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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amid a deepening crisis over the relationship between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russia, some senior Republicans on Wednesday issued their boldest challenge yet and vowed to get to the bottom of the matter, while Democrats demanded an independent probe.

Trump, facing rising unease among fellow Republicans in Congress less than a month into his presidency, sought to focus the attention on what he called criminal intelligence leaks about his ousted national security adviser, calling Michael Flynn a “wonderful man” who was mistreated by the news media.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that phone call records and intercepted calls showed members of Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the Nov. 8 election in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican Trump critics including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham voiced fresh consternation, but comments by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who has been a Trump supporter, increased the pressure on the White House.

Corker said the Russia issue was threatening Trump’s agenda on foreign affairs and domestic matters like healthcare and tax policy. He questioned whether the White House was able to stabilize itself and said Flynn should testify before Congress.

Democrats, doubting that either Trump’s Justice Department or the Republican-led Congress will pursue the matter vigorously, demanded an independent investigation of possible illegal communications between Flynn and the Russian government, and any efforts by Flynn or other White House officials to conceal wrongdoing.

The Democrats called for either a special counsel appointed by Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, or the creation of a bipartisan commission with subpoena power. The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said Sessions, a close ally of Trump, must recuse himself from any investigation.

Graham called for a broader bipartisan congressional investigation, to be conducted by a newly formed special committee rather than existing committees, if it turns out that Trump’s presidential campaign communicated with the Russians.

“It’s time for us to look into all things related to Russia’s involvement in 2016,” Graham told reporters, referring to last year’s election.

But the top Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives have insisted the matter be investigated by existing Republican-led committees.

U.S. intelligence agencies previously concluded that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the election campaign as part of efforts to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor.

Some experts expressed concern the White House could curtail or divert probes into Flynn and Russian involvement in the election unless Congress becomes more aggressive by holding hearings and appointing an independent commission or special prosecutor into whether Trump’s team violated federal laws in their contacts with Russia.

Intelligence agencies now overseen by Trump may not be ideally suited to the job, they added.

“It’s not, at the end of the day, the job of the intelligence community to regulate the White House – and it shouldn’t be,” said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor who focuses on constitutional law and national security.

Flynn was abruptly forced out by Trump on Monday after disclosures he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States, before Trump took office, and that he had later misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon spy agency once headed by Flynn, formally suspended his security clearance allowing him access to classified information, DIA spokesman James Kudla said.

The drama of Flynn’s departure was the latest in a series of White House missteps and controversies since Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20.

“Let’s get everything out as quickly as possible on this Russia issue,” Corker told MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. “Maybe there’s a problem that obviously goes much deeper than what we now suspect.”

‘VERY UN-AMERICAN’

In Twitter posts on Wednesday, Trump called the reported Russian connection with his campaign team nonsense, adding: “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”

At a news conference later with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump charged that intelligence leaks to the news media were “a criminal act.” He said Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was “a wonderful man” who has been treated “very, very unfairly by the media.”

But White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that Trump himself asked for Flynn’s resignation because of the president’s “eroding level of trust” in Flynn after a series of “questionable instances.”

In his comments at the news conference, Trump did not address the accuracy of the material he said was being leaked.

Spicer on Tuesday also denied there had been any contact between any member of Trump’s campaign team and Russia.

From early on in his White House bid, Trump said he would like improved relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stance criticized by Democrats and also by some Republicans concerned about Washington softening its stance after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and aggression in Syria.

Only a few Republican lawmakers have supported even the idea of extending any investigation to cover actions by Trump’s team in the weeks after the election, when Flynn made his calls.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on the FBI to expedite an investigation into the financial, personal and political ties of Trump and members of his administration to the Russians.

“There are suspicions that have arisen about the president of the United States,” Pelosi said, including behavior she called “very dangerous to the national security of our country” including poor judgment in appointing Flynn in the first place.

The Trump administration has offered Flynn’s former job to U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robert Harward, said two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear if Harward, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, had accepted the offer, according to sources.

The Times, citing current and former U.S. officials, said U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they discovered Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the Times report, which the Kremlin dismissed as groundless. CNN also reported that Trump advisers were in constant contact with Russian officials during the campaign.

(Additional reporting by Rick Cowan, Mohammad Zargham, Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Doina Chiacu, Julia Harte and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters accompanied by National security adviser General Michael Flynn (2nd L)  after delivering remarks during a visit in Langley, Virginia U.S., January 21, 2017. U.S. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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28 responses to “Republican Senators Push For Answers On Trump’s Russia Ties”

  1. NoMan says:

    Anybody…anybody that takes a high level job in the Trump administration should consider the real possibility that they might very well be making a career ending decision.

    Kellyanne Conway and Shawn Spicer…where will they go after Trump says “you’re fired”!!!

    The first wheel is coming off the Trump Clown Car and it’s only in first gear!

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  3. Trump’s lust for the WH has thrust him into a storm he’ll never forget. Yes—He won the Presidency according to that artifice, the Electoral College, founded to accommodate an immoral practice, namely slavery. But now, as many foresaw, his victory was in effect a monumental loss from the beginning—a loss of honor, prestige, his humanity, a further diminishing of his sanity, and a taste of humiliation that may be with him well beyond the tomb.
    The possible Faustian deal made with Russia(details still TBD), the inordinate greed, an overactive ego to put it mildly, and a constant self-centered way of dealing with the world will exact a toll that only time will more fully outline.
    By now, Trump should be thinking he would have been better off collecting beetles, or tending a hydroponics cabbage patch on top of Trump Tower.

  4. Now would be a good time for Congress to really do something useful for America, by objectively considering their options vis a vis Trump.

    Can they afford to let partisan politics stand in the way to correct the virus that was allowed to assume the Presidency, or allow the perpetual quest for group dominance and a survival-of-the-political-fittest Darwinian approach to governance further jeopardize America?

    • FireBaron says:

      Now would be a good time for the GOP in congress to do something useful for America by resigning!

      • PatrickHenry says:

        Lindsey Graham & John McCain should resign, why we need term-limits. They are part of the swamp.

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        The real problem comes from Trump’s AG, Sessions. Sessions would be investigating the very issues he is part and parcel of and as guilty as Trump is. As a U.S. Senator, Sessions campaigned for Trump. How then can he possibly be unbiased in any investigation? That’s like allowing Hitler to investigate Goehring.

        • Mama Bear says:

          Ah-ha…..I have changed my guess. Sessions will be the first to hire his own attorney and roll over on Trumpie and his Keystone Kops.

          • Eleanore Whitaker says:

            Sessions unfortunately has the entire KKK Confederacy behind him. These are the southern and midwestern politicians like Ryan and McConnell who are as much a brethren as the Mafia.

            Sessions has already been outed by the review committee and the Republicans insisted they would make one of “their own” an Attorney General.

            Remember when AG Alberto Gonzalez, a GWB Texas crony, was forced to resign for hiring ONLY Republicans as U.S. attorneys? Sessions will be gone before mid year.

          • Mama Bear says:

            from your lips to god’s ear.

          • Eleanore Whitaker says:

            Don’t I wish? All we can do now is fortify our Constitution and hope for the best. How this government EVER came down to being in the hands of the most corrupt men in this country is beyond imagination.

            Every new dawn is like another challenge to keep this country from becoming a Banana Republic.

  5. Mama Bear says:

    It is all beginning to unravel. A tiny thread once pulled will unravel the entire garment. Besides that….one just does not screw around with the CIA – they know hundreds of ways to make you disappear!

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      Trump is a joke. All during his campaign, he loved, loved, loved, leaks. He doesn’t get to hate leaks now that HE is the target of leaks.

      When he holds press conferences, such as the one yesterday with Netanyahu, he only takes questions from right wing journalists and reporters. WHY? He calls some of the U.S.’s oldest media “fake” and then kisses up to nasty right wing media he knows will lie for him. He hires only people around him who condone anything he does, right or wrong and will lie for him. We’ve already seen that with Conway and Spicer.

      As for Bannon, check out his own spousal abuse record. The joke is that like most rotten cancers, Trump will run for his life the minute this gets too too close to accountability for him. That is the legacy everyone in the Metro area has known and seen since he was expelled from military school twice.

      Meanwhile, a Russian spy ship sits off the coast of Long Island and a Russian spy plane has crossed paths in U.S. air rights. What next? Trump getting rid of Pence and replacing him with Putin?

      • Mama Bear says:

        The staff in the WH have all been advised to get lawyers. Who will be the first to roll over when a push comes to a shove? I say it will be that mealy mouthed Spicer! Who is your guess?

        • Eleanore Whitaker says:

          I’m betting on Conway. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Conway likes to pretend she is a tough cookie. But, any woman who has worked side-by-side with a CEO like Trump knows the line is so thin in terms of her future that at any minute he will find a way to smear her as a reason to get rid of her.

          Conway can do far more damage even though at the moment she pretends she is doing the “Stand by Her Man” routine.

          Spicer can’t be taken seriously. We used to call guys like him, “Little Johnny Jump Ups.” These are the guys who wallow in what they hope is upward mobility to get the ear of Mr. CEO. In reality, these are also the most replaceable. They are the first to get dumped when one of their own, Bannon or Sessions, whisper in the Emperor’s ear.

  6. plc97477 says:

    I wish we get get away from saying trump won the election. He didn’t. The gotp stole another election. Purging, cutting hours, limiting polling places and making it more difficult to exercise ones right to vote handed the election to putin’s puppet.

    • Dan S says:

      No he did not win the election and I won’t acknowledge him as President either. This Tom and Jerry show is quickly tiring everyone out and at some point he’ll either recognize he’s way in over his head and resign or face impeachment. We all knew before he took office he’d be every bit the disaster this has become in a very short time

      • plc97477 says:

        I see this going down in one of three ways.
        1) trump has a massive heart attack. We know that is possible because he doesn’t have a real doctor, just a drug dealer pretending to be a doctor.
        2) trump pisses off putin to the point that he is introduced to the umbrella hypodermic.
        3) the gotp finally realizes that he is hurting their chances of being reelected and does the “honorable” thing and impeaches.
        Should be interesting.

        • Dan S says:

          That Day can’t come soon enough. He’s jeopardizing our national security everyday he’s in office and he then screws with people’s lives over a poorly written travel ban. In Seattle here ICE is detaining a DACA student who’s been here 16 years. They claim he’s affiliated with gangs and yet he dutifully follows the rules doesn’t smoke or drink and had a job lined up ready to start soon. If Trump doesn’t die of a heart attack soon people around the country will if he doesn’t leave

  7. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    Once again, in yesterday’s conference with Netanyahu, the Skank of Wall Street took his shot. I’ll bet anything Netanyahu was laughing his butt off when Trump went into his tirade about how he won the Electoral College votes with 360 votes. Liar. It was only 260. He can’t even get the numbers right.

    But, the worst is what his “administration” tweeted that came straight from the 31 year old little Nazi, Stephen Miller, who on Sunday told the world, “The president’s power cannot be questioned.” Want to bet Miller? The U.S. Goverment has ALWAYS had checks and balances in place to stop any lunatic who rigs an election from becoming a dictator.

    So yesterday, the clowns in the Trump Administration tweeted, “The president’s power cannot be questioned.” Want to bet?

    If every single one of those 260 electors were investigated, how many would be found to have been paid off by Republican legislators?

    The fact is that it is the duty of state legislators to appoint these electors. Let’s all pretend duh duh duh that the Republican legislators who appointed the electors from their state did so honestly and above board. Yeah..and the Russians NEVER hacked into U.S. elections.

    Once you begin with the fact that Trump, the right wing and the Republicans ALL want to pretend that Russian hacking into an election is not a SERIOUS matter, you see how complicit ALL of these nutbaggers are.

    This isn’t about winning or losing and election now. It is about finding out what the hell the Russians did with ALL of the DNC information they datamined and hacked. What are they doing with it NOW?

  8. yabbed says:

    Senators McCain and Graham can be the heroes we need if they can mount the courage to do the right thing for our country.

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      I have always been wary of Graham. McCain I tend to give a bit of wiggle room even though he often comes off as a right leaning senator.

      The real laugh is that these are people so out of the loop of how Trump’s entire life has been lived. Trump knows he can outwit anyone of these southern and midwestern politicians because all he has to do is wave a new financial deal for their states in their faces.

      • plc97477 says:

        That’s going to get very expensive very quickly.

        • Eleanore Whitaker says:

          Actually, no, it won’t. Trump NEVER pays outs. He only gets PAID. Why do you think he appointed McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, for Secy. of Transportation? Why do you think he appointed Betsy DeVos, Sister of Erik “Blackwater” Prince” as Secretary of Education? Or Exxon Tillerson as Secretary of State? Every single one of these are paybacks the Republicans KNEW Trump would pay out in political patronage jobs.

          The truth about why Trump won’t release his taxes has more to do with the RNC hiding how much of Trump’s paper money was earmarked for political patronage jobs.

          And who would know Pay to Play better than Trump? This guy is a master of pay to play. He doesn’t pay employees or contractors and when he makes deals, all of the financial payments are always only on “paper” he knows he can dismiss at some point in the future.

      • yabbed says:

        Someone will eventually take Trump down. If McCain and Graham are willing and able let’s give them encouragement.

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