Bat­tle to grow be­yond wall?

Is­sues over bor­der could lead to big­ger fight over Rus­sia

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Greg Jaffe

WASH­ING­TON» Even as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is con­sumed by his stand­off with Democrats over the bor­der and the gov­ern­ment shut­down, a po­ten­tially larger bat­tle looms for the White House.

On Sun­day, Repub­li­cans, Democrats and the pres­i­dent seemed to be pre­par­ing for the prospect that the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­quiry into the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Rus­sia could fur­ther upend a gov­ern­ment that’s in the midst of the long­est shut­down in U.S. his­tory.

“Im­peach­ment is an un­be­liev­ably se­ri­ous un­der­tak­ing. No pres­i­dent has ever been re­moved from of­fice,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., told ABC’s “This Week.” “If the crimes are se­ri­ous enough, it needs to be done.”

The pres­i­dent shot back in an in­ter­view with Fox News, blast­ing re­ports in The New York Times and The Wash­ing­ton Post that raised new ques­tions about his in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and whether he had been work­ing on be­half of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

“I think it’s the most in­sult­ing thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most in­sult­ing ar­ti­cle I’ve

ever had writ­ten,” Trump told Fox News’s Jea­nine Pirro after The New York Times re­ported that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials in 2017 be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Trump had been work­ing on be­half of Rus­sia against Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo am­pli­fied that mes­sage Sun­day, telling CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” that the no­tion that the pres­i­dent is a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity is “ab­so­lutely lu­di­crous.”

The coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­quiry was taken over by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller III and is now part of Mueller’s broader probe into whether Trump’s cam­paign con­spired with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion.

In the Fox in­ter­view, Trump also dis­missed a re­port by The Wash­ing­ton Post that cat­a­logued the ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures he had taken to keep de­tails of his con­ver­sa­tions with Putin from other U.S. of­fi­cials. In once in­stance, Trump took pos­ses­sion of the notes of his own in­ter­preter and in­structed the lin­guist not to dis­cuss what had hap­pened with other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials.

Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, tweeted Satur­day that his panel had tried to get the notes but was blocked by Repub­li­cans. “Will they join us now?” he asked. “Shouldn’t we find out whether our pres­i­dent is re­ally putting ‘Amer­ica first’?”

Trump dis­missed those ques­tions on Fox, de­scrib­ing his meet­ing with Putin as “very pos­i­tive.”

“We were talk­ing about Is­rael and se­cur­ing Is­rael and lots of other things, and it was a great con­ver­sa­tion,” he said. “I’m not keep­ing any­thing un­der wraps.”

The shadow of the Mueller probe is likely to be­come a more press­ing prob­lem for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Repub­li­cans as the year pro­gresses and the spe­cial coun­sel com­pletes his work.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., the new chair of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and a Trump ally, said he was as­ton­ished that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials had sought to in­ves­ti­gate whether Trump was an agent of the Rus­sians.

“It tells me a lot about the peo­ple run­ning the FBI . ... I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them,” he told “Fox News Sun­day.”

Gra­ham said he planned to ask Wil­liam Barr, the pres­i­dent’s nom­i­nee for at­tor­ney gen­eral, dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing this week whether he trusted Mueller and his team to be fair and whether he saw any rea­son to fire the spe­cial coun­sel.

Democrats coun­tered that it was crit­i­cal for Mueller to be al­lowed to com­plete his probe into whether Trump or his cam­paign worked on be­half of Rus­sian in­ter­ests. “That’s the defin­ing ques­tion of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., a mem­ber of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. “Was there col­lu­sion?”

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