The probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election crosses into new territory this week as congressional committees seek information from two of Donald Trump’s family members, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is expected to make the first of two appearances on Capitol Hill Monday.
A man often seen but rarely heard, Kushner is one of President Trump’s closest advisers, tasked with pursuing a peace deal in the Middle East and heading an effort to modernize the federal government.
In closed-door sessions, Kushner is slated to answer questions before the Senate and House intelligence committees. Both are expected to seek information about Kushner’s Russia contacts, including a December meeting with Russia’s ambassador and, last June, with a Russian attorney and other figures connected to Moscow.
That meeting has been the focus of great attention since the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr, released emails expressing eagerness for what he believed the Russian attorney would provide: harmful material about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 opponent.
Trump Jr. and campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting, and were initially scheduled to appear this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But that testimony has been postponed based on an understanding that the two men will provide the committee with records and information.
With the Russia probe now scrutinizing those closest to Trump, questions have arisen about any possible presidential pardons. Trump's legal team noted the Constitution grants the president broad pardoning powers, but insisted that nothing is being contemplated.
“We’re not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table,” the president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, said on ABC’s This Week program. “There’s nothing to pardon from.”
At the same time, the White House insisted the news media’s focus on the Russia probe is misguided.
“The top three issues that Americans care about are immigration, health care, and jobs,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also on This Week. “The top three issues that the media cares about are Russia, Russia, and Russia.”
Lawmakers of both political parties are also having their say. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, took to Twitter to urge full disclosure of a leaked U.S. intelligence intercept of Russia’s ambassador relaying to Moscow an account of an alleged conversation with then-senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump campaign backer and current attorney general.
Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner has slammed any preemptive presidential pardons of those under investigation in the Russia probe.