The Independent: Midterms 2018: Trump-Russia investigation to be reopened if Democrats win Congress
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Democrats are planning to re-open the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election if they win a majority in the US Congress in November.
Any new probe by the House intelligence committee is expected to focus on Russian investment in Donald Trump’s businesses, allegations of money laundering and the role of the president’s son Donald Trump Jr in the campaign.
It could also involve public hearings and questioning of key witnesses such as Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos, who have all agreed to cooperate with the FBI probe headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
House Democrats may also push for the release of Mr Trump’s tax returns.
The original, Republican-led, House intelligence committee investigation closed down in April after declaring that there was “no evidence” of collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, described the finding as “superficial” and said his party had a “responsibility to conduct meaningful oversight and insure that the Russians do not possess leverage over the President of the United States.”
He said a re-opened investigation would have to “ruthlessly prioritise the most important matters first” and take account of any gaps left by the ongoing investigations by the FBI and the Senate.
Despite not having power to subpoena, Democrats on the intelligence panel have continued to look into Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that improperly gained access to data from millions of social media profiles, and Peter Smith, a Republican operative who killed himself after telling the Wall Street Journal he tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers.
Key lines of inquiry that remain unanswered, according to Democrats, include the Trump campaign’s knowledge of the email hack and the link between various Russian intermediaries and President Putin or the Kremlin.
Another relates to possible Russian “leverage” over Mr Trump relating to the sources of his personal and corporate financing. Democrats argue there are “credible allegations as to the use of Trump properties to launder money by Russian oligarchs, criminals, and regime cronies”.
The Democrat members of the intelligence committee also issued a list of more than 30 witnesses that the Republican majority refused to interview, beginning with Reince Priebus, who resigned as White House chief of staff in July 2017.
Their list also includes Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.
Other witnesses might be recalled, such as Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and Blackwater founder Erik Prince. ”I believe there are those who were less than candid with us,” said Illinois representative Mike Quigley, a Democratic member of the committee.
Democrats have also pushed for more information about Donald Trump Jr, who has insisted he did not alert his father to the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya.
The battle to obtain Mr Trump’s tax returns may end up in court if the administration refuses to hand them over. The Republican House and Senate have so far declined to ask for them.
A Democratic House may also try to pass legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the president, who has repeatedly branded the investigation a “witch hunt”.