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Trump Advisers Under Scrutiny In Russia Investigations

Mar 31, 2017
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We've been telling you this morning about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's offer to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. But let's take a minute to look at some of the other Trump associates who will face scrutiny in the congressional and FBI investigations into whether Moscow tried to influence the race in candidate Donald Trump's favor. Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: U.S. officials have made clear they believe that Russia tried to help Donald Trump win the presidency last year.

ERIC SWALWELL: There has been indisputable evidence that Russia attacked our democracy this past election.

ZARROLI: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, says Russia used social media and propaganda to sway the race and also hacked the email accounts of Democratic Party officials. What's less clear, he says, is what role, if any, the Trump campaign played in that effort.

SWALWELL: What we are trying to understand is was there a convergence with their interference campaign and a deep personal, political and financial ties that Donald Trump and his team have with Russia?

ZARROLI: High on the list of people investigators will talk to is Paul Manafort, a longtime Republican operative and former lobbyist. Manafort was fired as campaign chair last August after reports appeared about his ties to Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort spoke on CBS recently about being fired by Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CBS THIS MORNING")

PAUL MANAFORT: I mean, I became a block to his ability to communicate his message. I didn't think it was fair. I mean, the allegations were not true. But the reality is I became a block, and my goal was to get Donald Trump elected president of the United States.

ZARROLI: Since then, more questions have been raised about Manafort's financial activities. Last week, The AP reported that in 2006 Manafort had sought a contract offering to influence news coverage and politics on Russia's behalf. The second person almost certain to appear before investigators is Carter Page, whom Trump once called an adviser. Page has long-standing financial ties to Russia and traveled to Moscow last summer. On CNN recently, Page denied reports he met with a top Russian official and was offered money to help get Russian sanctions lifted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER PAGE: No offer whatsoever, no hint of an offer, no pathway to anything resembling an offer or even a discussion on these range of issues.

ZARROLI: The third person likely to testify is longtime Republican figure Roger Stone, a self-acknowledged political dirty trickster who's said to have a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back. Stone, who's often described as flamboyant, has long-standing ties to Trump, but he was severed from the campaign last August. Stone attracted the attention of investigators because he claimed to be in touch with the hackers. He also said Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta would, quote, "have his time in the barrel," unquote, two days before Podesta's emails were released. Stone denied any wrongdoing in an interview with POLITICO.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER STONE: You can call me a dirty trickster. Look, this is - this ain't beanbag. This is - you know, I've got sharp elbows, and this is a tough game, but I'll tell you one thing that isn't in my bag of tricks - treason.

ZARROLI: Stone says he is eager to talk to congressional investigators to set the record straight. Investigators want to talk to him too, but they haven't yet scheduled his appearance or those of the other major witnesses either. Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAN THE AUTOMATOR'S "BAND THE BALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.