As the world awaits the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the head of the House Intelligence Committee and other experts say the biggest question for them, and for the country, is not what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016, but what may be going on now.
NBC News reports that based on interviews with both Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and several legal experts, “the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is [currently] under the influence of a foreign government.”
It’s unclear if Mueller’s report, whenever it is released, will address this issue, or not.
But Schiff told NBC that “he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller’s team.”
“It’s more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016,” said a former Obama administration official, Martin Lederman, now a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “It’s more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime.”
On a related issue, NBC says Schiff “expressed concern that Mueller hasn’t fully investigated Trump’s possible financial history with Russia.”
“From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it’s very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at,” Schiff said.
“The White House has long insisted that the notion of a president in thrall to the Kremlin is ridiculous, pointing to the sanctions the Trump administration has levied on Russia in response to cyber attacks, election interference, and its actions in Ukraine,” says NBC.In a tweet, the president denounced what he called “Unlimited Presidental Harassment.”
“But the question of Trump’s motives regarding Russia has always been front and center for the FBI,” the network says, citing recent statements by former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. “Neither Trump nor any of his supporters has been able to quell questions about the president’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including Trump’s seeming unwillingness to criticize the Russian autocrat.”
McCabe, one of numerous former officials fired by the president, said he could not rule out that Trump is “in essence, a Russian asset,” NBC says.
“The concern I’ve had in terms of the scope of the Mueller investigation is that the president has tried to draw a red line around certain aspects of his finances,” Schiff said. “That’s not a line that can be observed and still protect the country.”
NBC says the special counsel’s office declined to comment.