Politico

Trump lashes out over Russia allegations

Written by Lisa

President Donald Trump couldn’t hold back anymore.

After a weekend of thorny questions and barbed Democratic criticism surrounding ties between his campaign and Moscow, Trump took to his favorite platform Sunday to fight back.

“Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” the president tweeted.

The tweet marked a departure in tone from the Democratic trolling he had done just a day earlier, mocking the opposing party’s newly-elected chairman and attempting to sow discord by speculating that the Democratic National Committee had rigged the election against Bernie Sanders’ preferred candidate.

The White House, however, would have been hard-pressed not to weigh in on the subject of Trump associates’ contacts with Russia. Republicans on Sunday faced endless questions about the ongoing investigation into Russia’s role in the presidential election — especially what role, if any, Attorney General Jeff Sessions should play in overseeing it.

In the wake of allegations that associates of President Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials prior to the election, emboldened Democrats increased their calls this weekend for an independent prosecutor to take on the case, arguing that Sessions’ role as a Trump campaign surrogate renders him incapable of handling the case impartially.

Even a vigorous Trump supporter, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California, joined the drumbeat on Friday. “You’re right that you cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa told Bill Maher on HBO. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute.”

Issa’s break with the White House suggested the swirling questions surrounding Trump’s ties to Russia were beginning to singe GOP members of Congress. The former House Oversight chairman — famous for his dogged pursuit of the Obama White House — narrowly won re-election in 2016 with Trump atop the ticket and likely faces a competitive challenge in the midterm election.

He told POLITICO in an interview Saturday that his views about transparency and accountability under Trump are simply an extension of his career-long fight for those issues.

“My view is: it’s extremely important that Congress point the guns at the same direction that they were pointed,” said Issa. Under the Trump White House, Republicans must continue to “demand what we were demanding: transparency, accountability.”

“And this is the best time to show leadership…..we need to seize the opportunity and really push hard to have access so that no sacred cows are protected,” he said. “For credibility, we have to hold this president to the level of transparency that the last president took every effort to thwart.”

Issa remained an outlier among Republicans, however, in his call for a special prosecutor. Responding to calls for an independent investigation into contacts between Trump associates and Russia, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Saturday that the House would not engage in a “witch hunt.”

“This is almost like McCarthyism revisited,” the California Republican told reporters at the California GOP’s spring convention in Sacramento. “We’re going to go on a witch hunt against, against innocent Americans …?”

“At this point, there’s nothing there,” Nunes insisted. “Once we begin to look at all the evidence, and if we find any American that had any contact with Russian agents or anybody affiliated with the Russian government, then we’ll be glad to, at that point, you know, subpoena those people before the House and let the legislative branch do its oversight and then we would recommend it over to, you know, the appropriate people.”

Still, the topic dominated the Sunday morning news shows, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and newly-elected Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez each demanding an independent investigation without Sessions at the helm.

“What we need to be looking at is whether this election was rigged by Donald Trump and his buddy Vladimir Putin,” Perez said.

One day earlier, Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, said he had “grave concerns” about the independence of the probe following a Washington Post report that Nunes and Sen. Richard Burr, the panel’s GOP chairman, helped the White House knock down negative news stories.

Warner said he had called both Burr and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to express his concerns.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally whose name is frequently linked to a future role in the White House, was among the Republicans insisting there’s no need for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia.

“The Justice Department over the course of time has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things,” Christie told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “This is whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we’ve seen it happen on both sides, when a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control. And I think that doesn’t serve anybody’s purposes.”

The attorney general’s former Senate colleague, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, said Sunday there is “no doubt” that the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s role in last year’s presidential election will be fair. And he insisted it’s far too early to demand that Sessions recuse himself from any investigation into the Russia issue.

“I think that’s way, way getting ahead of ourselves here, Chuck,” Cotton told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press. “There’s no allegations of any crime occurring. There’s not even indication that there’s criminal investigations under way by the FBI, as opposed to counterintelligence investigations, which the FBI conducts all the time as our main counterintelligence bureau. If we get down that road, that’s a decision that Attorney General Sessions can make at the time.”

Continue

About the author

Lisa

Leave a Comment