While Republicans in Congress are engaging in another round of investigating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state, they are blocking Democratic lawmakers' efforts to launch an investigation into GOP nominee Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia.
Democratic lawmakers have vocally claimed that the Trump campaign has a dangerously close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Records of illegal payments to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had appeared in a secret ledger kept by the former Ukrainian government that had been a proxy for Putin, The New York Times reports.
On Sept. 23, it was discovered that U.S. intelligence officials were investigating Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page for meeting with Russian government officials in July. Page had allegedly met with Igor Diveykin, the deputy chief for internal policy, whom U.S. officials have suspected of leading Russian efforts to monitor the U.S. election, Yahoo News reports.
The broad consensus among U.S. intelligence officials is that the Russian government has been behind the numerous cyber hacks into Democratic organizations that have subsequently damaged Clinton’s campaign.
During the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Trump dismissed concerns that Russia is attempting to influence the U.S. election.
“I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people,” Trump said, according to The Daily Beast. “It also could be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
Trump had already been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials about the hacks shortly before the debate, Time reports. A U.S. official familiar with the briefing said Trump was told that the intelligence community had “high confidence” that Russia was behind it.
Democratic lawmakers have written letters to the FBI urging it to open an investigation into Trump’s possible ties with Russia. Republican lawmakers have swatted these efforts down.
Because the GOP has a majority in both chambers of Congress, the party controls which investigations can be opened. Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has stated that Trump does not need to be investigated because he is not a federal employee.
On Sept. 28, FBI Director James Comey declined to confirm or deny whether his agency was investigating Page’s meetings with Russian officials.
Comey was testifying before the Oversight Committee for the third time since July, with Republican lawmakers repeatedly asking him why he had declined to press charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server.
When Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida floated the hypothetical question of whether the FBI could investigate a private citizen who had met with the Russian government to possibly conduct foreign policy, Comey declined to answer.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to answer that,” Comey responded. “That gets too close to confirming or denying whether we have an investigation. Seems too close to real life, so I’m not going to comment.”