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World

What's Ahead For Investigations Into The Trump Campaign And Russia

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A tense week for the House Intelligence Committee. The two leaders who are heading the investigation into links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government are at odds. Republicans' committee chairman, Devin Nunes, announced yesterday he was canceling the public hearing next week. The Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, was not pleased and suggested that the chairman had ulterior motives.

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ADAM SCHIFF: That is, at most, a dodge. We welcome them coming back at any time. But what really is involved here is the cancellation of the open hearing, and I think the rest is designed to simply distract from that point.

SIMON: Jeff Horwitz is a reporter with The Associated Press, and he's been covering the investigations. He's in our studios. Mr. Horwitz, thanks so much for being with us.

JEFF HORWITZ: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Let's start with the key names - Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page.

HORWITZ: Sure. So there has recently been, I would say, an exuberant interest on behalf of these three men to speak with the committee. They have all volunteered, and of course some people think that may be a way to head off them being called in without volunteering by being subpoenaed. But they have all volunteered to speak with House and, in some cases, the Senate intel committees to get, I suppose - to at least give their side of the story on whatever they choose to speak about.

SIMON: Yeah. Each of them have had ties, near as we can tell legal, and reported some kind of affiliation in Moscow.

HORWITZ: Absolutely. So Carter Page was a former, I suppose, investment banker that dealt with Russian energy. Roger Stone is a very colorful man with a whole bunch of ties all over the place.

SIMON: International bon vivant.

HORWITZ: Exactly. And Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Trump, we reported this week, happened to be working secretly on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, who is a Russian oligarch who survived a bloody set of wars in the aluminum industry over there and emerged as sort of one of Vladimir Putin's top lieutenants and allies in the business world.

SIMON: And Mr. Manafort apparently consulted for him $10 million a year.

HORWITZ: That's correct. So we obtained...

SIMON: Or his firm got $10 million a year.

HORWITZ: Well, actually it wasn't really done through the regular firm, so it might actually be closer to say that Mr. Manafort did it, or received it. We obtained memos on a contract in which Mr. Manafort promised to represent not only all Oleg Deripaska's business interests in Eastern European countries, former Soviet states, but also the interests of the Russian government quite explicitly. I mean, literally this was sort of a sales pitch in which he offered to basically promote Putin's government and to attempt to undercut Putin's enemies in both Eastern Europe and the West. And so this was a very explicit pitch and sort of meant to ingratiate Oleg Deripaska to the Putin regime.

SIMON: Let me ask, though, wasn't that more than 10 years ago? And even eight or nine years ago, President Obama said he wanted to reset the U.S. relationship with Russia. Weren't relations at a different place then?

HORWITZ: They absolutely were. However, some of the work being contemplated here would have been very hard to be cast as sort of pro-U.S. or even neutral, at least in the description of it. Part of the job was to represent - was to undercut opposition to the Kremlin and undercut democratic movements, such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and basically prevent things like that from happening again. So I think the U.S. did have a clear position on those already. And beyond the question of sort of the work itself, there is the question of whether it was disclosed properly to U.S. officials, whether it, I suppose, was paid for in a way that was appropriate. We also reported last week that Paul Manafort's - Paul Manafort-related banking records have been asked for by the U.S. government from Cyprus. So there's a whole bunch of outstanding questions here and even separate from the question of whether U.S.-Russia relations are significantly worse now than they were back then, which certainly is true.

SIMON: Jeff Horwitz of The AP, thanks so much for being with us.

HORWITZ: Thank you.

SIMON: And tomorrow on Weekend Edition Sunday, we'll look at what the Trump administration is or is not doing that's different from what President Obama did to fight ISIS in Syria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.