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Apr 25 2017

The Russian Connection: Roadblocks

It appears that the Senate Intelligence Committee probe into the Trump campaign’s connection to Russian interference in the 2016 election has the same problem of GOP obstruction that befell the House investigation. Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News reports that after all the show of camaraderie and cooperation by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), Burr has not signed any of the requests for important evidence:

The committee has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents or interview any key witnesses who are central to the probe, the sources said. It also hasn’t requested potentially crucial evidence — such as the emails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign — in part because the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel’s Democrats to sign letters doing so, the sources said.

“The wheels seem to be turning more slowly than the importance of the inquiry would indicate,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 commission and former Watergate prosecutor, one of a number of veteran Washington investigators who have begun to question the lack of movement in the probe.

As Congress returns from its spring recess this week and Trump approaches his 100th day in office, the panel has no further public hearings scheduled, even as the House Intelligence Committee — torn by its own partisan wrangling and internal turmoil — shows some flickering new signs of life. The result has caused growing frustration among the Senate committee’s Democrats, who are privately complaining the probe is underfunded, understaffed and too timid in pushing to get to the bottom of one of the most explosive political stories in years. [..]

But Warner’s handling of the probe has led to grumbling among some of his Democratic colleagues that he has been too reluctant to challenge Burr and press for more aggressive action — for fear of undercutting the perception that he and the Republican chairman are working cooperatively together. “He’s been afraid to even bring up the S-word,” said one source familiar with the details of the investigation, referring to the panel’s authority to issue subpoenas for documents.

There are signs Warner’s patience is starting to wear thin. Warner “is not satisfied with the pace of the investigation and he doesn’t think it’s moving fast enough,” a committee source tells Yahoo News. “He would like to have seen more hearings and more interviews with witnesses.”

CNN spoke with committee member Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Early today the White House refused to turn over documents to the House Oversight Committee regarding retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s involvement with Russia. At a press conference this morning, the chair of the committee Representative Jason Chaffets (R-UT) and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) have hinted that Flynn may have broken the law when he failed to disclose payments he received from Russian agents in his security clearance application:

It is well past time for a subpoenas and a special prosecutor.

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