Sen­a­tors: Will quiz Manafort

Rus­sia-probe panel to call in Trump’s cam­paign man­ager

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WASHINGTON — Law­mak­ers in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion said Wed­nes­day that they in­tend to ques­tion the for­mer chair­man of Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign and will is­sue a sub­poena if nec­es­sary.

The pres­i­dent, mean­while, stepped up his de­fense of his el­dest son, who re­leased emails show­ing the ar­range­ment of a 2016 meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer said to have dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Democrat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Grass­ley said he and the com­mit­tee’s top Democrat, Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, have agreed to try to have Paul Manafort tes­tify be­fore the panel about the gov­ern­ment’s en­force­ment of a law re­quir­ing reg­is­tra­tion of for­eign lob­by­ists.

Manafort reg­is­tered last month as a for­eign agent, ac­knowl­edg­ing that he coached mem­bers of a pro-Rus­sia po­lit­i­cal party in Ukraine on how to in­ter­act with U. S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Fe­in­stein’s of­fice con­firmed that they plan to ques­tion him.

Manafort would cer­tainly also be asked about his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a Trump Tower meet­ing last sum­mer with Don­ald Trump Jr. and the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, where the pur­pose was to hear po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton.

Manafort dis­closed the meet­ing in in­for­ma­tion he pro­vided to the Se­nate and House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees, which are among the pan­els in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign.

“Ob­vi­ously it would be ap­pro­pri­ate for any­body to get into any­thing that went on at that meet­ing, and he was at that meet­ing,” Grass­ley, R- Iowa, told re­porters Wed­nes­day.

A per­son close to Manafort said the for­mer cam­paign chair­man hasn’t yet re­ceived a let­ter from the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee about a pos­si­ble in­ter­view. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss Manafort’s pri­vate in­ter­ac­tions with the com­mit­tee.

A spokesman for Grass­ley said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Grass­ley was work­ing with Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel in the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling, to en­sure that any plans to ques­tion Manafort don’t con­flict with any crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

If con­flicts do ex­ist, the sen­a­tor will “work to find a way for the com­mit­tee to pro­ceed with its over­sight re­spon­si­bil­ity,” the spokesman said.

Sep­a­rately, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said his panel wants to look at the Rus­sians’ use of so­cial me­dia to sow dis­cord, as well as whether those ac­tions were con­nected to the Trump cam­paign.

That con­cern is “cer­tainly some­thing we want to ex­plore,” along with the Trump cam­paign’s data an­a­lyt­ics, Schiff said. Kush­ner over­saw dig­i­tal strat­egy for the cam­paign.

SHIFT IN STRAT­EGY

The law­mak­ers spoke a day af­ter Trump Jr. dis­closed on Twit­ter a se­ries of email mes­sages that re­vealed his ea­ger­ness to hear from a Rus­sian lawyer about neg­a­tive ma­te­rial on Clin­ton.

The ex­change showed Trump Jr. con­vers­ing with a mu­sic pub­li­cist who wanted him to meet with a “Rus­sian gov­ern­ment at­tor­ney” who sup­pos­edly had dirt on Clin­ton as “part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr. Trump.”

Tak­ing to Twit­ter on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the pres­i­dent praised Trump Jr.’s per­for­mance Tues­day night dur­ing a Fox News in­ter­view in which he sought to down­play the sig­nif­i­cance of the email ex­change and the meet­ing.

“My son Don­ald did a good job last night,” Trump wrote of his son’s ap­pear­ance with Fox News host Sean Han­nity. “He was open, trans­par­ent and in­no­cent. This is the great­est Witch Hunt in po­lit­i­cal his­tory. Sad!”

Ear­lier, Trump re-tweeted the as­sess­ment of an­other Fox News host, Jesse Wat­ters, who wrote that Trump Jr. was “the vic­tim” in the episode.

Trump also as­sailed the use of anony­mous sources in the reports, al­though in this in­stance the story was con­firmed by the email mes­sages re­leased by Trump Jr.

“Re­mem­ber, when you hear the words ‘sources say’ from the Fake Me­dia, of­ten times those sources are made up and do not ex­ist,” the pres­i­dent tweeted.

Trump’ s mess a ge s Wed­nes­day rep­re­sented a shift in strat­egy. The pres­i­dent re­mained silent over the week­end as news ini­tially broke about the en­counter with the lawyer, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya.

Trump on Tues­day of­fered only a brief de­fense of his son, with spokesman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders read­ing a state­ment from the pres­i­dent in which he said Trump Jr. “is a high-qual­ity per­son and I ap­plaud his trans­parency.”

In an in­ter­view be­fore de­part­ing Wed­nes­day evening for France, Trump told Reuters that he didn’t know about the meet­ing “un­til a cou­ple of days ago when I heard about this.” He also said that he didn’t fault his son for at­tend­ing. “I think many peo­ple would have held that meet­ing,” he said.

Trump also ques­tioned whether Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was re­ally push­ing for his vic­tory.

“It’s re­ally the one ques­tion I wish I would have asked Putin: Were you ac­tu­ally sup­port­ing me?” Trump said, re­fer­ring to their meet­ing last week on the side­lines of the Group of 20 sum­mit.

But Trump in­sisted that “there was zero co­or­di­na­tion” be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia,” adding: “It’s the dumb­est thing I’ve ever heard.”

Trump Jr. re­leased the email mes­sages af­ter learn­ing that The New York Times had them and was about to pub­lish them. Both Trump Jr. and Ve­sel­nit­skaya have said in re­cent days that no ac­tual in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton was dis­cussed dur­ing the meet­ing and that in­stead Ve­sel­nit­skaya brought up U.S. sanc­tions im­posed on Rus­sians ac­cused of hu­man-rights abuses, a topic of great in­ter­est to the Krem­lin.

In his in­ter­view with Han­nity on Tues­day night, Trump Jr. ac­knowl­edged re­gret about how he han­dled the sit­u­a­tion. “In ret­ro­spect, I prob­a­bly would have done things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently,” he said. “Again, this is be­fore the Rus­sia ma­nia. This is be­fore they were build­ing it up in the press. For me, this was op­po­si­tion re­search.”

The pres­i­dent’s at­tor­ney, Jay Seku­low, said Wed­nes­day in an in­ter­view with NBC’s To­day that Trump Jr. did not vi­o­late any laws by ac­cept­ing the meet­ing. He said the pres­i­dent had not been aware of the meet­ing and didn’t find out about his son’s email ex­change un­til “very re­cently.”

Seku­low said the pres­i­dent was not be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Mueller. “I would know a lit­tle bit about it. I’m one of the lawyers,” he said on ABC’s Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.

The Rus­sian gov­ern­ment also weighed in Wed­nes­day, in­sin­u­at­ing that the U.S. news me­dia was fu­el­ing a fake scan­dal.

“You know, it was with amaze­ment that I learned that a Rus­sian lawyer is be­ing ac­cused of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Trump within Trump’s ju­ris­dic­tion,” For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov told re­porters in Brus­sels at a news con­fer­ence with his Bel­gian coun­ter­part. “What kind of a prob­lem, what threat could

this con­sti­tute for any­one?”

“It’s amaz­ing how se­ri­ous peo­ple are mak­ing a moun­tain out of a mole­hill, even though there may be no mole­hill in the first place,” Lavrov added.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Krem­lin, ridiculed the reports as a tele­vi­sion spec­ta­cle. He called the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion “ab­surd.”

When asked how the pub­li­ca­tion of cor­re­spon­dence in­volv­ing the pres­i­dent’s son might af­fect re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia, Peskov re­jected the idea that the Krem­lin was aim­ing to curry fa­vor with Trump.

“No­body ex­pects con­ces­sions to Moscow from Pres­i­dent Trump, and Moscow does not ex­pect con­ces­sions from Don­ald Trump, and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has never talked about any con­ces­sions and has never put the is­sue this way,” Peskov said.

Trump Jr. re­leased the email mes­sages af­ter learn­ing that The New York Times had them and was about to pub­lish them. Both Trump Jr. and Ve­sel­nit­skaya have said in re­cent days that no ac­tual in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton was dis­cussed dur­ing the meet­ing.

MORE FROM EMAIL

Trump’s one­time Rus­sian busi­ness part­ner, mean­while, sought Wed­nes­day to dis­tance him­self from reports that linked him to the meet­ing.

Aras Agalarov, whose name was men­tioned in email mes­sages to Trump Jr., in­sisted he did not know Trump Jr. or the mu­sic pro­moter who set up the 2016 meet­ing.

Agalarov told a Moscow ra­dio sta­tion that it was his son, Emin, a Rus­sian pop star, who de­vel­oped ties with Trump Jr. when the Agalarov fam­ily helped draw Trump’s Miss Uni­verse pageant to Moscow in 2013.

Aras Agalarov de­nied know­ing the mu­sic pro­ducer, Rob Gold­stone, who con­tacted Trump Jr. to set up the meet­ing.

“He worked with Emin at some point,” Agalarov said of the Bri­tish-born pub­li­cist.

But Agalarov was men­tioned in at least one email ex­changed be­tween Trump Jr. and Gold­stone. On June 3, 2016, Gold­stone wrote that Emin Agalarov wanted to pass along “some­thing very in­ter­est­ing.”

“The Crown pros­e­cu­tor of Rus­sia met with his fa­ther Aras this morn­ing and in their meet­ing of­fered to pro­vide the Trump cam­paign with some of­fi­cial doc­u­ments and in­for­ma­tion that would in­crim­i­nate Hil­lary and her deal­ings with Rus­sia and would be very use­ful to your fa­ther,” Gold­stone wrote.

Peskov, the Krem­lin spokesman, on Wed­nes­day de­nied any con­nec­tions be­tween Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and the Agalarov fam­ily. He said the gov­ern­ment was not in con­tact with Aras Agalarov, even though he has been granted many state build­ing con­tracts and was hon­ored by Putin with the Or­der of Honor of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion.

Agalarov did not di­rectly ad­dress why his name ap­peared in the mes­sages. In­stead, he said he be­lieved that Trump’s crit­ics have “made up” al­le­ga­tions that his cam­paign had po­ten­tially im­proper con­tacts with Rus­sians dur­ing the cam­paign.

Agalarov sug­gested that Clin­ton’s cam­paign could have been be­hind the ac­cu­sa­tions.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Chad Day, Eric Tucker, David Pitt, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Julie Bykow­icz, Mary Clare Jalonick, Michael Biesecker, Stephen Braun, Ken Thomas, Matthew Daly and Nataliya Vasi­lyeva of The Associated Press; by Peter Baker and Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times; and by Natalya Ab­baku­mova, Isaac Stan­ley- Becker, Brian Mur­phy and John Wag­ner of The Washington Post.

Paul Manafort

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