Intel panel Republicans seem to back away from finding that Russia was not trying to help Trumpx

The leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation seemed to back off Tuesday from the most surprising finding in the GOP’s report that Russia was not trying to help President Trump as the panel’s top Democrat trashed the product as a political gift to the White House.

Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) told reporters Tuesday that “it’s clear [Russian officials] were trying to hurt Hillary [Clinton]” by interfering in the 2016 election, and that “everybody gets to make up their own mind whether they were trying to hurt Hillary, help Trump, it’s kind of glass half-full, glass half-empty.”

.. When it comes to determining whether Russia interfered to hurt clinton or help Trump, “you can pitch that either way,” Conaway said Tuesday.

.. His comments came after other panel Republicans, including Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) gave interviews in which they stressed that there was evidence that Russia had tried to damage Clinton’s candidacy.

.. Schiff added that the report was “little more than another Nunes memo in long form,”

.. Schiff and other Democrats on the committee released a 22-page “status update” Tuesday night, listing the various witnesses, firms and documents that the panel had declined to subpoena or otherwise examine

.. “The majority has decided they would rather shut down the investigation than find out the answers to the questions we had for Stephen K. Bannon,” Schiff said. “This majority doesn’t want to know the answers, and it has set a precedent now that will affect future Congresses’ ability to get answers from the executive.”

House Intelligence Democrats Dispute Republican Report

Among other witnesses, Appendix B includes:

formal and informal campaign foreign policy advisors who have yet to appear before or produce documents to the Committee, including

  • Reince Priebus,
  • Stephen Miller,
  • KT McFarland,
  • Sean Spicer,
  • Keith Kellogg,
  • Joseph E. Schmitz, and
  • Tera Dahl;

individuals with knowledge about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries, the stated purpose of which was to provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton, including Natalia Veselnitskaya, who offered to cooperate, and Roman Beniaminov, a witness with relevant information who resides in the United States;

.. Appendix C identifies more than 20 entities from which the Committee has yet to request documents, including Deutsche Bank, the Estate of Peter Smith (and associated entities), the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA, and social media companies.

.. Appendix D outlines more than 15 persons and entities for which the Committee believes compulsory process for appearance and/or document production to the Committee is necessary. Included are witnesses who have refused to appear; who have invoked a nonexistent privilege to avoid pertinent testimony or who have simply refused to answer questions because the answers may be adverse to the interests of the President or his campaign; who have not produced any documentation; or whose production was insufficient and for whom we have a reasonable basis to believe that they possess documents responsive to the Committee’s investigation. This list includes, among others:

  • Donald Trump Jr.,
  • Michael Cohen,
  • Jared Kushner,
  • Hope Hicks,
  • Attorney General Sessions,
  • Erik Prince,

and the White House. The Committee must also initiate a contempt process to compel Stephen Bannon to testify to the Committee fully and without constraints.

In consideration of the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigative equities, the Committee also has deferred interviewing

  • Michael Flynn,
  • Paul Manafort,
  • Rick Gates, and
  • George Papadopoulos,

but these interviews will be essential to a complete understanding of the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice. To conduct a legitimate investigation, the Committee would need to interview these individuals, whether or not they have reached plea agreements or are the subject of criminal indictments.

For example, Mr. Flynn specifically informed the Committee via his attorney on June 7, 2017 that he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination; the Committee did not demand his appearance, as a result. In light of Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea, the Committee should revisit his appearance and seek to negotiate his testimony. The Committee also ought to interview other individuals who may be of investig

Mueller Reportedly Has Evidence Blackwater Founder Tried to Set Up a Trump-Putin Back Channel

Mueller Reportedly Has Evidence Blackwater Founder Tried to Set Up a Trump-Putin Back Channel

Last April, the Washington Post reported that Blackwater founder Erik Prince had a secret meeting with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin to establish back channel communications between the Kremlin and then-President-elect Donald Trump in advance of the inauguration. Prince denied the allegations, but now, it sounds like special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence.

.. A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries

.. Prince, an outspoken Trump supporter whose sister, Betsy DeVos, serves as Trump’s education secretary, previously told the House Intelligence Committee that the meeting in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, who oversees a wealth fund controlled by the Russian government, was not planned and that he had been discussing business possibilities at a hotel with United Arab Emirates officials. The Washington Post reported last year that the secret meeting had been arranged by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and his brother, shortly after Zayed visited the United States, to “explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria.

In Russia probe, Hope Hicks refuses to answer questions about Trump administration

White House communications director Hope Hicks refused to answer questions about the Trump administration that House investigators posed Tuesday as part of their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

.. Hicks, who has already spoken with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as part of its probe, has become a central figure in a dispute between lawmakers and the White House about when and where witnesses can legitimately resist answering questions in a congressional probe.

.. at first, she categorically resisted answering any questions about events and conversations that had occurred since President Trump won the election, even though Trump has not formally invoked executive privilege with the panel.

.. Democrats on the panel tried to insist during the interview that Hicks be served with a subpoena, as was done with former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon last month

.. the White House to clarify which questions pertaining to the period between Election Day and Trump’s inauguration she would answer

.. her interview continued for nine hours.

.. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to comment Tuesday on whether the White House had instructed Hicks to cooperate

.. she answered none of their questions pertaining to the period since Trump took office, which meant that lawmakers were unable to secure her testimony regarding a key event in which she played a role: the drafting of a misleading statement to explain an un­or­tho­dox meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan between top Trump campaign members and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 race.

 .. “All of our questions about what went into that statement went unanswered,” Schiff said. “As a result, we should follow through with the subpoena.”.. Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee believe they must issue a contempt citation for Bannon to demonstrate to future witnesses that congressional subpoenas must be complied with.

.. The decision depends on Conaway and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan

.. The panel is also grappling with what to do about former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He initially said he was unprepared to answer the committee’s questions and needed more time, but he later informed the panel that he would not return to complete his interview.

Researchers Tied to Trump Dossier Decline to Testify in Russia Probe

Fusion GPS partners invoke Fifth Amendment to House Intelligence Committee

Two partners at a research firm that compiled a dossier of unverified and unflattering allegations about President Donald Trump invoked their constitutional right not to give testimony before a congressional committee on Wednesday.

Peter Fritsch and Thomas Catan, partners at the firm Fusion GPS, were subpoenaed to appear behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee.

The men declined to answer any of the committee’s questions, citing their Fifth Amendment constitutional protection against self-incrimination

..  He noted that the firm’s founder Glenn Simpson gave 10 hours of testimony to a Senate committee in August.

.. Messrs. Simpson, Fritsch and Catan are all former Wall Street Journal reporters.