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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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One of the core questions that the Senate Intelligence Committee is currently working to answer is whether President Donald Trump had any role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the Republican chairman suggested Wednesday.

At a press briefing, a reporter asked Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) if he had seen any evidence of “direct links” that suggest the “President himself had anything to do with this.”

“We won’t take a snap shot in time and make any observations on it,” Burr replied. “We know that our challenge is to answer that question for the American people in our conclusions to this investigation.”

The Trump administration has denied that this is a question that needs answering, with the President calling allegations that he or his team have connections to Russian operatives “fake news.”

Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) declined an opportunity to “definitively rule out” coordination between Trump staffers and Russian officials, which the FBI, House and Senate are all looking into.

“We would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation,” Burr said. “I think Mark and I have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions. And I would hope that that’s what you would like us to do.”

The two lawmakers said that the committee has seven staffers working on the investigation, and that those staffers are poring through thousands of documents containing raw intelligence.

Their chummy united front presented a stark contrast to the perception problems currently engulfing the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said Wednesday that he has not coordinated with the White House on the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

In a press briefing held with his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Burr was asked if he had worked with the Trump administration to define “the scope of this investigation,” as well as how he planned to prevent it from going off track.

“No, sir, I have not, and it’s the relationship and the trust we have,” Burr replied.

Burr was later asked if he could be trusted to conduct an “impartial and serious investigation” given that he advised the Trump campaign.

“Absolutely,” Burr said, admitting publicly for the first time that he voted for Trump.

“I have a job in the United States Senate. And I take job extremely serious, it overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have,” he said.

Warner told reporters that his longstanding relationship with Burr and the committee’s strong backing of its leadership have helped ensure that their work has moved forward efficiently.

The two lawmakers repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan efforts of their investigation, setting themselves apart from the chaos that has consumed the House Intelligence Committee.

At the top of the press briefing, Burr instructed reporters not to ask any questions about the House’s investigation, which has fallen into disarray over allegations that Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) is too close to the Trump administration to conduct a credible inquiry.

Nunes briefed President Trump on claims that communications involving him and his transition staffers were incidentally caught up in surveillance of foreign nationals without bringing this information to his own committee.

Two Democratic senators are asking the Office of Government Ethics to confirm that Ivanka Trump will comply with federal ethics rules as an adviser in her father’s White House.

“Ms. Trump’s increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest, and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflicts of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) wrote Wednesday in a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub.

The President’s eldest daughter will reportedly serve as Trump’s “eyes and ears” in the West Wing, where she will have an office but receive no salary or official title. The President has also reportedly requested a security clearance for her.

Though Ivanka Trump has already sat in on White House meetings with foreign leaders and lawmakers, despite retaining ownership of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, her retail clothing and accessories brand.

As Trump’s unofficial position makes her unbound by ethics rules that apply to other executive branch staffers, she has offered to voluntarily comply with them.

Warren and Carper say that’s not enough of an assurance.

They asked OGE to “determine which ethics rules apply to Ms. Trump, which disclosures she will be required to make to demonstrate her compliance, and whether her compliance with these rules will be monitored and enforced.”

Ivanka Trump’s brand currently faces a class action unfair competition lawsuit from a California clothing retailer.

Read the letter below:

A Russian billionaire who reportedly worked closely with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort took out ads in multiple major U.S. newspapers Tuesday, offering to be interviewed by congressional committees investigating Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.

The House Intelligence Committee said it has yet to hear from Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, directly.

Deripaska made the offer after the Associated Press published a story detailing the $10 million lobbying contract he negotiated with Manafort for work to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”

In ads published in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, Deripaska strenuously denied the AP’s report.

“I have never made any commitments or contracts with the obligation or purpose to covertly promote or advance ‘Putin’s Government’ interests anywhere in the world,” the ad read, calling the article “fake news.”

“I am ready to take part in any hearings conducted in the US Congress on this subject in order to defend my reputation and name,” it continued.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), told TPM that Deripaska has not contacted the panel.

“We haven’t heard from Deripaska to my knowledge,” he said in an email.

Manafort offered to be interviewed by the committee after the AP published its report. Carter Page and Roger Stone, two other former Trump campaign advisers who allegedly had ties to officials or operatives in Russia, have sent letters to the committee offering to be interviewed as well.

The House Intelligence panel’s investigation virtually ground to a halt this week, and none of those interviews appear to have been scheduled. Democrats and some Republican lawmakers charge that Nunes compromised the committee’s work with his overly close relationship to the Trump administration.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) is staying mum.

On Tuesday, he said he would “never” comply with requests to disclose the source of his allegations that communications involving the Trump transition team were “incidentally” collected by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Will you share your sources?” an ABC reporter who confronted Nunes in a Capitol Hill hallway asked.

“We will never reveal sources,” he replied.

“Even to the other members of the committee?”

“Nope,” he said. “Never.”

Nunes met with one of those sources on White House grounds the day before he went public with the allegations, but has refused to comment on that source’s identity beyond saying that it was an official from the intelligence community, not the White House.

The rest of the committee, which is probing Russia’s interference in the election, including any potential ties between Trump campaign staffers and Russian officials, has yet to see the intelligence reports Nunes cites. Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), other Democrats, and at least one Republican lawmaker have asked for the chairman’s recusal from that investigation as a result.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that was up to House leadership, but that Nunes can’t continue to lead the committee if he is “not willing to tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) went further, telling TPM that both Nunes’ source and that source’s information should be revealed to “the entire nation.”

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on Tuesday became the first Republican lawmaker to unequivocally call for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) to recuse himself from investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

“Absolutely,” Jones told the Hill when asked if Nunes should step down.

“How can you be chairman of a major committee and do all these things behind the scenes and keep your credibility? You can’t keep your credibility!” he continued.

Other Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), have criticized Nunes for appearing overly friendly to the White House as he oversees a probe that involves looking into the ties between Trump campaign staffers and Russian officials, but stopped short of asking for his recusal.

All three have previously broken with GOP leadership and the Trump administration, with Jones becoming the only Republican co-sponsor of a bill to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s meddling in the election. Jones was also only one of two GOP lawmakers to ask the Treasury Department to release Trump’s tax returns.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Republican re-upped his call for an independent commission, telling the Hill it’s “the only way you can bring integrity to the process.”

These calls follow the revelation that Nunes secretly met with a source on White House grounds a day before announcing that he received intelligence reports he said showed incidental collection of communications from Trump and his transition staffers.

The House Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and a growing number of Democrats have requested Nunes’ recusal, but neither he nor House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have shown signs of moving in that direction.

Did Jared Kushner’s recently disclosed meeting during the Trump transition with the head of a Russian state-owned bank concern business or politics? Depends who you ask.

All participating parties agree that Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, spoke with Sergey N. Gorkov, CEO of Vnesheconombank and close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

While the bank and the Kremlin said Kushner held the talks in his capacity as the head of his family’s real estate empire, Kushner Companies, the Trump administration struck a different note, saying Kushner was acting as a campaign surrogate at the time.

In a Tuesday statement to Reuters, Vnesheconombank, which was sanctioned under the Obama administration, said that executives held roadshow meetings “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also played down the meeting, telling the Associated Press that “it was ordinary business,” and that the Kremlin was unaware of the meeting before it occurred.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had offered a different characterization in his daily Monday press briefing. He called Kushner “the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials” during “the campaign and the transition,” suggesting the meeting was political in nature.

The exact context of that meeting is likely to come up when Kushner interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference into the presidential election.

Spicer said Kushner volunteered to interview “given this role” as the Trump campaign’s broker for international relations.

Kushner divested assets and resigned as CEO of Kushner Companies and as publisher of the New York Observer before joining the Trump administration. He retains some real estate holdings associated with his family’s real estate business, however.

It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for the House Intelligence Committee.

Monday was an inflection point in the accelerating dysfunction of the bipartisan committee’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, with the ranking Democrat asking the Republican chairman to step down over his seemingly cozy relationship with the Trump administration.

Chased down the Capitol hallway on Tuesday by a swarm of reporters, Nunes denied that his approach to the committee’s investigation has been questionable.

“Why that would be?” Nunes said when asked if he would recuse himself.

“Why would I not [continue to serve as chair]?” he asked again, later in the conversation.

At issue is Chair Devin Nunes’s (R-CA) newly disclosed meeting with a source on White House grounds the day before he publicly alleged that communications involving President Donald Trump and his transition team were “incidentally” collected by the intelligence community. Nunes was himself on the transition team’s executive committee, and he brought these surveillance claims to Trump before briefing his own colleagues, who have yet to see the reports from which those claims were drawn.

This stonewalling has Democrats asking how Nunes can credibly be tasked with looking into Trump campaign staffers’ potential ties to Russian officials.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the Senate floor to ask House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to replace Nunes as chairman of the committee. By evening, there was a chorus calling for Nunes to simply recuse himself from the committee’s Russia probe, until it was ultimately joined by the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the President’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the Chairman,” Schiff said in a statement, saying he did not make the recommendation “lightly.”

Russia hawks on the other side of the aisle, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), were asking pointed questions about Nunes’ “objectivity” by Tuesday morning, though they still stopped short of asking him to step aside.

Then came fresh news that Nunes had ordered major scheduling changes in the committee’s work that are favorable to the Trump administration.

Days after unilaterally deciding to cancel a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, at which former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan were scheduled to testify, Nunes canceled all of the committee hearings planned for this week.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a committee member, said she only learned about the abrupt change of plans from media reports.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the White House tried to block Yates from testifying to Congress, citing presidential communication privilege (the White House denied that report). Yates had warned the Trump administration that ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition.

The tide of stories raising questions about Nunes’ motivation have not swayed him to step aside or influenced Ryan, the only person who could decide to replace Nunes as chairman.

“Speaker Ryan has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair, and credible investigation,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told TPM in a statement.

If Ryan ultimately does decide that Nunes has become a distraction on this issue, he’s unlikely to do more than ask the chairman to recuse himself from investigations involving Russia and the Trump transition team, as Schiff requested.

Worth Hester, a specialist in congressional personnel at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, told TPM that Ryan likely would then appoint one of the senior Republican members on the committee, such as Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) or Peter King (R-NY), to lead the investigation.

“Those people are already serving on the committee and know the issues,” Hester said in a phone interview.

Asked if a committee has ever disintegrated to the point where the ranking member has asked the chair to recuse himself, Hester laughed.

“In my 28 years of doing this, this is an incredibly odd situation,” he said.

“Can’t think of a time in modern history where such a thing could possibly have happened,” he added in a follow-up email. “Oversight/investigative issues aren’t pursued with the same vigor, if at all, when the party of the President is the majority party in the House (or Senate).  So, the opportunity for such a request to emerge just isn’t there.”

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