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Democratic Lawmakers Further Investigate Russia’s Involvement In U.S. Election

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump who has repeatedly criticized the Mueller probe as a fruitless "witch hunt," dismissed the sharing of data with Kilimnik as inconsequential. 

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Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, leaves U.S. District Court after a hearing in Washington, May 23, 2018. VOA

Senior Democratic lawmakers called Wednesday for further investigation into a revelation that in 2016 Donald Trump’s then-presidential election campaign chairman gave polling data to a man U.S. prosecutors have linked to Russian intelligence.

On Tuesday, portions of a court filing by lawyers for convicted former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort were inadvertently made public. They showed he shared the data with a business partner and Russian-Ukrainian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the House Intelligence Committee’s new Democratic chairman, noted that Schiff had described the revelation as “stunning” to The Washington Post. He referred Reuters to Schiff’s statement that lawmakers on the committee “need to find out” about Manafort’s interaction with Kilimnik on polling data.

The office of special counsel Robert Mueller has charged Manafort and Kilimnik in its investigation of Russian interference in the election and whether Trump campaign members coordinated with Moscow officials. Trump denies any campaign collusion with Russia.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), left, speaks to the media about national security as North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, right, listens, in Greensboro, N.C., Sept. 26, 2014. V

 

Warner’s call

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been conducting a bipartisan investigation into Russian election meddling, also called for further probing of the matter.

“If accurate, this is damning evidence of a senior Trump campaign official providing information to individuals tied to Russian intelligence at the height of the Kremlin’s effort to undermine our election,” Warner said.

There is no evidence that Trump was aware that Manafort was sharing the data with Kilimnik, who was described by Mueller in court documents last year as having “ties to a Russian intelligence service.”

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the revelations raised new questions about possible “collusion” between Trump’s election team and Russia.

“It’s a significant revelation that further makes the case for cooperation between the president’s team and Russia on steering the outcome of the 2016 election,” Speier told Reuters.

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Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 27, 2017. VOA

Tuesday’s court filing was submitted by Manafort’s lawyers in response to allegations that their client had lied repeatedly to Mueller, breaching a plea deal under which Manafort agreed to assist Mueller’s probe.

Because of a formatting error, the redacted portions of the filing as initially submitted could be electronically reversed, and an uncensored version was circulated by journalists and others on the Internet. It was later replaced with a properly redacted version.

‘Ukrainian peace plan’

In addition to the polling data revelation, the filing also showed that Mueller believes Manafort lied to prosecutors about his discussions with Kilimnik about a “Ukrainian peace plan” and a previously undisclosed meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik in Madrid. Manafort’s lawyers said any incorrect statements by him were unintentional.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Trump campaign aide told Reuters that he was unaware Manafort had shared data with Kilimnik and found the news “disturbing” and especially problematic because the data were provided to a foreign national.

Also Read: The Senate Judiciary Committee is Renewing Its Attempt To Protect Special Counselor Robert Muller

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump who has repeatedly criticized the Mueller probe as a fruitless “witch hunt,” dismissed the sharing of data with Kilimnik as inconsequential.

“It’s not a crime to talk to a Russian,” Giuliani said. “They are searching for what doesn’t exist. The president did not conspire with the Russians.”

Giuliani also said Wednesday that Trump’s legal team told Mueller that the president will not answer any more questions in the investigation. (VOA)

Next Story

William Barr, U.S. Attorney General Nominee Grilled On Russia Probe

The nominee criticized so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody.

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Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr, goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee again Wednesday, after pledging in his first day of confirmation hearings to shield the special counsel’s Russia probe from political pressure.

In his initial appearance before the panel, Barr also took issue with Trump’s labeling the investigation of his inner circle’s contacts with Moscow as a “witch hunt.”

“I don’t believe (special counsel Robert) Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt,” Barr said, adding that he intends to let the probe run its course and that the results should be made known to the public and Congress.

Barr said the special counsel could only be terminated for good cause and that “it’s unimaginable” that Mueller would “ever do anything that gave rise to good cause.”

Democrats repeatedly stressed the importance of independence to the role of attorney general and noted Trump’s penchant for lashing out at the Justice Department.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accompanied by Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,(R) questions Attorney General nominee William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

“I believe it is important that the next attorney general be able to strongly resist pressure, whether from the administration or Congress,” California Democrat Dianne Feinstein said. “He must have the integrity, the strength and the fortitude to tell the president ‘no’ regardless of the consequences.”

“If confirmed, the president is going to expect you to his bidding. I can almost guarantee he’ll cross the line at some point,” Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

“I can truly be independent,” Barr insisted. “I’m in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences … I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong.”

Barr’s memo

Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush, has drawn scrutiny for a memo he wrote last year criticizing special counsel Mueller for examining whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation by firing then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce a criminal law enforcement action involving China, at the Department of Justice in Washington, Nov. 1, 2018. VOA

In a memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, Barr opined that probing Trump’s actions toward Comey was “fatally misconceived” and “grossly irresponsible.”

The memo, written last June, came to light after Trump nominated Barr, 68, to succeed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump ousted over his recusal from oversight of the Russia investigation. The document sparked widespread concern among minority Democrats in the Senate, who have long feared Trump intends to shut down the probe.

At the confirmation hearing, Barr argued his memo was “narrow in scope” and did not address the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other “potential obstruction-of-justice theories.”

Later in the hearing, Barr said, “I think Russians attempted to interfere with the [2016] election, and I think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

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Attorney General nominee William Barr testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

Republicans also sought assurances from the nominee. The committee’s new chairman, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, expressed outrage over extensive communications between two FBI agents during the 2016 presidential campaign that showed extreme bias and prejudice against Trump.

“We’re relying on you to clean this place up,” Graham said of the Justice Department.

Graham also asked if, as commander in chief, Trump has the authority to divert federal funding in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Without looking at the statute, I really couldn’t answer that,” Barr replied.

Also Read: “I Never Worked For Russia”, Says US President Donald Trump

The nominee criticized so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not notify federal officials about undocumented immigrants who are taken into custody. He also weighed in on the current standoff between the White House and congressional Democrats over border wall funding.

“I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes that it’s imperative to have border security, and that part of that border security, as a commonsense matter, needs barriers,” Barr said. (VOA)