Thursday, September 20th, 2018 am30 11:32am

Where the Russia investigations stand


Where the Russia investigations stand

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mid swirling questions about Russian tampering in the 2016 election — and possible contacts between the Trump campaign officials and Moscow — several investigations are underway in an attempt to get to the bottom of the claims.

Trump, who has conceded Russian operatives likely participated in the hacks of the DNC, has asserted that any whiff of collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives is “fake news.”

“Look, how many times do I have to answer this question? Russia is a ruse,” the president said at a press conference last month. “I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything.”

However, as more and more members of the administration — from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Senior Adviser (and Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner — acknowledge that they met with Russian officials before the Inauguration, some lawmakers and other government officials have indicated that probes are necessary.

However, the president and others say that potential leaks of classified information, which have formed the basis for a number of news stories, are the priority to investigate.

Here’s a status of the many investigations, some of which have not been officially acknowledged, into the Russia question:

INTEL COMMITTEES

The Senate and House intelligence committees are each conducting their own broad investigations into Russia that they say are aimed, in part, at reviewing the basis for the Intelligence Community’s assessments about Russia’s involvement in, and motives for, hacking U.S. election officials.

A report from the IC released in January said there was an elaborate campaign, involving covert and overt operations, directed by Vladimir Putin, to influence the American election. The report did not indicate if the efforts were successful.

According to the House committee, alleged communications between Moscow and the campaigns fall within the scope of their investigation.

And Senate committee leaders have said they expect the committee to call former national security adviser Gen. Mike Flynn to testify about his contacts with Russian officials.

Flynn resigned after reports surfaced that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Currently, committees are in the information-gathering stage and have just formalized the scope of their probes.

OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

By comparison, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah — who runs the House Oversight Committee and investigated Democrat Hillary Clinton extensively during her campaign (from Benghazi to her use of a private email server) — has said he wants to investigate the potential leaks of classified information, rather than the substance of those leaks.

In a press conference in February, Trump said that though the news generated by the leaks was fabricated, the leaks themselves were real.

“Well, the leaks are real. You are the one that wrote about them and reported them. The leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake,” Trump Told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl at a press conference last month.

Chaffetz hasn’t ruled out any further investigation of Trump and Russia’s meddling, but so far he’s taken little investigative action into the matter. The committee has said, however, it would look specifically into Mike Flynn’s speaking fees in Russia in 2014 and 2015 and whether that was a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits enrichment of officials by foreign leaders.

FBI

The FBI doesn’t generally publicly confirm or deny the existence of on any ongoing investigations, but ABC News has learned that the FBI has been conducting a months-long and multi-pronged investigation into Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election.

One key part of this probe has been Russian efforts to hack the Democratic National Committee and U.S. political institutions -– an element of the broader probe led by the FBI’s Cyber Division.

Another part of the broader probe is looking at human intelligence efforts by Russia to collect information on U.S. policy and the campaigns, including potential contacts between Russian officials or suspected intelligence operatives and associates of Donald Trump.

This part of the probe is being led by the FBI’s counterintelligence division, which has pored through intercepted communications, business records, financial records and other relevant documents.

Sources say the probe has uncovered multiple instances of contact between Russian operatives and Trump associates last year, but it’s unclear exactly who was party to these communications or how closely the Trump associates are linked to the now-president.

On March 2, FBI Director James Comey privately briefed members of the House intelligence committee on the status of his investigation. The Democratic and Republican leaders of that Committee disagreed on how the degree to which Comey was forthcoming or helpful.

GRAHAM AND SENATE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE

In early February, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse, the chairman and top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee, announced the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism would be investigating Russian efforts to influence democratic elections in the United States and abroad.

“Our goal is simple – to the fullest extent possible we want to shine a light on Russian activities to undermine democracy,” the two said in a statement. “While some of our efforts will have to be held behind closed doors due to security concerns, we also hope to have an open discussion before the American people about Russia’s strategies to undermine democracy.”

And on March 3, Senators Graham and Whitehouse also met with Director Comey to discuss their Subcommittee’s investigation.

They said the purpose of the meeting was to make the Director aware of the Subcommittee’s work and to ensure that the Subcommittee’s efforts do not interfere with the work of the FBI.

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