Former Trump campaign chair talks with Senate investigators
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 agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview.
The appearance by Paul Manafort came the same morning that Trump’s sonin-law, 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.
Manafort and Kushner have been cooperating with the committees which, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with Trump associates.
The two men have faced particular scrutiny about attending the Trump Tower meeting because it was described in emails to Donald Trump Jr. as being part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.
On Tuesday, Manafort met with bipartisan staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee and “answered their questions fully,” his spokesman, Jason Maloni, said.
Manafort’s discussion with the committee staff was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 meeting, according to two people familiar with the interview. Both demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview occurred behind closed doors.
Manafort 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, one of the people said. The other person said Manafort has also said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate intelligence committee staff on other topics if necessary.
Those meetings haven’t been scheduled.
Also Tuesday, Kushner spent about three hours behind closed doors with the House committee.
Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the panel’s Russia probe, said 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 the staff 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.
Emails released this month show that Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, accepted a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya with the understanding that he would receive damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. But, in his statement for the two intelligence committees, Kushner said he hadn’t read those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.