U.S. President Donald Trump again assailed the congressional probes into his campaign’s links to Russia on Wednesday, claiming opposition Democrats were blocking the testimony of one of his former aides looking to clear his name.
“Witch Hunt!” Trump declared in one comment on his Twitter account.
Trump said, without citing evidence, that Democrats on the House intelligence committee “don’t want” Carter Page, a former campaign adviser whose ties to Moscow officials are under investigation, to testify. Trump said Democrats “have excoriated Page about Russia,” but that he “blows away their case against him.”
The president said Page wanted to rebut the “the false or misleading testimony” of James Comey, former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief, and John Brennan, former Central Intelligence Agency director, about Page’s connections with Russian interests.
The FBI last year obtained a warrant under the country’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Page’s communications.
Page, an international businessman and energy consultant, on Monday sent a letter to the House intelligence panel saying he had been told he “might not be immediately afforded the opportunity” to testify and made clear he was eager to do so at a public hearing.
Page, 45, accused Comey; former President Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state whom Trump defeated in the 2016 election; and the U.S. news media of making up “unrelenting lies about me.”
Trump’s defense of Page came as his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, agreed to hand over documents to the Senate intelligence committee in connection with its investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Flynn had previously refused a subpoena from the committee, with his lawyers asserting the request was too broad in what it was seeking.
The committee filed a narrower subpoena, and Flynn is now expected by next week to provide some personal documents and those related to two businesses.
The House intelligence committee is conducting its own investigation, and Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, turned down a request Tuesday to provide information, calling it “poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”
There are four congressional investigations of possible Trump campaign links to Russia and Moscow’s meddling in the election. In addition, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to probe whether Trump campaign aides illegally colluded with Russia during the long political campaign.
Trump has rejected allegations of collusion and dismissed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at disrupting the November election and helping Trump win.
“Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News,” Trump wrote Tuesday on Twitter. Clinton has said that Russian interference was partly to blame for her defeat.
Later Tuesday, at a White House briefing for reporters, spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump “is frustrated … to see stories come out that are patently false, to see narratives that are wrong, to see, quote unquote, fake news, when you see stories get perpetrated that are absolutely false, that are not based in fact.”
Trump’s Russia comment came as news reports continued to focus on Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, and his reported attempt to establish a back-channel communications link to Russian officials in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration in January.
Some foreign affairs experts worried that the move, while Obama had weeks left in his term, could undermine U.S. security, and some opposition Democrats have suggested Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked. Other experts say exploring the creation of “back channels” is commonplace, even during presidential transitions.
Spicer deflected several questions about Kushner’s actions, telling one reporter his inquiry “presupposes facts that have not been confirmed.”
The White House also is bracing for Comey’s upcoming congressional testimony. Trump fired the FBI chief after allegedly asking him to drop the probe into Flynn and his ties to the Kremlin.