A closer look at congressional probes into Russia

On Capitol Hill, it appears that not a day goes by without yet another lawmaker -- normally but not constantly a Democrat -- calling for an investigation, unique prosecutor or independent commission to delve into the alleged contacts amongst the Trump campaign,...

A closer look at congressional probes into Russia

On Capitol Hill, it appears that not a day goes by without yet another lawmaker -- normally but not constantly a Democrat -- calling for an investigation, unique prosecutor or independent commission to delve into the alleged contacts amongst the Trump campaign,...

27 February 2017 Monday 21:00
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A closer look at congressional probes into Russia

On Capitol Hill, it appears that not a day goes by without yet another lawmaker -- normally but not constantly a Democrat -- calling for an investigation, unique prosecutor or independent commission to delve into the alleged contacts amongst the Trump campaign, transition and administration and Russian government officials.

Sources have told ABC News that U.S. authorities were probing communications amongst the associates and suspected members of the Russian intelligence community ahead of the election, allegations Trump has repeatedly decried as "fake news." An FBI probe into the matter is ongoing.

Beneath is a look at the current congressional probes related to the alleged contacts, into Russia, which the intelligence community concluded orchestrated an elaborate campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, as well as the leaks to the media surrounding the stories.

Senate Intelligence Committee

Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, gave the first public information on his panel’s inquiry on Dec. 16, prior to Trump was sworn in. The probe was prompted by, according to Burr’s statement, “the underpinnings of the intelligence” that prompted the intelligence neighborhood to release a statement in October that stated it “is confident that the Russian Government directed the current compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, like from US political organizations.” It later revised its mission statement to encompass the revelations from a more detailed January assessment of Russia hacking. Republican leaders have also mentioned they anticipate the committee to contact former national safety adviser Gen. Mike Flynn to testify about his contacts with Russian officials. Flynn resigned just after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the contacts. Democrats are criticizing Burr this week more than revelations that the White Property communicated with Burr and his Residence counterpart to rebut reports that Trump associates had contacts with Russian officials for the duration of the campaign. More than the weekend, Sen. Mark Warner, the prime Democrat on the panel, said in a statement, “I have said from the incredibly beginning of this matter that if SSCI can not properly conduct an independent investigation, I will support empowering whoever can do it correct."

House Intelligence Committee

This panel, overseen by Chairman Devin Nunes, never ever announced a separate investigation of Russia’s actions, but acknowledged in early December that the committee had been “closely monitoring Russia’s belligerence for years.” Nunes also noted that it has been hunting into the underlying intelligence that prompted the conclusions in the intelligence community’s January assessment, including Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. Nunes, a Trump transition adviser, has diverged from the Senate Intelligence Committee in saying he has no plans to investigate Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials, saying in mid-February that “we’re not supposed to be listening to American telephone calls.” He has stated that he wants the FBI to investigate the leaks that have led to public reports about Trump officials' alleged contacts with suspected Russian officials. Nunes stated Monday that his committee is in the early stages of its perform, but that his preliminary communication with the Intelligence Neighborhood has yielded no proof of contacts involving the Trump campaign and the Russian government, even though he admitted that “that does not mean they do not exist.” But California Rep. Adam Schiff said that the committee has referred to as no witnesses or interviewed the FBI. “We have not reached a conclusion, nor need to we, on concerns of collusion since we haven't interviewed a single witness or reviewed a single document,” Schiff said.

Senate Armed Solutions Committee

Even though this committee, headed by John McCain, is not formally investigating Russia’s interference in the election, as is the Intelligence Committee, McCain has resolved to make cybersecurity, and by extension Russia’s hacking, a major focus. “It’s all part of the larger challenge of the cyber threat that we face from Russia, China and other countries. It is a further form of warfare,” McCain stated on CBS in December. The committee held a hearing last month, in the course of which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked by Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill about the president’s statements that appeared to “trash the intelligence community,” like when he questioned their veracity by citing their in the end incorrect assessment that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction. “There's a difference involving skepticism and disparagement,” Clapper mentioned for the duration of the Jan. 5 hearing.

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism

At the starting of the month, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse, the chairman and prime Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee, announced they would be investigating Russian efforts to influence democratic elections in the United States and abroad. “Our goal is straightforward – to the fullest extent probable we want to shine a light on Russian activities to undermine democracy. Although some of our efforts will have to be held behind closed doors due to safety issues, we also hope to have an open discussion just before the American men and women about Russia’s tactics to undermine democracy,” the two said in a statement.

Property Oversight/Judiciary Committees

The chairmen of the two panels, Jason Chaffetz and Bob Goodlatte, have urged the Division of Justice Inspector General to investigate the leaks surrounding the Flynn calls with Russian officials, though they also say they are not interested in investigating Flynn himself. “We have severe concerns about the prospective inadequate protection of classified data here,” they wrote to the DOJ IG on Feb. 15, two days just after Flynn resigned. Chaffetz and his Oversight Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings, are also seeking into Flynn’s speaking engagements in Russia in 2014 and 2015 to establish the quantity and source of any funding he received to seem, and irrespective of whether he received payments from foreign sources, which would be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Chaffetz has also stressed the want to appear into the leaks of sensitive facts from within the intelligence community.

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