Capitol Hill panels plan next moves after Comey, Sessions.
Kushner, Flynn face extra scrutiny over their alleged Russia connections
Congressional investigators are moving to a new phase in the multiple probes now exploring alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, with White House aide Jared Kushner and fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn among those facing new scrutiny.
The past two weeks have seen a number of key figures in the probe testifying in public on Capitol Hill, capped by the high drama produced by fired FBI Director James B. Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Senate intelligence committee hearings less that a week apart. Also testifying have been acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers.
The hearings have revealed a host of new investigative strands, including charges that Mr. Comey engineered the leak of memos recounting his private meetings with President Trump in a successful bid to get a special prosecutor appointed; a shift from a focus on possible Trump-Russia collusion to one on whether Mr. Trump and his aides tried to obstruct justice; and growing Republican impatience to wind down the probes quickly if no new evidence emerges against the president.
A day after Mr. Sessions stoutly denied any collusion with Russian agents when he was a top Trump campaign adviser, Senate intelligence committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Sen. Mark R. Warner met privately on Capitol Hill for the first time with special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Mueller is conducting his own Department of Justice probe into the Russia issue in the wake of Mr. Comey’s firing by Mr. Trump last month.
A Washington Post report released late Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, said that Mr. Mueller’s team is already moving to interview Mr. Coats, Adm. Rogers and a former Rogers aide as part of a widening probe that is now looking into charges that Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice by short-circuiting the Russia probe. A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, angrily denounced the “FBI leak of information” about Mr. Mueller’s probe, calling it “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”
It was previously reported that both Mr. Coats and Adm. Rogers balked when Mr. Trump called them in March to issue public statements to deny the FBI had any evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government last year.
Mr. Burr said panel members want to assure their investigation does not conflict with Mr. Mueller’s work and coordinates all requests for evidence, interviews and possible grants of immunity.
The Senate committee members are soon expected to meet with Mr. Kushner, who is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Mr. Kushner ran the Trump campaign’s digital voter outreach strategy and has come under increasing scrutiny for contacts he allegedly had with business interests tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin before Mr. Trump was inaugurated in January.
Mr. Kushner will reportedly provide the committee with documents it has requested, in addition to facing questions from senators. When exactly he’ll meet with the committee has yet to be determined.
Mr. Flynn left the White House after lying about the extent of his foreign contacts in February. The Senate committee recently received documents from Mr. Flynn, but the retired army lieutenant-general also invoked his Fifth Amendment rights rather than comply with a subpoena to testify.
Committee investigators are also working through information from former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign adviser Roger Stone. Mr. Stone’s attorney, Robert Buschel, said his client has complied with the committee’s document requests and answered its questions.
Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee has requested that Mr. Comey hand over his private memos on his dealing with Mr. Trump, details of which he also leaked to the media. Judiciary Committee sources say Mr. Comey has thus far refused to cooperate, declining to hand over the memos and declining an invitation to testify.
The House intelligence committee is also watching Mr. Mueller’s probe, but its members could soon have the chance to learn more about allegations that top Obama administration officials inappropriately sought to “unmask” the identities of Trump transition personnel redacted in U.S. surveillance operations against foreign targets.
The committee earlier this month issued subpoenas to the CIA, FBI and NSA for information on alleged unmasking requests made by former Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John O. Brennan and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Power.
Subpoenas have been issued for Mr. Flynn and longtime Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. In addition to being personally named, companies run by each of the men were also the target of subpoenas.
The committee also wants Mr. Comey’s memos and any tapes of the same White House meetings Mr. Trump implied on Twitter that he might have made.
Senators want to meet Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, to discuss contacts he allegedly had with Russian business interests tied to Vladimir Putin.