As panel questions Trump associates, GOP launches probes
WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday revived familiar themes from the 2016 election, launching new probes looking back at the Obama administration and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails as close associates of President Donald Trump faced tough questions on Capitol Hill.
The announcements of the investigations by three GOP committees were criticized by Democrats as a “massive diversion” from congressional probes into potential coordination between the Kremlin and associates of the Trump campaign — and from two witnesses close to President Donald Trump that appeared privately before the House intelligence panel for questioning.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign data director, Brad Parscale, were both interviewed by the House panel behind closed doors Tuesday. Cohen’s interview lasted around six hours, while Parscale’s interview was ongoing through the afternoon.
Two lawmakers familiar with Cohen’s interview said it had been “contentious,” but declined to elaborate on what was said. The lawmakers asked not to be identified because the meeting was private.
Cohen, a former executive with the Trump Organization who had been subpoenaed by the House panel earlier this year, was in talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, but ended those negotiations as Trump’s White House bid caught fire. In a statement to the Senate intelligence committee in August, Cohen said the proposal was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”
US declaration of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar on way
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved toward a condemnation of “ethnic cleansing” against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, as officials were preparing a recommendation for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to unequivocally use the term for the first time. Angry lawmakers on Tuesday demanded an immediate denunciation as they explored a new, tougher U.S. policy.
“My bosses have said it appears to be ethnic cleansing. I’m of that view as well,” said Patrick Murphy, a senior U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia, while adding that the final call wasn’t his to make.
Tillerson could receive the recommendation to adopt such terminology as a matter of policy as early as this week, officials familiar with the process told The Associated Press. He would then decide whether to follow the advice of his agency’s policy experts and lawyers, which would raise pressure on the U.S. government to consider new sanctions on a country that had been lauded for its democratic transition.
At a Senate hearing Tuesday, lawmakers pressed Murphy and other administration officials to hastily clarify their view of the brutal crackdown on Muslims in Rakhine State that has caused more than 600,000 refugees to flee to Bangladesh. But U.S. officials have been weighing several factors for their policy toward the country also known as Burma, including concerns about undermining the civilian government led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for the last 18 months.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine was among those calling for a clear determination “with dispatch.” Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized it “may be time for a policy readjustment.” Other lawmakers in both houses of Congress have proposed new U.S. penalties on the military, which retains significant power in Myanmar and is blamed for the violence.
By wire sources