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Trump can’t escape Russia woes

White House

The White House will have to cope with ‘big, gray cloud’ of Russia suspicions for the foreseeable future.

President Donald Trump’s Russia headaches are far from behind him.

One day after the top law enforcement official in the United States confirmed an active FBI investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, lawmakers are already laying out plans to haul Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort and possibly other Trump associates before committees also probing any ties.

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The persistence of such live investigations will be at the least a distraction for the president and could bog down his administration with questions of legitimacy. The Trump administration, for its part, has steadfastly insisted that the investigations will ultimately prove fruitless, but enough smoke has formed that even fellow Republicans have raised concerns.

Monday’s testimony from FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers that confirmed the presence of an investigation was the easy part, House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” As that committee’s investigation continues, the congressman said the next step will be to bring in the Trump associates in question and potentially seek the president’s tax returns, documents he has thus far been unwilling to release.

Whether Republicans on the committee are willing to dig that deep into potential ties between Trump and Russia remains an open question, Swalwell said.

“We’ve heard from the easy witnesses, right? We’ve heard from the director and Adm. Rogers. The harder witnesses are going to be people like Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, bringing individuals in who were actually witnesses to what was going on,” he told “Morning Joe.” “And finding if there’s consensus there, among Republicans, to bring those individuals in as well as bringing in documents that will also help us, like the president’s tax returns.”

Swalwell’s comments come after Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) told POLITICO on Monday that Manafort “would certainly be at the top of my list to testify” before the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation.

FBI’s Trump-Russia probe knocks White House on its heels

While Swalwell and others have sought to shine a brighter spotlight on those in the Trump orbit with alleged ties to Russia, the White House has moved to distance itself from them. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman who resigned last August amid reports of his ties to a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

And counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who became Trump’s campaign manager days before Manafort’s resignation and took over for him as the head of the operation, said Page, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and J.D. Gordon, a member of the campaign’s national security advisory committee, had “very attenuated contacts to the campaign.”

The president “doesn’t know these gentlemen. He didn’t work with them,” Conway said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning.

“Where is the nexus? I mean, people are so quick to make that nexus,” she said. “We’ve got conclusions still in search of evidence. And that’s very dangerous, because we didn’t learn anything more yesterday to show any kind of nexus.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who said last month on Fox News that he did not intend to immediately subpoena Trump confidant Roger Stone or Page to testify, told reporters Monday that he had never heard of either man.

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“You haven’t heard of Carter Page and all these other people?” a reporter asked Nunes Monday on Capitol Hill, to which he flatly replied “no.” In response to a follow-up question, Nunes again said he had not heard of Page or Stone, but added “I’ve heard of Manafort.”

Inside the committee room, Nunes was direct with Comey in urging him to work expeditiously to get to the bottom of the newly disclosed investigation into the 2016 election, Russia and the Trump administration. The chairman told the FBI director that “there is a big, gray cloud that you’ve now put over people who have very important work to do to lead this country.”

“And so the faster you can get to the bottom of this, it’s going to be better for all Americans,” he said.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), another member of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed concern during his own “Fox & Friends” interview Tuesday that Comey had been willing to confirm the presence of the Russia investigation but had not been similarly forthcoming about whether or not the bureau is looking into the source of leaks, presumably from the intelligence community, that have proven damaging to the Trump administration.

And like Nunes, Gowdy said he warned Comey that his testimony had left a “vacuum” that “politicians will fill.”

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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