Warner wants to know if Comey pressured to halt Russia probe

By Allen Cone  |  Updated June 5, 2017 at 8:14 AM
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June 4 (UPI) -- Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election, called reports of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump "very, very troubling."

Warner declined on CNN's State of the Union to say whether Trump's actions could qualify as illegal.

"I went to law school, but I'm not a practicing attorney," Warner, D-Va., said in the interview. "I'll leave that for much better attorneys than I. But clearly, it would be very, very troubling if the president of the United States is interfering in investigations that ... affect, potentially, the president and his closest associates."

Trump has acknowledged that he fired FBI Director James Comey at least partly because of the FBI's investigation into whether Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government in interfering with the election last year through cyberattacks.

Comey is scheduled to testify Thursday in an open Senate hearing on Capitol Hill. According to a memo by Comey, Trump asked the former FBI director to stop the bureau's investigation into his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Asked by Jake Tapper on CNN whether he's seen any evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, Warner said, "There is a lot of smoke," but "we have no smoking gun at this point."

Warner said he plans to ask Comey, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers whether Trump pressured them to downplay the Russia investigation.

Warner said on CBS' Face the Nation that he wants to hear from Comey "what kind of pressure -- appropriate, inappropriate, how many conversations he had with the president about this topic, did some of these conversations take place even before the president was sworn in? And I think Jim Comey deserves to have his, you know, in effect, day in court since the president has disparaged him so much."

Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine and committee member, said on CBS she wants to know whether Comey told the president he wasn't investigating him. "One reason that I'm so eager to question Mr. Comey is in the letter ... in which the president fired the former FBI director, there's a very interesting phrase in which he says, 'While I am very grateful that you, on three separate occasions, informed me that I was not a subject of the investigation,'" she said.

Collins wants to know: "Does Comey agree that that is what was said? Why would he tell the president that? What was the tone and the context of those discussions on three different occasions, if they in fact are accurately portrayed in this letter?"

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