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Democrats say Mueller must finish investigation of Trump’s Russia ties

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings speaks on March 8, 2017, after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

New reporting raises further questions about President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia and emphasizes the need to ensure that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is finished without interference, Senate Democrats said Sunday.

The New York Times reported Friday that the FBI opened an investigation in 2017 to determine whether the president had worked, knowingly or unknowingly, on behalf of Russia and against U.S. national interests. On Saturday, a Washington Post story said Trump went to great lengths to hide details of his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The reports build on previous questions about Trump’s connections with Russia that need to be investigated, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election must be allowed to finish to provide the answers, he said.

That process will start with seeking assurances this week during the confirmation hearing for William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat.

“Bill Barr had better give us some … ironclad, rock-bottom assurances in terms of his independence and his willingness to step back and let Mueller finish his job,” Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week.”

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Trump attacked the Times story Saturday. It said which said his firing of FBI Director James Comey prompted the FBI to open an investigation. The president said he fired Comey for cause, and that the investigation was started “for no reason and with no proof” of wrongdoing. In an interview Saturday night, Trump also said he “couldn’t care less”’ if details from his conversations with Putin were released.

“It’s so ridiculous, these people make it up,” Trump said on Fox News. He said, as he did on Twitter Saturday, that he’d been tougher on Russia than recent U.S. leaders.

Trump should be judged by his actions in response to questions about whether he was compromised by Russia, and investigations should “get past the innuendo,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on NBC that he’ll consider whatever evidence is produced by Mueller but that “I’m not going to base it on unsubstantiated media reports.”

The staff of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has sent 51 letters asking for documents related to investigations involving Trump that the committee may open, according to a story on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The issues include the private use of government-owned aircraft by Cabinet members and the flow of foreign money into Trump’s businesses, an excerpt released by the network said.

“We’ve got to hit the ground, not running, but flying,” Cummings said.

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

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