddenly occurring to vulnerable Senate Republicans that they're pretty much screwed after giving Donald Trump their seal of approval with an impeachment acquittal, and then watching him consign Americans to death and economic doom.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who some consider the walking dead at this point electorally, made a big, headline-grabbing show of urgency earlier this week to light a fire under the butts of his colleagues. 

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"It’s unfathomable that the Senate is set to go on recess without considering any additional #COVID19 assistance for the American people," Gardner wrote, keenly aware that House Democrats had already passed a giant relief bill. "Anyone who thinks now is the time to go on recess hasn’t been listening," he added, noting that Coloradans and Americans alike "are hurting."

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, also facing a tough reelection, joined Gardner in expressing her, shall we say, concern. "The fallout from the coronavirus is unprecedented," she tweeted, saying Congress had a "tremendous responsibility" to help mitigate the crisis. "We must not wait," she urged.

It was a notable break from the GOP caucus given that Trump had visited Capitol Hill just a day earlier to counsel unity among Senate Republicans and tell them to hang tough. So much for that—some of them are starting to sort of/kind of act like they want to save their own behinds. Good luck with that after every single one of them cast votes to saddle America with the leadership of Donald Trump.

But Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't be moved. McConnell has repeatedly signified zero sense of urgency on bringing any more relief to struggling Americans. And Trump's right there with him. Whatever supposed unity Trump went to the Hill to pitch was really just his way of saying, Do what I need you to do—or else

That's why Gardner folded like a house of cards on his empty threat to block the Senate from recessing before they took meaningful action on helping the nearly 40 million Americans who have now filed for unemployment in the past couple of months. 

Cory Gardner�s threat to try to block next week�s recess has been resolved, per John Thune. Gardner had called on the Senate to move ahead with a recovery plan. Thune says Gardner and McConnell have talked about doing �some things down the road.� Senators leaving town for recess

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 21, 2020

Gardner told CNN's Manu Raju they were "close" on "PPP and some other things that will help Colorado," adding the he felt "good" about what they might be able to accomplish. Wow, was that ever an inspiring stand for the people. 

Anyway, vulnerable Senate Republicans are clearly on their own, but it's also clearly not important enough for any of them to grow a spine—just like when they cast their acquittal votes. 

AG Barr’s Justice Department still trying to deep-six Mueller grand jury materials

Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department is going to extraordinary lengths to block House Democrats from seeing the grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe. 

In a Thursday filing, the department's solicitor general urged the Supreme Court to halt a lower court order directing the department to turn over the grand jury materials to the House Judiciary Committee by May 11. The Justice Department argued for the opportunity to complete its appeal of the appeals court ruling to the Supreme Court.

“The government will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Once the government discloses the secret grand-jury records, their secrecy will irrevocably be lost,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote. “That is particularly so when, as here, they are disclosed to a congressional committee and its staff.”

Red alert, red alert! Congress might learn the truth about all the stuff that has heretofore been hidden from the public. 

At issue for House Democrats is whether Trump lied in his written testimony to the Mueller team. House Democrats sought access to the information last year as they mulled impeaching Trump. 

Congress is not necessarily granted access to such materials, but a Nixon-era precedent was set when the courts ruled an impeachment investigation a "judicial proceeding." In the current case, both the federal court and the appeals court panel followed that precedent to rule in favor of House Democrats gaining access to the materials. 

Trump’s coronavirus cover-up continues, blocking two more key task force officials from testifying

Donald Trump is denying House Democrats access to two more of his administration's top pandemic task force members. The White House is now prohibiting the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seem Verma, from testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to the Daily Beast.

Last week, the White House also prohibited one of its top coronavirus medical experts from testifying before the House—Dr. Anthony Fauci. But for the moment, Fauci is still scheduled to testify before a GOP-led panel in the Senate.

Laughably, Trump officials have justified the gag orders by saying testifying before Congress was too time-consuming for key pandemic response officials, as if Trump hasn't spent the past month squandering the time of those very same people as he prattled on day after day, peddling misinformation. Fauci even called the briefings "really draining" several weeks ago.

But when Trump was asked Tuesday about the task force gag order, he made clear the move was explicitly political, calling House Democrats "Trump haters."

Just like with impeachment, the default position for the White House now is that everyone on the coronavirus task force must seek permission from White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify. In other words, every request by House Democrats is a complete nonstarter.

But the difference now is that Trump is blocking the public from getting information that's literally a matter of life and death. House Democrats have said the hearings are effort to gather information that can help them craft legislation in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

“The fact is that we need to allocate resources for this,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House. And we have to have the information to act upon.”

Secretary Azar has not provided public testimony on the pandemic for nearly two months. Verma, who runs the government's two most expansive healthcare programs, hasn't given public testimony since the crisis began. 

Top Democrats urge Justice Department internal watchdog to investigate AG William Barr

Two top Democrats are urging the Justice Department's internal watchdogs to investigate slanderous remarks made by Attorney General William Barr about the intelligence community official who elevated the whistleblower complaint regarding Donald Trump.

Appearing on Fox News on April 9, Barr said Trump had done "the right thing" when he fired former intelligence investigator general Michael Atkinson, suggesting that Atkinson had exceeded his mandate as IG by exploring "anything" and then reporting it back to Congress. But in a letter to two Justice Department officials, the Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees said Barr had "blatantly mischaracterized" Atkinson's conduct.

"Mr. Barr’s remarks followed the President’s admission on April 4 that he fired Mr. Atkinson in retaliation for Mr. Atkinson’s handling—in accordance with the law—of the whistleblower complaint," Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler wrote. "Mr. Barr’s misleading remarks appear to have been aimed at justifying the President’s retaliatory decision to fire Mr. Atkinson."

Barr claimed that Atkinson had "ignored" Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance that he was "obliged to follow" regarding how to handle the whistleblower complaint, a total distortion intended to gaslight Americans about what transpired. In actuality, Atkinson had no legal or professional obligation to defer to the Justice Department, which had conveniently and perplexingly declined to investigate whether Trump broke any laws in his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"To the contrary, Mr. Atkinson faithfully discharged his legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General in accordance with federal law,” Schiff and Nadler wrote to Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz.

Schiff and Nadler further said that Barr had not only misrepresented the matter, he also sought to obscure the fact that DOJ and the White House had improperly coordinated their efforts in order to "keep Congress in the dark about the existence of the complaint." 

"The role of Attorney General Barr and other senior DOJ officials, in coordination with the White House, in attempting to prevent the whistleblower complaint from reaching Congress — as required by law — warrants your attention," they wrote, referring to the complaint that sparked Trump’s impeachment trial.

The two added that Barr's remarks represent a "disturbing pattern of misrepresenting facts" about the conduct of other government officials, including his purposeful misrepresentation of the conclusions of Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

"Indeed, a federal judge recently examined Mr. Barr’s 'lack of candor' and concluded that Mr. Barr 'distorted the findings in the Mueller Report,' which 'cause[d] the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump.'"

The message reinforced points made in a similar letter sent to the Justice Department last week by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Mark Warner of Virginia. It's hard to know whether DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz will take up an investigation into Barr, but Horowitz has previously touted Atkinson's "integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight."