U.S. senator insists special counsel won’t derail Congress’ Russia probes

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. senator said on Friday that he expects Congress’ investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election to go ahead, even after the appointment of a special counsel, and said Congress has a broader mandate that extends to financial conflicts of interest.

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

“The Congress has a broader oversight responsibility than just whether crimes have been committed,” Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during a round-table meeting with Reuters.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting one of the main congressional probes of the issue.

“Bob Mueller doesn’t have, for example, the same broader responsibility to get into the kind of financial entanglements that I have especially focused on,” Wyden said.

Questions remain about what contacts took place between Trump advisers and the Russians, and about Russia investments in Trump businesses.

In March, for example, the White House disclosed that Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, met executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, in December.

In February, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and then misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Flynn and other advisers to Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.

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