After intelligence officials revealed that Russian operatives have compromising information on president-elect Donald Trump, members of Congress made clear Tuesday they’re increasingly willing to launch a probe on the possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Their emboldened approach comes amid a bombshell CNN report that intelligence officials presented Trump with alleged claims by Russian operatives that they have compromising information on the president-elect, according to Politico.
The report revealed that officials also presented Trump with “proof” there was an “exchange of information” during the campaign between his surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.
As expected, Trump responded Tuesday night with an emphatic all-caps tweet: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
However, there’s disturbing a fact not even Trump can deny: a number of Trump advisers have strong connections with Russia.
The president-elect’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, built strong relationships with Kremlin officials during his tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, which has sought make inroads in Russia and has lobbied against U.S. sanctions against the country.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, set to become Trump’s national security adviser, was photographed sitting next to Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow celebrating RT, the news network funded by the Russian government that the U.S. intelligence community says was a major source of anti-Clinton propaganda.
And Paul Manafort, a former chairman of the Trump campaign, did some lobbying work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
These facts are raising more suspicions on the matter.
As Politico notes:
“The subject is one Congress have largely avoided discussing since the presidential election, even as anti-Trump advocacy groups have sounded the alarm about the president-elect.
But that changed Tuesday, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s meddling in November’s election.
The hearing followed Friday’s release of an unclassified version of an intelligence community investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence operation to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump.”
During the intelligence hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) brought up the extensive ties between Trump advisers and the Russian government and pointed to an interview shortly after the election in which a top Russian diplomat said his government had had “contacts” with the Trump campaign.
Wyden then asked FBI Director James Comey, “Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships, and, if so, what are the agency’s findings?”
Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, saying he could not comment publicly on such matters.
Comey’s response raised some eyebrows among Democrats and led to a biting response from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): “The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid, but I’ll move on.”
This was Comey’s first public appearance since his decision shortly before the presidential election to alert Congress that his agency was examining new emails potentially related to the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — a move that gave the Trump campaign momentum in the final stretch to Election Day.
During his exchange with Comey, Wyden told the FBI director the American people “have a right to know” whether the FBI is investigating possible ties between the Trump team and Russia.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also discussed the possibility of an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, suggesting that a probe might already be underway.
Asked about the possibility of a probe on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the South Carolina senator said: “I believe that it’s happening. But you need to talk to them because I don’t want to speak for them.”
But it gets even better. Senator John McCain has reportedly passed a secret dossier on Trump to FBI Director James Comey lending credence to Lindsey Graham’s claim that a federal investigation of Trump had been undertaken.