WASHINGTON : The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee accused President Donald Trump on Sunday of trying to divert Congress from its investigations of Russia’s role in the 2016 US election and any links between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
Representative Adam Schiff said the Republican president and his aides have instead attempted to throw the focus on the possibility of illegal leaks of classified information and whether Trump or his associates were caught up in incidental collection by surveillance that was targeting foreigners.
Congressional committees, along with the FBI, are investigating what US intelligence agencies have concluded were attempts by Russia to influence the Nov. 8 presidential election in Trump’s favour. They also are looking at any links between Russia and Trump.
Schiff said Trump himself tried to shift Congress’ focus away from that core mission of foreign intervention.
“I think his tweets tell the story,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And the story is look over there – at leaks, and look over there – at anything the Obama administration we can claim did wrong on incidental collection or anything else.”
“But whatever you do, under no circumstances look here, at me or at Russia,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack reports on Russian election meddling as “fake news” and “witch hunts” and denounce leakers of classified information on the issue.
“The real story turns out to be SURVEILLANCE and LEAKING! Find the leakers,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Republican Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked about Trump’s Twitter commentary on the congressional investigations.
“Sometimes I think this is a distraction from what we should be doing,” Cornyn said.
The Senate panel intends to begin interviewing as many as 20 people, including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers, as early as Monday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday there was no evidence of Trump collusion with Russia to win the election. “It’s time to move on”.
On March 4, the president without giving evidence accused his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, of ordering a wiretap of Trump Tower. No elected official, including from Trump’s Republican Party, has supported the claim.
But the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel, Devin Nunes, set off a political firestorm on March 23 when he said the communications of members of Trump’s transition team were caught up in incidental surveillance targeting foreigners.