Trump's former campaign chief offers to testify on Russia

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 25 (IANS) A veteran political consultant who served for three months as chair of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has volunteered to testify on alleged Russian meddling in the US election, the head of the House Intelligence Committee said on Friday.

"The counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday (on Thursday) to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client," Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters at the Capitol. "We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee," EFE news quoted him as saying.

Manafort stepped away from the Trump campaign last summer after the Ukrainian government accused him of having received millions of dollars in secret payments as part of his consulting work for the country's ousted former President, Viktor Yanukovych.

Nunes angered Democrats on the intelligence committee when he went public on Wednesday with information indicating that communications of the Trump transition team were picked up by US intelligence in the course of legal surveillance of third parties.

The committee chair shared that information with Trump and the media before telling the panel's ranking Democrat, California Representative Adam Schiff.

Nunes said the new information did not support Trump's claim that then-President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower -- the mogul's New York headquarters -- in 2016.

But that didn't stop Trump from asserting that the revelation vindicated the charges he made early this month via Twitter.

On Friday, Nunes sparked another controversy by announcing that a public hearing set for next Tuesday featuring former senior Obama administration officials would be postponed to allow the committee to hear again from FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Adm. Mike Rogers in closed session.

"Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former Deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info," Schiff tweeted after the announcement from Nunes.

Many Democrats and even a handful of Republicans have called for the establishment of an independent body to investigate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election outcome.

Both the Trump team and the Kremlin reject the accusations, which remain unsubstantiated.