House Democrats to rein­ves­ti­gate 2016 Rus­sia-Trump al­le­ga­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN AND ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee an­nounced a wide-rang­ing probe into Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion Wed­nes­day, ques­tion­ing whether he, his chil­dren or his busi­nesses have been com­pro­mised by for­eign agents who have “lever­age” over him.

Chair­man Adam Schiff’s move de­fies Mr. Trump, who just a day ear­lier warned Congress in his State of the Union ad­dress that hopes for bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion this year rest on for­go­ing “ridicu­lous par­ti­san in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

The Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said not only will his panel restart the Rus­sia elec­tion­med­dling in­ves­ti­ga­tion that Repub­li­cans con­ducted — and said they had con­cluded — in the last Congress, but he’ll go much broader, look­ing into whether any­one has man­aged to “com­pro­mise” the pres­i­dent.

“The com­mit­tee must ful­fill its re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide the Amer­i­can peo­ple with a com­pre­hen­sive ac­count­ing of what hap­pened, and what the United States must do to pro­tect it­self from fu­ture in­ter­fer­ence and ma­lign in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions,” the con­gress­man said.

As a first step, he said the com­mit­tee will re­lease tran­scripts from the probes con­ducted in the last Congress, and he said the panel is com­mit­ted to re­leas­ing in­ves­tiga­tive in­ter­view tran­scripts, though he sig­naled he will con­trol the timetable.

Mr. Schiff’s five-part in­ves­tiga­tive plan in­cludes rein­ves­ti­gat­ing “the scope and scale” of Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling; any “links” to the Trump cam­paign; whether any for­eigner has “sought to com­pro­mise or holds lever­age” over the pres­i­dent or his fam­ily; whether they are vul­ner­a­ble to black­mail; and whether any­one is try­ing to in­ter­fere with con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into all of those is­sues.

Asked about the loom­ing probe, Mr. Trump mocked Mr. Schiff to re­porters at the White House.

“Never heard of him,” said Mr. Trump, who ques­tioned the “ba­sis” for the in­ves­ti­ga­tions. “He’s just a po­lit­i­cal hack who’s try­ing to build a name for him­self. It’s called pres­i­den­tial ha­rass­ment.”

Mr. Schiff re­leased the plan as the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee met to or­ga­nize for the new Congress, now un­der Demo­cratic con­trol.

Mr. Schiff’s de­ci­sion to restart a Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a re­buke to Repub­li­cans who con­trolled the cham­ber over the pre­vi­ous two years and who did their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, clear­ing the pres­i­dent and his team of spe­cific wrong­do­ing.

“It is now known that, from late 2015 through early 2017, in­di­vid­u­als close to Don­ald Trump en­gaged in a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of con­tacts with an ar­ray of in­di­vid­u­als con­nected to, or working on be­half of, the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, and that sev­eral of these con­tacts in­volved ef­forts to ac­quire and dis­sem­i­nate dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton and her cam­paign, or re­lated to Rus­sia’s de­sired re­lief from U.S. sanc­tions,” Mr. Schiff said.

Repub­li­cans say Mr. Schiff’s an­nounce­ment means the start of an open-ended in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mr. Trump’s and his fam­ily’s lives.

“The pa­ram­e­ters of the Democrats’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion are stun­ningly wide,” said Jack Langer, spokesman for com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans. “They’re not con­fin­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to Rus­sia or to col­lu­sion in elec­tion hack­ing. They’re say­ing they can in­ves­ti­gate re­la­tions be­tween any for­eign na­tion­als and any Trump as­so­ciates, in­clud­ing those as­so­ci­ated with Trump busi­nesses. It’s a blue­print for a sprawl­ing, end­less in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­signed to dig and dig and dig un­til they fi­nally find some mis­deed some­where they can pin on Trump.” At a closed com­mit­tee meet­ing Wed­nes­day, Democrats voted down a GOP mo­tion to re­lease all un­clas­si­fied tran­scripts from the first Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by Rep. Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Re­pub­li­can. His re­port found no elec­tion col­lu­sion, say­ing no wit­ness pro­vided tes­ti­mony of any Trump-Moscow con­spir­acy.

While Trump as­so­ciates have pleaded guilty to charges such as money laun­der­ing and ly­ing to Congress or the FBI, no Trump as­so­ciate has been charge in a con­spir­acy with Rus­sia.

The com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day post­poned the closed tes­ti­mony of one of those as­so­ciates, Mr. Trump’s for­mer per­sonal at­tor­ney and fixer Michael Co­hen.

Jeff Mor­dock con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“The com­mit­tee must ful­fill its re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide the Amer­i­can peo­ple with a com­pre­hen­sive ac­count­ing of what hap­pened, and what the United States must do to pro­tect it­self from fu­ture in­ter­fer­ence and ma­lign in­flu­ence op­er­a­tions,” said House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

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