Russian Election Meddling Probe Now A Criminal Investigation

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Two of America’s top intelligence officials were apparently told by President Trump to refute that there was any collusion with Russia. Buzz60

Rep. Trey Gowdy is pictured May 23, 2017 during a congressional hearing. Gowdy will become the head of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

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WASHINGTON — Trey Gowdy, the new head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he plans to turn the committee away from its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, a departure from his predecessor's aggressive approach.

The South Carolina Republican and former prosecutor believes much of the Russia investigation belongs under the special counsel or other congressional committees. He says he would prefer to have the Oversight Committee focus on some of the less headline grabbing, but still important issues such as overseeing the Census and National Archives.

“It’s probably a case-by-case basis,” Gowdy told a group of reporters on Capitol Hill Friday when asked if he would continue some of the outstanding inquiries former chair, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is leaving behind, including a series of requests to the White House for documents linked to the Russia probe. Gowdy did say he would investigate things as they came up. Chaffetz announced his retirement in April and Republicans picked Gowdy to take over his spot as committee chairman.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus earlier this week, requesting information about the security clearances for President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner, his adviser and son-in-law. Democrats want to know why Flynn and Kushner did not have their security clearance suspended in the wake of allegations they had previously unreported contacts with Russian officials.

Gowdy said such a request doesn’t fall under Oversight’s purview and that he has shared that view with the committee’s top Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

“Allegations of criminal or quasi criminal activity are squarely in (Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s) jurisdiction,” Gowdy said. He added that his committee could look at the process by which security clearances are issued, but not specific individuals.

Mueller was selected to lead an investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election separate from the various congressional committees which are also looking into it. Gowdy is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and has a leading role in that committee's investigation.

Gowdy also suggested that the House Judiciary Committee would have jurisdiction over some of the Russia investigation, but that committee has not been actively involved.

“I think the specifics of this letter are in Bob Mueller’s jurisdiction,” Gowdy said. “I told Bob Mueller Tuesday that I would never do anything wittingly or unwittingly that veered over into his lane and his lane is broad and it is undetermined at this point.” Later, Gowdy said that a major point of agreement between he and Cummings is they don’t want to impact Mueller’s investigation.

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Gowdy said said he has been talking frequently with Cummings since he was chosen to chair the committee. The two have done combat before: they led the Select Committee on Benghazi which investigated what happened during the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. compound in Libya which killed four people. While that panel was a minefield of rancor — Democrats accused Republicans of using the investigation simply to hurt former secretary of State Hillary Clinton politically — Gowdy said the two men have maintained  an honest and open relationship.

Cummings said he agreed with Gowdy that he would do nothing to interfere with Mueller's investigation, but disagreed with the role Oversight should play.

"In this case, there are three big issues that must be investigated: Russian interference in our electoral system, possible collusion with the Russians, and whether there was any attempt to cover it up," Cummings said. "The voters did not send us here to sit on the sidelines while our government is getting attacked."

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/25/russia-investigation-wont-oversight-priority-under-gowdy/426355001/

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