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By Katy Tur
Senate intelligence committee investigators are interviewing former members of President Donald Trump’s campaign as they hunt for evidence of possible collusion with Russia, asking one witness Friday fresh questions about the president’s business dealings and how he formulated his policies toward Moscow.
Sam Nunberg, who worked for Trump and his campaign in 2015, said he was questioned in a closed-door session on Capitol Hill about Trump’s trip to Moscow in 2013, his company’s interest in building a tower there and specific relationships between past members of the campaign and foreign actors who may have worked with Russia.
“They are doing an exhaustive investigation,” Nunberg told NBC News after his interview, which he said appeared to be “narrowly focused on collusion.”
Nunberg’s recollection of the day’s events provided a firsthand account of the workings of committee investigators as Trump’s presidency enters its third year.
Trump has strongly denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is separately investigating the possibility of collusion.
Staff on the Senate committee, which is chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, continued Friday in a closed door interview to press that line of inquiry.
Investigators went through a “check list” of questions, Nunberg said, including whether he had been aware of any conversations or relationships during his time with Trump regarding Russian banks, Russian oligarchs or business dealings with Russia.
Nunberg, who sat with committee staff for four and half hours, said he was asked repeatedly about how Trump formulated his policy positions regarding Russia. Trump has voiced support for numerous foreign policy positions beneficial to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nunberg said he told the committee that Trump, as a candidate, said “he would take the position that he was happy Russia was in Syria.”
At the time, Nunberg said that position raised no red flags because he saw it as consistent with Trump’s generally held view that the United States should not be involved in the Middle East. Nunberg said the campaign was getting questions at that time about how he saw U.S. involvement in Syria.
Also of interest to investigators, Nunberg said, was the campaign’s relationship with the National Rifle Association and efforts by a Russian national to get a meeting with Trump through the NRA. Nunberg says he told investigators Friday that he was aware of efforts by Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring with a Russian official to interfere in American politics, to seek a meeting with Trump, using the NRA as a conduit.
Investigators also peppered Nunberg with questions which suggested to him that they were trying to pin down specific relationships among members of Trump’s campaign and organization and outside actors, including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Last year, Nunberg went on a whirlwind media tour declaring that he wouldn’t comply with a subpoena from the special counsel’s office. But he ultimately reversed course and sat for interviews with Mueller’s investigators. He also testified before a federal grand jury.
In the interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Nunberg said he was asked about numerous former campaign staff members, the president’s children and other associates including: Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Tom Barrack, Michael Cohen, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump. He was also asked about Trump’s relationship with Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch, and his pop-singer son, Emin, who helped set up the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
Nunberg said he was not asked about the president’s son-in-law and current White House adviser, Jared Kushner.
Among the other topics raised Friday, Nunberg said, were the 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in New York with Trump Jr, Manafort, Kushner and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer offering them the promise of “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton; Trump’s travel to Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant; the company’s interest in building a tower in the Russian capital.
Nunberg said he was surprised by the interest in a Moscow tower since the campaign’s official position was that it would not seek new foreign deals. Nunberg said he was asked to review public statements, emails, tweets and text messages obtained by investigators related to potential Russian interference.
Nunberg described the committee’s investigation as professional and bipartisan. “If I were the White House, I would be concerned,” said Nunberg, who joined the campaign early but was fired in August 2015 after racially charged Facebook posts were uncovered. He later apologized.
Unlike the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, which was shuttered by Republicans last spring over the protest of Democrats, the Senate committee’s probe has proceeded deliberately and in a largely non-partisan manner. Led by Burr and Ranking Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel has broken its probe into five parts and began releasing preliminary findings and recommendations last fall.
Those separate reports include: an analysis of the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election; Russia’s use of social media and how social media firms addressed the abuse of their platforms; how the FBI and Obama administration addressed Russia’s activities and informed the public; an assessment of federal and state election security readiness; and whether Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians.
The final question is potentially the most difficult for lawmakers on the committee to reach consensus on, and may not be fully answered until after the special counsel issues its final report.
Burr said Thursday he still hopes to hear additional testimony from Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, who is set to appear publicly before the House Oversight Committee next month.
Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about interest in building a Trump tower in Moscow.
Flynn, who served as Trump’s first national security adviser, separately pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador and is cooperating with the special counsel. Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice related to witness tampering.
Over 60 House members — including half the Democrats on Judiciary — favor starting Trump impeachment inquiry
Here are the 66 members of the House of Representatives who favor starting an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. There are 65 Democrats — including 13 of the 24 Democrats who serve on the House Judiciary Committee — and one Republican.
- Alma Adams, N.C.
- Nanette Barragán, Calif.
- Don Beyer, Va.
- Earl Blumenauer, Ore.
- Suzanne Bonamici, Ore.
- Brendan Boyle, Penn.
- G.K. Butterfield, N.C.
- Joaquin Castro, Texas
- David Cicilline, R.I. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Yvette Clarke, N.Y.
- Steve Cohen, Tenn. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Danny K. Davis, Ill.
- Madeleine Dean, Penn. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Diana DeGette, Colo.
- Val Demings, Fla. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Mark DeSaulnier, Calif.
- Lloyd Doggett, Texas
- Veronica Escobar, Texas (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Adriano Espaillat, N.Y.
- Dwight Evans, Penn.
- Marcia Fudge, Ohio
- Jesús García, Ill.
- Mary Gay Scanlon, Penn. (Vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Al Green, Texas
- Raul Grijalva, Ariz. (Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee)
- Jared Huffman, Calif.
- Pramila Jayapal, Wash. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Robin Kelly, Ill.
- Barbara Lee, Calif.
- Andy Levin, Mich.
- Ted Lieu, Calif. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Alan Lowenthal, Calif.
- Tom Malinowski, N.J.
- Carolyn Maloney, N.Y.
- Betty McCollum, Minn.
- Jim McGovern, Mass. (Chairman of the House Rules Committee)
- Gwen Moore, Wis.
- Seth Moulton, Mass.
- Grace Napolitano, Calif.
- Joe Neguse, Colo. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, N.Y.
- Ilhan Omar, Minn.
- Bill Pascrell, N.J.
- Chellie Pingree, Me.
- Mark Pocan, Wis.
- Ayanna Pressley, Mass.
- Mike Quigley, Ill.
- Jamie Raskin, Md. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Kathleen Rice, N.Y.
- Cedric Richmond, La. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Bobby Rush, Ill.
- Tim Ryan, Ohio
- Brad Sherman, Calif.
- Jackie Speier, Calif.
- Greg Stanton, Arizona (Member of the House Judiciary Committee)
- Bennie Thompson, Miss. (Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee)
- Rashida Tlaib, Mich.
- Paul Tonko, N.Y.
- Norma Torres, Calif.
- Juan Vargas, Calif.
- Filemon Vela, Texas
- Maxine Waters, Calif. (Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee)
- John Yarmuth, Ky. (Chairman of the House Budget Committee)
- Eric Swalwell, Calif. (Member of the House Judiciary Committee, member of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 2020 presidential candidate)
- Dan Kildee, Mich. (chief deputy whip of House Democratic caucus)
Justin Amash, Mich.
CORRECTION (May 30, 2019, 1:25 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the position of Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif., on beginning an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Rouda has said he supports an impeachment inquiry only if Trump does not comply with congressional subpoenas, not before.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.
Tory ballot vote: What time is second ballot on the Tory leadership today? Who will go?
VOTING commences once again today as Tory MPs undergo a second round at the polls to decide their next leader. What time is the second ballot for the Tory leadership race and who will be kicked off?
Supreme Court declines to change double jeopardy rule in a case with Manafort implications
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined on Monday to change the longstanding rule that says putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy — a case that drew attention because of its possible implications for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
The 7-2 ruling was a defeat for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, convicted of robbery in 2008 and pulled over seven years later for a traffic violation. When police found a handgun in his car, he was prosecuted under Alabama’s law barring felons from possessing firearms. The local U.S. attorney then charged Gamble with violating a similar federal law. Because of the added federal conviction, his prison sentence was extended by nearly three years.
The Fifth Amendment says no person shall be “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same offense. But for more than 160 years, the Supreme Court has ruled that being prosecuted once by a state and again in federal court, or the other way around, for the same crime doesn’t violate the protection against double jeopardy because the states and the federal government are “separate sovereigns.”
The case attracted more than the usual attention because of the prospect that Trump may pardon Manafort, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for violating federal fraud laws. A presidential pardon could free him from federal prison, but it would not protect him from being prosecuted on similar state charges, which were filed by New York. Overturning the rule allowing separate prosecutions for the same offenses would have worked in Manafort’s favor.
Gamble’s lawyer, Louis Chaiten of Cleveland, said the nation’s founders understood the protection against double jeopardy to ban any second prosecution for the same offense. Under English common law, the roots of American law, there was no “separate sovereigns” exception. A person could not be put on trial in England if already tried for the same offense in another country.
Chaiten also argued that the states and the federal government are not truly independent anyway and are instead part of a complete national system. He quoted Alexander Hamilton, who described them as “kindred systems, part of one whole.”
And Chaiten said Congress has made the problem worse by dramatically expanding the number and scope of federal laws in recent years, creating more duplication with state laws — something never envisioned in earlier court decisions that allowed double prosecutions.
But the Trump administration said the longstanding double jeopardy rule allows states and the federal government to pursue distinct interests without interfering with each other. Changing the current understanding by barring subsequent prosecutions would allow foreign court actions to preclude U.S. trials for crimes against Americans, the government said.
Civil liberties groups also said the rule has allowed the federal government to pursue notorious civil rights violations that states were unwilling or unable to pursue.
Gamble’s argument appealed to some of the court’s liberals and conservatives. Two years ago, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joined liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in saying that the court’s past double jeopardy rulings were due for a “fresh examination.”
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