Donald Trump aide defied House Russia probe subpoena

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Navarro is deputy director of the President’s National Trade Council

Donald Trump’s personal chief adviser on trade, Peter Navarro, has defied a House subpoena to testify before a bipartisan committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The House Ways and Means Committee subpoenaed Mr Navarro over accusations that he was lying to staff about contacts with Moscow.

Mr Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, told lawmakers he was not required to appear.

He said his testimony was “not relevant” to the committee’s investigation.

The committee is examining whether there were improper ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The memo Mr Navarro responded to on Twitter on Monday accuses the committee of “unethical, outrageous and a naked display of partisan politics”.

In the recording, he claims the committee “did not ask me a single question about the [US sanctions]”.

He said he “did not deny being involved in discussions with the Russian embassy, as the Majority alleges”.

And he said some questions “were not relevant to our core charge”.

That charge is whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The committee wants to know if members of the campaign committed perjury about those alleged contacts.

Mr Navarro’s lawyer says the committee “does not have jurisdiction” to ask him to give answers the White House did not.

I suspect that committee chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady, will hear from his fellow Republican co-chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, at the next meeting if he does not rescind the subpoena.

The committee has ordered Mr Navarro to appear on 6 February.

In a statement, Mr Brady accused Mr Navarro of “giving false information” and said he appeared to have “attempted to divert the questioning from the heart of our investigation”.

However, Mr Navarro, a former academic who was educated in Moscow, argued that the committee’s investigation “does not have the authority” to question him.

“I don’t know which [committee] member has the authority to issue a subpoena against the president’s current representative for trade,” he said.

“Frankly, if I knew who had the authority to issue a subpoena against me, we’d be a lot further down the road.”

The House committee wants to speak to anyone in Mr Trump’s administration who had possible contacts with the Russian Embassy during the 2016 campaign.

Russia has consistently denied meddling in the US election, and Mr Trump has denied collusion with Russia.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Russia has apparently paid thousands of Americans to gather crowd sizes from rallies of Mr Trump and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election.

Photo: AFP

Moscow-owned YouTube channel The Trichurkov Account produced fake anti-Trump videos in September, October and November 2016 that show crowds of thousands.

The video is called “Largest Crowd ever to see an ‘enemy’ running for President! Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the criminals representing Trump has shamed America. See for yourself.”

The video suggests other Democrats, such as US Senator Al Franken, who left Congress in sexual misconduct allegations, were falsely portrayed.

The fake news site also produced pro-Trump videos that look just like the Democratic Party’s video.

A spokesman for Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The New York Times this was “real cash” going to “a select group of poll watchers in battleground states like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania”.

“It is clear that the Russians wanted to influence the US election,” his spokesperson added.

The news comes as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues a criminal investigation into Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the presidential election.

Congress is also scrutinising Mr Trump’s business dealings with Russian businessmen and others connected to Russia.

On Sunday, BBC foreign affairs correspondent John Sudworth reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee had asked Mr Trump to appear before a public hearing on 25 February to discuss his business relationship with Russia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised for doing little to force Mr Trump to comply with the order.


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