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Democrat Schiff says GOP stalls amid evidence of Trump-Russia collusion

Greg Gordon, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump can insist his presidential campaign never colluded with Russia "until the cows come home," but evidence that Trump campaign officials conspired with Russia already has been made public, the top House Democrat investigating the Kremlin's election meddling said Thursday.

"It's a separate question whether you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

While Schiff laid out a litany of complaints that the Republican majority is impeding the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, he said he expects the panel soon will question Trump's recently ousted senior presidential adviser and confidant, Steven Bannon -- an appearance that a knowledgeable source said has been scheduled for next week.

Bannon alienated himself from the White House when he was quoted last week in a new book as calling "treasonous" a June 9, 2016, meeting in New York's Trump Tower between Trump's eldest son and two other top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer offering "dirt" on Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Bannon later apologized to Donald Trump, Jr. and said he actually intended to refer to Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was in attendance. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner was the third campaign representative at the meeting. They are among a bevy of Trump aides and associates under scrutiny by congressional committees and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Schiff also said it would be "valuable" for the panel to interview Trump's daughter, Ivanka, Kushner's wife.

Speaking at the Capitol with a group of reporters, Schiff pushed back against a deluge of Republican attacks in recent weeks, including tweets Thursday from Trump, challenging the legitimacy of the congressional and Justice Department investigations into the campaign's ties to Russia. Schiff accused the panel's chairman, fellow California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, of stalling the committee's inquiry by "sitting on" Democratic requests to interview dozens of witnesses even though Nunes publicly pledged to withdraw from the probe.

A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to requests for comment.

Other individuals "are knowledgeable about" the infamous Trump Tower meeting, but committee leaders have so far declined to invite them, Schiff said. Further, he said, the Russian lawyer who attended the meeting -- Natalia Veselnitskaya -- has expressed a willingness to speak to Mueller's office but panel leaders have declined to invite her.

Trump Jr., who arranged the meeting, has said no information about Clinton was passed to him, Kushner and Manafort in the session, and the subject quickly turned to Veselnitskaya's push to end U.S. sanctions on Russia, for which the Kremlin retaliated with a ban on American adoptions of Russian children.


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