Week ahead: Russia storm swirls
The focus will firmly be on the investigations into Russian election interference in the coming week.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have not scheduled any hearings on the issue as lawmakers look to wrap up work on other items before leaving town for a two-week Easter recess. But the controversy and intrigue are only building.
Thursday’s announcement that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was offering to testify in exchange for immunity capped a week of bombshell disclosures. The request only raised more questions.
It is unclear what Flynn is seeking immunity for. The intelligence committees are probing whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Flynn also faces questions about whether he failed to disclose work for two Russian firms under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
It’s also unclear what testimony Flynn believes he could offer that would warrant protection.
On Friday, President Trump defended Flynn for seeking immunity, calling the probes into Russia a “witch hunt.”
And the White House said Trump believed that Flynn should testify.
But none of the committees investigating Russian meddling were in any rush to offer Flynn immunity. The Senate Intel panel said they would decline the offer “at this time.”
The former general won’t be jumping out of the hot seat anytime soon.
Also under fire is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
On Thursday, a report in The New York Times said that two White House officials were the likely sources of information that the Trump team had come under incidental surveillance during the campaign.
Nunes had personally briefed Trump about the intelligence after receiving it. It later came to light that he had been at the White House the day before he briefed the president.
Nunes had also appeared to deny that the White House was the source of the intelligence, which was contradicted by the Times report.
Nunes also fueled the firestorm around him by canceling an open hearing with the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former CIA head John Brennan. A closed-door hearing that was supposed to include testimony from FBI Director James Comey also fell through, with the FBI claiming Comey was never even invited.
The flurry of developments, from Flynn to Nunes to Vladimir Putin again denying involvement in election hacking on CNBC, overshadowed a bipartisan hearing on Russian interference held by the Senate on Thursday, where they heard from Russia and cybersecurity experts.
The Senate panel’s leaders sought to distance themselves from the controversy over Nunes’s actions on the House side, insisting they would cooperate on a bipartisan investigation.
There will be one Russia hearing though in the coming week, but not before the intel committees.
The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will discuss the European Union as a partner against Moscow on Tuesday in a two-panel hearing featuring David O’Sullivan, head of the EU’s delegation to the United States.
That same day, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on protecting energy infrastructure from cyber threats.
Also on Tuesday, across the Capitol, a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on healthcare cybersecurity.
Lawmakers on the House Oversight panel on Information Technology will also hold a hearing Tuesday on information technology workforce issues for the federal government.
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