California Sen. Dianne Feinsein tells reporters Tuesday why she unilaterally released the transcript of August testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which she is the ranking minority member, with the cofounder of Fusion GPS, the research agency that first reported possible Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.
Despite efforts by key Republican congressional committee chairs to restrain, if not end, the ongoing FBI investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, evidence continues to flow, with the prospect President Donald Trump himself could face some form of interview or questioning in connection with the probe. Trump himself told reporters Wednesday, Jan. 10, there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, and thus such an interview wouldn’t be necessary, apparently missing the fact the investigation is not simply about the question of “collusion.”
The president's comments Wednesday were a departure from his previously expressed willingness to meet with the special counsel. In June 2017, Trump said he was "100 percent" willing to testify under oath about his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. The circumstances around Trump's unexpected firing of Comey are among the topics being focused on by Mueller's team, who could be looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in his firing of Comey.
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President Donald Trump told reporters he doesn’t think an interview with FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be necessary.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia collusion investigation, has been widely reported to be about to formally notify the White House legal team of his intent to seek an interview with the president. Trump’s legal advisers have privately lobbied for some conditions and limits to the scope of such an interview, with the aim of limiting potential exposure or self-incrimination, the reports say.
Their concerns are shared by prominent Republicans in Congress, who have gone from initial shock and concern about the intelligence community’s warnings before the 2016 election that Russia was actively working to interfere with the election to more recent efforts to shield Trump and limit or shut down the Mueller investigation. This is, as multiple independent media reports have confirmed, the information collected so far suggests Trump’s potential exposure to some kind of criminal wrongdoing goes well beyond colluding with Russia. And, even if Trump lawyers should win limits to questioning, that wouldn’t prevent a special prosecutor – Mueller or anyone who succeeds him – from digging deeper into Trump’s finances, his real estate holdings, and other business arrangements, and deals or non-deals that may have nothing to do with Russian hackers, disinformation campaigns on social media, or propaganda efforts against Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democrat opponent in the campaign.
“Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s inside-the-White House look at Trump’s unpreparedness and unfitness for office, has added to growing concerns that an FBI interview would expose the president to real danger of self-incrimination. Add Trump’s incessant random and often incoherent early morning Twitter rants, and revelations of his behavior contained in the now-famous “dossier” that triggered the initial concern of Russian election meddling, and the prospects are unsettling.
The political aspects of the prospects of an FBI interview with Trump grew more complext on Tuesday, when California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, did an end-run on Iowa Republican and committee chairman Charles E. Grassley, by releasing the transcript of 10 hours of testimony to the committee from the source of the dossier, Glenn R. Simpson, former Wall Street Journal journalist and cofounder of the research firm Fusion GPS. Grassley reneged on an earlier statement in which he favored public release of the testimony. Feinstein, visibly angered by Grassley’s backpedaling, sought to push back against the growing Republican effort, including parallel investigations in the House, that have turned from the Russia probe to attempts to discredit the dossier as a politically motivated document, and to discredit the integrity and credibility of both Mueller and the FBI.
Trump reacted angrily to the release in an early morning tweet: "The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace," Trump tweeted. "Must have tough Primary!"
Read the full transcript of Simpson’s testimony, via The New York Times, here.
The NBC News report on Trump’s response to whether he would submit to an interview with the FBI’s Robert Mueller is here.
Retired FBI Investigator James A. Gagliano writes in Fortune Magazine on why Trump’s legal team doesn’t want their boss to be subject to an interview with Robert Mueller, here.
A psychiatrist warns Congress about the “emergency” of Trump’s mental condition, reported by Vox here.
The concerns are underscored by the thrust of a new book, “Fire and Fury,” that addresses Trump’s unfitness and unpreparedness to be president, reported by Vox here.
The Washington Post’s report on how political feuding over a Trump interview has intensified with release of the transcript of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee is here.
The New York Times report of Sen. Feinstein’s release of the Senate Judiciary committee Fusion GPS testimony is here.
The ABC News report of Feinstein’s transcript release and Trump’s reaction is here.