GOP Senator Chuck Grassley wants to release Trump-Russia interview transcripts

WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Thursday he wanted to start releasing the transcripts of interviews the committee has done about a meeting at Trump Tower seen as central to investigations of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election.

Among others, the Judiciary panel has interviewed Republican President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

"Let's get them out there for everyone to see," Senator Chuck Grassley said during a meeting of the committee, one of three congressional panels conducting investigations, as is Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

RELATED: Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probes

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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
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Grassley's statement came amid increasing partisan rancor in Congress over the investigations of the intelligence community's finding that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to boost Trump, and whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow.

Russia denies trying to influence the election. Trump dismisses any talk of collusion.

The Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, angered Grassley this month by releasing the transcript of the panel's interview with Glenn Simpson, a co-founder of Fusion GPS, which researched Trump's ties to Russia and produced a dossier denounced by the White House.

Feinstein commented on Thursday that she agreed that committee transcripts should be released to Mueller, and to the public if it does not interfere with the investigation.

SEE ALSO: Missing texts and a secret memo — Republicans go on an all-out assault against the FBI

 

"I hope this means Chairman Grassley will move forward with public hearings for Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, which we agreed to pursue last year," she said in an emailed statement.

'SPOOKED'

Grassley said on Thursday Feinstein's action "spooked" other potential witnesses, including Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner.

"As a result, it looks like our chances of getting a voluntary interview with Mr. Kushner have been shot," Grassley said.

According to a person familiar with the exchange, Kushner's legal team did not decline an appearance with Senate Judiciary but asked for guidance on when committee members are allowed to disclose information.

A Grassley spokesman did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Attorneys for Kushner did not immediately respond to request for comment. A lawyer for Trump Jr. declined comment.

Grassley said he felt his committee's investigation of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, attended by Russians and close Trump associates, was complete, so it was time to start releasing the transcripts.

"That can hopefully be done through agreement with the Ranking Member, but if not, possibly through a committee vote. I’d like to work on getting that done as soon as possible," Grassleysaid.

Democrats and Republicans have also been arguing this week over a memorandum commissioned by House of Representatives Republicans that Republicans say illustrates anti-Trump bias at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Democrats, in turn, accuse Republicans of conducting a smear campaign intended to protect Trump by discrediting Mueller's investigation.

"What began as an attempt to discredit the investigator has now devolved into delusional, self-serving paranoia," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. (Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; editing by Susan Thomas and David Gregorio)

 

RELATED: High-profile Congressional Republicans

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High-profile Congressional Republicans
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High-profile Congressional Republicans
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC)
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AL)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
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