Former Trump aide calls Russia probe 'comically fake'

Published on Saturday, 6 May 2017 19:35
Written by Associated Press

WASHINGTON- A Senate committee investigating Moscow's interference in last year's election has asked several of President Donald Trump's associates to turn over information about possible contacts with Russian officials or businessmen. Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page responded on Friday, calling the congressional probe a “comically fake inquiry” but pledging to cooperate.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Republican strategist Roger Stone and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are also among those the Senate intelligence committee has asked for information and documents related to its investigation.

Both the Senate and House intelligence panels along with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. FBI Director James Comey has said that the FBI probe is exploring the nature of any links between individuals associated with Trump's campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between Russia's efforts and the Trump campaign.

The Senate committee would not disclose which individuals it is targeting, but in an email to The Associated Press, Stone said he intended to comply with the committee's requests.

“I am eager, indeed anxious, to testify in full public session, have requested no immunity and am ready to go,” Stone wrote. He also said that he “rejects” the claim that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Guccifer 2.0, the unnamed hacker that has taken credit for breaking into the Democratic National Committee servers, are Russian assets. He said the U.S. government has offered no proof to support that assessment.

Stone communicated through Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0. Stone has said that he was unaware at the time that U.S. officials believed the hacker had ties to Russia.

The letters the committee sent to Stone and Page, which were shared with the AP on Friday, were virtually identical. The committee asked them to provide emails, text messages, letters, phone records or any other relevant information they have about meetings or contacts that they or any other individual affiliated with the Trump campaign had with Russian officials or representatives of Russian business interests.

The requests seek information about any contacts that occurred between the day Trump announced his candidacy, June 16, 2015, and his inauguration on Jan. 20. It also asks for information about Stone and Page's financial and real estate holdings related to Russia, including financial securities or holdings they might have sold or divested during that period.

In a written response to the committee's request, Page argued that the panel was conducting a “comically fake inquiry.” At the same time, Page pledged to cooperate with the committee to “help resolve all of the false allegations which led to this fanciful witch hunt in the first place.”

The committee also asks that Page and Stone appear for closed interviews with intelligence committee staff. Lawmakers set a May 9 and May 19 deadline for various materials to be provided to the committee.

Page told the committee that the material he has will be “minuscule in comparison to the full database of information” the Obama administration collected during “last year's completely unjustified” secret warrant. Page said law enforcement officials under the Obama administration obtained a sealed order from a secretive intelligence court last summer to monitor his communications to investigate whether he was acting as a Russian agent.

Page said the warrant put him under “unscrupulous surveillance for many months” and targeted him for exercising his First Amendment rights both in 2016 and earlier.

Page met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents about the energy industry, according to court documents from a 2015 prosecution alleging a Cold War-style spy ring in New York. Page, referred to in the filing as “Male-1,” is not accused of wrongdoing and said in a statement that he shared “basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents.”

Little is known about Page's role in Trump's campaign.

In March, Trump personally announced that Page was part of a newly minted foreign policy advisory team. But as questions began swirling about Page's ties to Russia, the campaign started moving away from the investment banker. Trump has since said he has no relationship with him.

“I originally joined the Trump movement and eventually volunteered for a small, unpaid, informal role in the campaign since I knew our candidate would finally help lead this country and the world toward peace through strength,” Page said in his letter to the committee.

Flynn, Trump's ousted national security adviser, also received a letter from the committee asking him to turn over information. A person with direct knowledge of the letter's contents confirmed Flynn received it. The person demanded anonymity to discuss the information because of its sensitive nature.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, declined to confirm whether Manafort had received a letter from the Senate committee, but a person with knowledge of the letter said he had. The person was not authorized to talk about the letter and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Lawmakers have said previously that Manafort had voluntarily offered to be interviewed by the House and Senate intelligence committees as part of their investigations.

In March, Manafort confirmed in a statement that his attorney had reached out to the House committee with an “offer to provide information voluntarily regarding recent allegations about Russian interference in the election.”

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Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Eileen Sullivan and Chad Day contributed to this report.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Nation-World on Saturday, 6 May 2017 19:35. Updated: Saturday, 6 May 2017 19:37.