Published: Thu, June 01, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

First Subpoenas Issued in House Russia Probe

Wading into a political feud over the latest subpoenas in the US House Intelligence Committee's Russian Federation probe, US President Donald Trump on Thursday backed efforts to investigate actions by US security and other officials under previous president Barack Obama.

Separately, the panel approved subpoenas to the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeking records showing which former Obama administration officials requested the "unmasking" of the names of Trump associates who were inadvertently picked up in top-secret communications intercepts, a congressional official said on condition of anonymity.

The House Intelligence Committee's investigation is just one of several congressional probes into Russian Federation, along with one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The associate, who wasn't authorized to discuss details of the testimony spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity, declined to discuss the content of Comey's planned testimony, other than to say that Robert Mueller III, who was appointed earlier this month by the Department of Justice to lead the government's inquiry, is allowing Comey to make certain statements. "Any prior requests for information would have been undertaken without the minority's knowledge". Early Wednesday morning, the president tweeted "Witch Hunt!" in reference to testimony by Comey and former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan before Congress on the topic.

USA privacy laws and intelligence regulations require that Americans' names picked up in foreign communications intercepts be concealed unless senior officials request them to be disclosed for intelligence or law enforcement purposes. Any such requests undergo rigorous legal reviews.

Several U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity have told Reuters that all such requests by Obama's administration were properly vetted and appropriate.

A senior Republican staffer on the committee said Nunes signed the subpoenas for Flynn, Cohen and their companies, which were requested by Conaway and Schiff.

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Conaway replaced Nunes as the Republican leader of the committee probe after Nunes recused himself. Nunes retained his power to issue subpoenas.

While media outlets have been focusing on the Russian contacts pursued by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, there are few people closer to the President than his personal attorney, who has advised him for years.

Putin has denied conducting such a campaign.

USA intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw a campaign of computer hacking, fake news and propaganda meant to swing the election to Republican Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Farage, a Trump supporter and former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, said he had no Russian Federation connections.

During the meeting the president reportedly told Comey that he hoped the Bureau would not pursue the investigation into Michael Flynn's correspondence with Ambassador Kislyak and the retired lieutenant general's reported business dealings with Russian Federation media outlets.

Those reports suggested that Flynn may have given Kislyak the impression that the incoming administration might be willing to consider lifting sanctions that were imposed on Moscow following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from neighboring Ukraine.

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