- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2017

President Trump’s eldest son is schedule to appear before the House Intelligence Committee this week as Washington braces for another highly anticipated testimony in the Russian election-meddling saga.

Lawmakers are expected to grill Donald Trump Jr. behind closed doors Wednesday on a number of difficult subjects in the probe, including his correspondence and possible relationship with the radical transparency group WikiLeaks during last year’s campaign. The exchanges included a request from the organization, which the CIA considers a major national security threat, to arrange for its founder, Julian Assange, to become Australia’s U.S. ambassador.

Also at issue will be the June 2016 New York City meeting Mr. Trump helped arrange with a Kremlin-connected operative who offered dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That same day just hours before meeting Mr. Trump Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya also happened to gather with Glenn Simpson, one of the driving forces behind the sensationalist “dossier” purportedly documenting Mr. Trump secret economic and political ties to Russia.

While Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, has not commented on the upcoming hearing, the big question on Capitol Hill is how much further damage the president’s son could do to the White House in the wake of last week’s guilty plea by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, which was secured by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Before the Flynn indictment, Mr. Mueller had charged two former campaign staffers, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, with crimes committed before they ever joined forces with President Trump. Mr. Flynn’s guilty plea put the special prosecutor’s probe right inside the White House.

Democrats on the committee are expected to zero in on Mr. Trump Jr’s WikiLeaks correspondence, which emerged last month in reporting last month by the Atlantic magazine. The private messages, which some congressional insiders have proposed actually came from Mr. Assange, were exchanged roughly when that shadowy whistleblower website was about to release emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Posesta.

Thus far, committee members have been tight lipped about the upcoming hearing. But when the WikiLeaks‘ correspondence first emerged the panel’s lead Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, immediately said it demonstrated “a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”

Mr. Schiff is one of Capitol Hill’s leading voices pushing to prove collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, which both the White House and Russian government have repeatedly denied.

Mr. Trump Jr. is also expected to be asked about a gathering last year with friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and deputy head of Russia’s central bank, Alexander Torshin.

While the two men attended an event hosted by the National Rifle Association in Kentucky, Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer has said they sat separately. “They made small talk for a few minutes and went back to their separate meals,” Mr. Futerfas told NBC News. “That is the extent of their communication or contact.”

There were also conflicting reports as to whether Wednesday’s panel would interview Felix Sater, a Russia-born American real estate developer involved in Bayrock Group LLC, the New York City real estate conglomerate. Mr. Sater worked on the early stages of a deal to develop Trump Tower in Moscow.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina says his panel also plans to interview Mr. Trump Jr. before the year’s end.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide