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Trump Jr., Manafort May be Questioned  07/22 10:33

   President Donald Trump's eldest son and his former campaign chairman won't 
be forced to testify publicly next week and are instead discussing being 
privately interviewed by a Senate committee investigating Russia's meddling in 
the 2016 election, the panel said.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's eldest son and his former 
campaign chairman won't be forced to testify publicly next week and are instead 
discussing being privately interviewed by a Senate committee investigating 
Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, the panel said.

   The Senate Judiciary Committee initially called for Donald Trump Jr. and 
Paul Manafort to appear at a public hearing Wednesday. But the top Republican 
and Democrat on the panel now say the men are negotiating the terms of their 
appearances, and lawmakers don't currently plan to issue subpoenas to compel 
their public testimony.

   In a joint statement, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, 
D-Calif., also said they are negotiating with Trump Jr. and Manafort about 
possibly turning over documents. Grassley tweeted late Friday that Trump Jr.'s 
interview, while not public, will still be on the record. Feinstein and 
Grassley both said on Twitter that the two men will testify in public after 
private interviews, but they did not elaborate on when that might occur.

   Both men face questions about attending a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian 
lawyer in June 2016 that was described to Trump Jr. in emails as part of a 
Russian government effort to help his father's campaign. Trump Jr. was told the 
lawyer had damaging information that could be used against Democrat Hillary 
Clinton.

   Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and top White House aide, also attended 
the meeting. He is scheduled to speak behind closed doors with the Senate 
intelligence committee Monday and with the House intelligence committee Tuesday.

   The revelation of the Trump Tower meeting renewed questions about the Trump 
campaign's possible connections with Russia and put some of Trump's inner 
circle at the forefront of ongoing federal and congressional probes.

   Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined to comment on the committee's 
announcement. Trump Jr. attorney Alan Futerfas did not respond to several 
attempts by The Associated Press to contact him this week, including calls and 
emails Friday.

   Also Friday, The Washington Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported 
that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said he discussed election-related 
issues with Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and foreign policy adviser to 
Trump, when the two men met during the 2016 presidential race.

   Trump responded to the report on Twitter on Saturday, complaining about 
"illegal leaks."

   "A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against 
A.G. Jeff Sessions," he tweeted. "These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!"

   The Post had cited anonymous U.S. officials who described U.S. intelligence 
intercepts of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak's descriptions of his meetings with 
Sessions, who now serves as attorney general.

   Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Sessions stands by 
his previous assertion that he never had conversations with Russian officials 
about any type of interference with the election.

   Word of the negotiations with Trump Jr. and Manafort comes as the 
president's legal team evaluates potential conflicts of interest among members 
of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team, according to three 
people with knowledge of the matter. Mueller's probe into Russia's election 
meddling also appears likely to include some of the Trump family's business 
ties.

   Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of the president's external legal team, told 
The Associated Press on Thursday that the lawyers "will consistently evaluate 
the issue of conflicts and raise them in the appropriate venue."

   Two of the people with knowledge of that process say those efforts include 
probing the political affiliations of Mueller's investigators and their past 
work history. The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized 
to discuss the matter publicly.

   Trump himself has publicly challenged Mueller, declaring this week that the 
former FBI director would be crossing a line if he investigated the president's 
personal business ties.

   The White House push against the special counsel's probe and the attempts to 
put the focus on potential conflicts with Mueller's team may well be an effort 
to distract from snowballing federal and congressional investigations into 
possible election-year coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia. While 
Trump has assailed the probes as a partisan "witch hunt," the investigations 
have increasingly ensnared his family and close advisers.

   Since the 2016 Trump Tower meeting became public, Trump Jr. has faced tough 
questions from lawmakers about why he agreed to participate. He and his father 
have downplayed it as politics as usual, saying they believe most people would 
have taken the meeting to learn about damaging information on an opponent.

   Manafort had attracted scrutiny for months from congressional committees and 
Mueller. The Associated Press reported in June that Mueller's probe has 
incorporated a long-standing federal investigation into Manafort's financial 
dealings. That investigation is scrutinizing political consulting work he did 
for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and the country's former 
president, Viktor Yanukovych.

   Manafort has denied any wrongdoing related to his Ukrainian work, saying 
through a spokesman that it "was totally open and appropriate."

   Manafort also recently registered with the Justice Department as a foreign 
agent for parts of Ukrainian work that occurred in Washington. The filing under 
the Foreign Agents Registration Act came retroactively, a tacit acknowledgement 
that he operated in Washington in violation of the federal transparency law.

   That law was scheduled to be the topic of the Senate Judiciary Committee 
hearing in which he was called to appear.

   The committee also is looking at the work of Glenn Simpson, a political 
operative who was involved in the compilation of a dossier of unsubstantiated 
and sometimes salacious information about Trump and his associates and their 
interactions with Russians.

   Grassley and Feinstein said Friday that they have issued a subpoena for 
Simpson to appear before the committee next week.

   Trump has accused former FBI Director James Comey of having leaked 
classified information to the media. A close friend of Comey's has disputed 
that.


(KA)

 
 
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