Ex-Trump aide agrees to talk to House panel

Manafort is a key fig­ure in probes of Rus­sian med­dling.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Eileen Sul­li­van and Chad Day

For­mer cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort vol­un­teers to be in­ter­viewed in probe of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Pres­i­dent WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ager, a key fig­ure in in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Russia, has vol­un­teered to be ques­tioned by law­mak­ers as part of a House probe of the Krem­lin’s al­leged med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, told re­porters on Fri­day that Paul Manafort’s lawyer con­tacted the panel on Thurs­day to of­fer law­mak­ers the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­view him. It was not clear if Manafort had of­fered to tes­tify un­der oath or in a pub­lic hear­ing, and Nunes said those de­tails had not been de­ter­mined.

Manafort vol­un­teered to be in­ter­viewed by the com­mit­tee on the same week a decade ago that he worked for a Rus­sian bil­lion­aire. Manafort wrote in a strat­egy memo ob­tained by the AP that he would work to “ben­e­fit the Putin Gov­ern­ment.”

Nunes also an­nounced that a pre­vi­ously sched­uled pub­lic hear­ing with for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials would not take place Tues­day as planned.

Nunes’ fo­cus for peo­ple to in­ter­view as part of the com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion has pri­mar­ily been cur­rent and for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials with in­sight into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. When asked about whether he would call Trump as­so­ciates, he has said peo­ple can vol­un­teer to be in­ter­viewed if they want to.

“We’re not go­ing to get into a neo-McCarthy­ism era here where we just start bring­ing in Amer­i­cans be­cause they were men­tioned in a press story,” Nunes said. “I’m highly con­cerned about that. Now, if peo­ple want to come in freely, we will do that.”

The top Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, Adam Schiff, said he dis­agreed with the chair­man’s de­ci­sion to can­cel the pub­lic hear­ing. The for­mer di­rec­tors of na­tional in­tel­li­gence and the CIA and the for­mer act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral had agreed to tes­tify pub­licly on March 28.

“I think this is a se­ri­ous mis­take,” Schiff said Fri­day.

He said the com­mit­tee’s hear­ing on Mon­day demon­strates how im­por­tant it is that these in­quiries be con­ducted pub­licly. Dur­ing that hear­ing, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey con­firmed there was an on­go­ing coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump as­so­ciates co­or­di­nated with the Rus­sians to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion.

“That, of course, is very sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion for the pub­lic,” Schiff said.

In a state­ment re­leased Fri­day, Manafort’s spokesman, Ja­son Maloni, said the for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man had agreed to specif­i­cally “pro­vide in­for­ma­tion vol­un­tar­ily re­gard­ing re­cent al­le­ga­tions about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.”

CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, tells the press Fri­day about the of­fer from Paul Manafort’s lawyer.

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