Meetings on Russia probe
Jared Kushner (center) and his attorney, Abbe Lowell (right), talk with House Intelligence Committee members Michael Conaway (left), R-Texas, and Adam Schiff (back to camera), D-Calif., after Kushner met with the committee Tuesday. Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, met with Senate investigators Tuesday.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman met with Senate investigators Tuesday, providing his recollection of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and turning over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the private interview.
The appearance by Paul Manafort came the same morning that Trump’s son-inlaw and adviser Jared Kushner returned to Capitol Hill for a second day of private meetings, this time for a conversation with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee.
“Paul Manafort met this morning, by previous agreement, with the bipartisan staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and answered their questions fully,” said Jason Maloni, Manafort’s spokesman.
Manafort’s private discussion with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, according to two people familiar with the interview. In the meeting, Manafort, Kushner and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, on the premise that the campaign would receive damaging information about rival Hillary Clinton.
Manafort had previously disclosed the meeting in documents he turned over to the committee. He has now provided the committee with notes he took at the time, said one of the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview was private. The other person said Manafort has said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff on other topics if necessary. Those meetings haven’t yet been scheduled.
The meeting, held at the request of Manafort’s legal team, came hours after another panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that it issued a subpoena for Manafort to appear at a hearing today. But the committee later Tuesday rescinded the subpoena and canceled his appearance. Manafort’s lawyers are now working out how and when he will be interviewed by that committee. The panel is conducting its own investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Manafort has been at the center of inquiries into whether Trump’s senior advisers coordinated with the Kremlin’s efforts to disrupt last year’s election.
Manafort met with investigators a day after Kushner provided his own account of the June 2016 meeting to them. The meeting at Trump Tower was set up by Trump Jr., who had been told by an intermediary that Veselnitskaya had compromising information about Clinton.
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is leading the House panel’s Russia probe, said after interviewing Kushner on Tuesday that he found Kushner to be “straightforward, forthcoming, wanted to answer every question we had.”
He said Kushner was willing to follow up with the committee if it has additional questions.
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the questions touched on “a range of issues the committee had been concerned about.”
“We appreciate his voluntary willingness to come and testify today,” Schiff added.
On Monday, Kushner answered questions from staff members on the Senate’s intelligence panel, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump’s victorious White House bid and insisting he had “nothing to hide.”
In an 11-page statement, he acknowledged his Russian contacts during the campaign and immediately after the election, in which he served as a liaison between the transition and foreign governments.
He described the contacts as either insignificant or routine and said they had been omitted from his security clearance form because of an aide’s error.
“Let me be very clear,” Kushner said later in a public statement at the White House, “I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee has been studying the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires anyone who lobbies in the United States on behalf of foreign interests to disclose their work to the Justice Department. The hearing with Manafort — originally set for today — had been scheduled to focus on that subject. Manafort has disclosed that his consulting firm was paid more than $17 million over two years from a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin.
Despite Manafort’s appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee has continued to press for him to appear separately, and late Monday, the committee issued a subpoena compelling Manafort’s appearance at a hearing today.
Negotiations over Manafort’s voluntary cooperation broke down after Manafort’s lawyer indicated that he was willing to provide only one transcribed interview with congressional staff, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said in a joint statement.
But later Tuesday, the committee rescinded the subpoena.
Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Grassley, said the committee withdrew the subpoena after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating an interview with the panel. The committee removed Manafort and Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for the public hearing.
The committee also withdrew a separate subpoena issued for the co-founder of the research firm behind a dossier of salacious allegations about Trump and his ties to Russia. Instead, Glenn Simpson has agreed to a private interview, Grassley said. He also was removed from today’s public hearing witness list.
“We’ve reached an agreement on this request and have withdrawn the subpoena,” Grassley and Feinstein said in a joint statement.
Simpson and Manafort were initially scheduled to appear on the same panel along with Trump Jr. at today’s hearing, where lawmakers were expected to ask the Trump surrogates about the Trump Tower meeting. Information for this article was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman of The New York
Times; by Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Ellen Nakashima of The Washington
Post; and by Chad Day, Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker and staff members of The Associated Press.