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Russia Probes Likely to Head into 2018 11/24 06:36

   Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into 
Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the 
year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems 
unlikely.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up 
investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on 
for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, 
that seems unlikely.

   Three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference and 
whether President Donald Trump's campaign was in any way involved. The panels 
have obtained thousands of pages of documents from Trump's campaign and other 
officials, and have done dozens of interviews.

   The probes are separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. 
Mueller can prosecute for criminal activity, while Congress can only lay out 
findings, publicize any perceived wrongdoing and pass legislation to try to 
keep problems from happening again. If any committee finds evidence of criminal 
activity, it must refer the matter to Mueller.

   All three committees have focused on a June 2016 meeting that Trump campaign 
officials held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and others. They are also 
looking into outreach by several other Russians to the campaign, including 
involvement of George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty this month to lying to 
the FBI as part of Mueller's probe. New threads continue to emerge, such as a 
recent revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was messaging with WikiLeaks, the 
website that leaked emails from top Democratic officials during the campaign.

   A look at the committees that are investigating, and the status of their 
work when they return from their Thanksgiving break:

   SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

   The Senate intelligence panel, which has been the most bipartisan in its 
approach, has interviewed more than 100 people, including most of those 
attending the Trump Tower meeting. Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and 
the panel's top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, have said they plan to 
bring in Donald Trump Jr. The president's son was one of several Trump campaign 
officials in the meeting.

   The committee has looked broadly at the issue of interference, and called in 
executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google, pushing them to take steps to 
prevent Russian election meddling on their platforms. Warner told The 
Associated Press the committee is still looking for more information from those 
companies, which were initially reluctant to cooperate.

   Burr has said that he wants to wrap up the probe by early spring, when 
congressional primaries begin. While there are many areas of bipartisan 
agreement on the meddling, it's unclear whether all members will agree to the 
final report. It's also unclear if the report will make a strong statement on 
whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russia.

   Warner said it's plain there were "unprecedented contacts" as Russians 
reached out to the Trump campaign but what's not established is collusion.

   ___

   HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE

   In the House, Democrats hope the intelligence committee can remain focused 
on the Russia probe as the panel's GOP chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, and other 
Republicans have launched new, separate investigations into Democrat Hillary 
Clinton and a uranium deal during President Barack Obama's administration. 
Nunes stepped back from the Russia probe in April after criticism that he was 
too close to the White House, but remains chairman of the committee.

   Some Republicans on the panel have grown restless with the probe, saying it 
has amounted to a fishing expedition and pushing for it to end. Still, the 
committee has continued to interview dozens of witnesses involved with the 
Trump campaign, among them several participants in the 2016 meeting. On Nov. 
30, the panel will interview Attorney General Jeff Sessions behind closed 
doors. Lawmakers are interested in Sessions' knowledge about interactions 
between Trump campaign aides and Russians, and also his own contacts.

   The top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, told AP the 
committee has multiple interviews before the New Year. He said the Republican 
investigations into Clinton and Obama could be "an enormous time drain," but 
they have not yet fully organized. He says the committee must be thorough and 
he doesn't believe the Russia investigation should end soon.

   ___

   SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

   The Senate Judiciary Committee has also divided along partisan lines as 
Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 
panel's top Democrat, haven't agreed on some interviews and subpoenas. But as 
in the House, the panel has proceeded anyway, conducting bipartisan, 
closed-door interviews with several people who were in the 2016 meeting.

   The panel is showing recent signs that it is aggressively pursuing the 
investigation. The committee is the only one to have interviewed Trump Jr. And 
just before the Thanksgiving break, it sent Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, 
a letter asking him to be more forthcoming with the committee.

   Grassley has been focused on a law that requires foreign agents to register 
and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. Along with the other committees, 
Judiciary is also looking into a dossier of allegations about Trump's own 
connections to Russia.

   It's not known if the panel will issue a final report, or if its probe will 
conclude before next year's elections.


(KA)

 
 
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