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Michigan GOP, Dems lawmakers disagree on Russia probe

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Bipartisan members of Michigan’s delegation on Wednesday endorsed an investigation into alleged contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russian intelligence but disagree about who should conduct the inquiry.

“Congressional committees with jurisdiction over intelligence matters should be looking into this – and they already are,” said Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. “We need to let these investigations run their course.”

But Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township called for an inquiry by a bipartisan commission independent of Congress to look into Russian ties to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, as well as his national security adviser’s conversations with the Russian ambassador prior to inauguration day.

“So far, I’ve seen no willingness apart from a few Republicans to set partisanship aside and deal with the reality here. This is not going away,” Kildee said at the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s not just trust between Donald Trump and the people he works for that we should be concerned about. We have to have trust in our government. He’s our president. We have to be able to trust that he and the people that represent him say are true. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

Citing anonymous sources, the New York Times reported late Tuesday that aides to Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence officials in the year before the 2016 presidential election.

Following Michael Flynn’s resignation as Trump’s national security adviser, senators from both parties on the Intelligence Committee indicated their ongoing election investigation would probe contacts between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.

“It does raise some concerns. I was pleased to learn that the president asked for the resignation and that occurred,” said Rep. John Moolenaar, a Midland Republican, adding that the committees with oversight jurisdiction should look into the issue.

“We do need to understand what happened.”

Rep. Dave Trott, a Birmingham Republican, sees no need for a special panel to probe the matter, but said there needs to be more transparency from the GOP administration.

“What’s giving me pause is we’re hearing inconsistent versions of what was happening. When you hear, ‘We didn’t talk – we did talk. We didn’t discuss this – we did,’ it starts to exacerbate the problem in terms of what exactly is going on here?” Trott said at the Capitol. “I think there’s a lack of transparency, and we need to address it.

“People need to be forthright in terms of what communication they had,” he added.

“People need to know what the connection is – if any – to Russia. And second, assuming it’s not problematic, it’s critical for the administration to clear the air, so they can focus on the problems facing our country.”

Some Senate Democrats have called for a independent special counsel to investigate Flynn's contacts with Russia. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, wouldn’t look to an independent inquiry unless Congress is unable to investigate in a bipartisan way, he said.

“This is certainly not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is an American issue, and folks from both parties should be concerned ... especially with these latest revelations,” said Peters, who sits on both the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

“What we are seeing is unprecedented and something that demands to have full and complete answers in an open and transparent manner.”

Detroit-area Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, joined his counterpart on the Oversight committee in urging the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice to brief Congress on Flynn’s communications with Russia and any knowledge or involvement that the Trump administration might have had regarding those discussions.

“The American people deserve to know what President Trump knew and when he knew it,” Conyers and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote in a letter to FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, has questioned why intelligence officials wiretapped calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador and then leaked information about the conversations to the press. Trump has also questioned the leaks. Nunes’ committee is already investigating Russian attempts to interfere in last year’s election.

“The Intelligence Committee has been conducting an investigation into Russian actions during the election, and it is appropriate that they continue to pursue all the relevant facts,” Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton said in a statement.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, is open to an independent investigation, but said it’s appropriate for the intelligence committees to first look into the alleged ties to Russia because they already have immediate access to classified information.

“Their job is to investigate the entire situation. I’m hopeful that they take that responsibility seriously. If further investigation is warranted, the whole House or additional committees might participate,” Amash said.

“This situation is a serious one, but we have to be careful of accusations that come from anonymous sources. ... We have to have confirmation that there is something there.”

Freshman Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, said he supports Trump’s decision to accept Flynn’s resignation.

“Until we have more information, I can’t make any conjecture about what transpired,” Mitchell said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, said he also believes there should be a bipartisan independent investigation to resolve these questions, and that the investigation should be as public as possible.

Levin, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, on Tuesday joined other Democrats in supporting a measure that would have compelled the release of Trump’s tax returns .

Levin said the public needs to know what potential conflicts there are involving his investments and activities related to Russia or any foreign government, and what influence those investments and past actions may have on his actions as president.

Committee Republicans defeated the measure.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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