James Clapper, Sally Yates to testify in Trump-Russia probe

WASHINGTON, May 8 (Reuters) - Two officials in former President Barack Obama's administration will testify on Monday in a Senate investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow.

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under Obama, and Sally Yates, who was Deputy Attorney General, will testify to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, the first public testimony by former officials from the Democratic administration in a congressional probe on Russia.

Congressional committees began investigating after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hacking of Democratic political groups to discredit the election and sway the voting toward Republican Trump, who won an upset victory in November.

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci

Moscow has denied any such meddling. Trump also has dismissed the allegations, suggesting instead that Obama might have wiretapped his Trump Tower in New York or that China may have been behind the cyber attacks. No evidence has been found to support either allegation.

The public hearing will be the first featuring testimony by Obama administration officials who have left government. Trump fired Yates from the Department of Justice in January, and Clapper retired on Jan. 20, when Trump was inaugurated.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Russia hawk and sometime critic of Trump, has been one of the leading Republican voices calling for a thorough investigation of Russia and the election.

Yates is expected to tell the senators that on Jan. 26, when she was acting Attorney General, she had warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had not told the truth about conversations he had with Sergei Kislyak, Moscow's Ambassador to Washington, about U.S. economic sanctions on Russia.

Flynn resigned after less than a month in office.

The congressional hearings have been shadowed by allegations, mostly from Democrats, that lawmakers are too partisan to investigate effectively.

In the lead up to Monday's hearing, Susan Rice, who was Obama's national security adviser, declined an invitation to testify because it had come only from Graham, the subcommittee chairman, and not Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, its ranking Democrat.

Her refusal was first reported by CNN.

Rice's name was linked to the Russia investigation when Trump suggested she might have broken the law by asking intelligence analysts to reveal the name of a Trump associate mentioned in an intelligence report.

She denied doing anything inappropriate, and there is no evidence to substantiate Trump's allegation.

Trump tweeted on Thursday that it was "Not good!" that Rice had not agreed to testify.

The probe being led by Graham and Whitehouse is one of three main congressional investigations of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election. The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are conducting separate investigations.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: In this 29 July 1998 file photo, Linda Tripp talks to reporters outside of the Federal Courthouse 29 July 1998 in Washington, DC, following her eighth day of testimony before the grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair. Tripp's taped conversations with Lewinsky triggered the sex-and-lies probe dogging US President Bill Clinton. Tripp was fired from her Pentagon job 19 January 2001 after she refused to resign like other political appointees. (Photo credit should read WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton listens to a question about the Monica Lewinsky affair 16 September during a press conference with Czech President Vaclav Havel at the State Department in Washington, DC. Clinton defended his leadership in international affairs despite the probe into his affair with a former subordinate at the White House. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 30: President George W. Bush speaks in the press room of the White House on March 30, 2004. He announced that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will testify before the 911 commission in an open session, something the administration had previously opposed. The independent commission, created by an act of Congress, has until July 26 to report on U.S. intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks. (Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Clapper, Yates and another official who served under Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, had been scheduled to testify to the House of Representatives intelligence committee in March, but that hearing was canceled by the panel's chairman, Republican Devin Nunes.

Nunes, a Trump ally, has since recused himself from the Russia investigation amid concerns that he was too close to the White House to lead a credible probe.

Yates, Clapper and Brennan are now due to appear at a public hearing of the House committee that has not been scheduled. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by John Walcott and Grant McCool)

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