U.S. Senate panel compels former Trump aide to attend Russia hearing



Tue, 25 Jul 2017 - 06:07 GMT


Tue, 25 Jul 2017 - 06:07 GMT

A combination photo of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort - Reuters

A combination photo of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort - Reuters

WASHINGTON - 25 July 2017: A U.S. Senate panel said on Tuesday it will compel Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, to appear at a hearing as part of its probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's subpoena summoning Manafort to appear on Wednesday was a sign lawmakers are willing to push hard as they probe Russia's role and potential collusion by the Republican's campaign.

Also on Tuesday, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, appeared for a second day on Capitol Hill to answer questions about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.

Kushner, who is now a top aide in Trump's White House, spent three hours with the House of Representatives intelligence panel. He did not speak with reporters when he left.

"It was a very productive session. We had an opportunity to ask about a range of issues that the committee had been concerned about," said Democratic representative Adam Schiff after the meeting.

Republican representative Michael Conaway said Kushner was "straightforward and forthcoming. He wanted to answer every question that we had."

Kushner met Senate Intelligence Committee investigators on Monday, telling reporters afterward he had no part in any Kremlin plot..

Moscow has denied it worked to influence the election in the Republican candidate's favor, and Trump has denied his campaign colluded.

Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Tuesday morning, his spokesman said. But he would not agree to an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The judiciary panel is looking at a June 2016 meeting in New York with a Russian lawyer organized by Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. He released emails this month that showed he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information at the meeting about Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Negotiations with Manafort would continue, the judiciary panel's Republican chairman Charles Grassley told reporters. "If he feels he can come, and he's willing to negotiate in good faith, there's other accommodations that can be made for him," he said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she hoped a showdown with Manafort could be averted.

"He is a very complicated figure and there is a lot of material there, and a lot of questions that he raises," she said in an interview with CNN.

It was not clear if Trump Jr. would appear before the panel. His attorneys have been negotiating with the committee about his participation. Asked whether the younger Trump had received a subpoena from the Judiciary Committee, his lawyer Alan Futerfas said he had not.

The intense focus on Russia, involving several congressional probes and a separate investigation by a Justice Department-appointed special counsel, has overshadowed Trump's agenda.

The scrutiny has angered and frustrated the president, who calls the investigations a politically motivated witch hunt fueled by Democrats who cannot accept his upset win in last November's election.

Without offering evidence, Trump lashed out on Twitter on Tuesday about "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage" his presidential campaign in order to aid Clinton. The Ukrainian embassy in Washington denied the accusations.


Russia is also the focus in a bill that the House is expected to pass on Tuesday. The legislation would impose new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, potentially hampering Trump's hopes of pursuing improved relations with Moscow.

The sanctions bill, which has the support of both parties in the House, aims to punish Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and for the alleged election interference.

The measure's fate in the Senate is uncertain. A spokesman for John Cornyn, the no. 2 Republican, said on Tuesday there had been no decision on when the Senate might begin to consider the House bill.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on Monday there were still issues under discussion and that any announcement about a deal to move the bill forward "seemed somewhat premature."

If the Republican-led Senate passes the measure, Trump will need to decide whether to sign the bill or veto it. Rejecting it would carry a risk that his veto could be overridden by lawmakers.

The Trump administration has objected to a provision in the sanctions bill that would oblige the president to obtain congressional approval before easing any sanctions on Moscow.

Late on Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump was still studying the bill and considering whether he would support it.

The bill has raised concerns in the European Union, where the legislation could result in fines for companies helping Russia build gas pipelines like the 9.5 billion euro ($11.1 billion) Nord Stream 2 project.



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