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Russia probe Democrats in House hit some snags by going solo

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WASHINGTON -- House Intelligence Committee Democrats hit a snag in trying to keep the panel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election going, given that the Republican majority already closed the books on the probe.

John Mashburn, who served as policy director for Donald Trump's presidential campaign and now works as deputy Cabinet secretary in the Trump administration, was invited by the committee's Democrats to answer questions behind closed doors on Wednesday, a committee official said.

But when Mashburn realized that it was a Democrats-only affair and that there would be no Republican lawmakers he canceled.

Asked for comment, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee's ranking Democrat, said in a statement that "it appears the majority intervened with a witness, John Mashburn, to discourage his testimony before our committee."

"Since ending their participation in the Russia investigation," Schiff added, "the committee's Republicans have blocked us from using committee funds and spaces to conduct transcribed interviews and now intervened with a scheduled witness to prevent their testimony."

The committee official said that Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, the wife of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos -- is willing to testify to the committee's Democrats on July 18.

Her husband last fall pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. His meeting in April 2016 with an Australian diplomat in London appeared to spark the FBI's investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

Despite her willingness to testify, committee Democrats are trying to decide how to get her to Washington. She lives in Illinois but the committee's travel budget is controlled by the Republican majority.

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