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Senate intel committee grilling ex-Trump campaign members in Russia probe

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At Katy Tur

The Senate's Intelligence Investigator interviews former members of President Donald Trump's campaign looking for evidence of possible cooperation with Russia and asks a witness Friday fresh questions about the president's business relations and how he formulated his policy against Moscow.

Sam Nunberg, who worked for Trump and his campaign in 201

5, said he was questioned in a closed door on Capitol Hill about Trump's trip to Moscow in 2013, his company's interest in building a tower there and specific relationships between former members of campaign and foreign players who may have worked with Russia.

"They do an exhaustive investigation," Nunberg told NBC News after his interview that he said was "narrowly focused on collaboration".

Nunberg's memory of today's events gave a first-hand account of the committee's investigators, which Trump's chairmanship enters into its third year.

Trump has strongly denied that there was any interaction between his campaign and Russia. Specialist Robert Mueller investigates separately the possibility of collaboration.

The staff of the Senate Committee, which is organized by Republican since Richard Burr in North Carolina, continued Friday in a closed door interview to press this inquiry post. [19659007] Investigators went through a "checklist" of questions, said Nunberg, among other things, if he had been aware of any conversations or relationships during his time with Trump regarding Russian banks, Russian oligarchs or business relations with Russia.

Nunberg, who sat with the committee's staff for four and a half hours, said that he was repeatedly asked how Trump formulated his political positions on Russia. Trump has expressed support for many foreign policy positions that are beneficial to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nunberg said he told the committee that Trump, as a candidate, said "he would decide he was happy Russia was in Syria."

At that time, Nunberg said that this position did not raise red flags because he saw it as in accordance with Trump's widely held view that the United States should not be involved in the Middle East. Nunberg said the campaign had questions at that time about how he saw US engagement in Syria.

Even of interest to investigators, Nunberg said, the campaign's relationship with the National Rifle Association and efforts of a Russian citizen was to get a meeting with the drum through the NRA. Nunberg says he told investigators on Friday that he was aware of Maria Butina's efforts, which allegedly owed last month to collaborate with a Russian official to disrupt US politics, to seek a meeting with Trump, using the NRA as management.

Investigators also poked Nunberg with questions that suggested he tried to establish specific relationships among the members of Trump's campaign and organization and external actors, including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Last year Nunberg went on a whirlwind tour explaining that he would not follow a lawsuit from the special council's office. But he eventually went and went for interviews with Mueller's investigators. He also told before a federal big jury.

In the interview with the Senate Information Committee, Nunberg said he received a question about many former campaign members, the president's children and other associates, including: Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Tom Barrack, Michael Cohen, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. He was also questioned about Trump's relationship with Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch and his pop singer Emin, who helped set up the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Nunberg said he was not asked about the president's son-in

Sam Nunberg, former campaign assistant for Donald Trump, concludes the federal court in Washington on March 9, 2018. Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Among the other issues raised on Friday, Nunberg said, was the 2016 meeting of the Trump Tower in New York with Trump Jr., Manafort, Kushner and a Kremlin-affiliated Russian lawyer who offered them the promise of "dirt" on the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton; Trump's trip to Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe Festival; The company's interest in building a tower in the Russian capital.

Nunberg said he was surprised at the interest in a tower in Moscow, because the campaign's official position was that it would not seek new foreign business. Nunberg said he was asked to review public statements, emails, tweets and text messages received from investigators related to potential Russian interference.

Nunberg described the committee's report as professional and bipartisan. "If I was the White House, I would be worried," said Nunberg, who joined the campaign early but was fired in August 2015 after ravaged Facebook posts were discovered. He later apologized.

Unlike House Intelligence Committees Russia's investigation, which was closed by Republicans last spring over democratic protests, the Senate Committee's probe has been deliberately and largely non-partisan. Headed by Burr and ranking democrat Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia has broken the panel in five parts and began releasing preliminary findings and recommendations last fall.

These separate reports include: An analysis of the intelligence community's assessment of Russia's interference in the 2016 election; Russia's use of social media and how social media companies handle abuse of their platforms. how the FBI and Obama administration addressed Russia's activities and informed the public, an assessment of federal and state security security;

The final question is potentially the most difficult for legislators in the committee to reach agreement and cannot be fully answered until the special adviser issues his final report.

Burr said on Thursday he still hopes to hear further testimonies from Cohen, the president's former lawyer and fixer, to appear publicly before the House Oversight Committee next month.

Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress for interest in building a drum tower in Moscow.

Flynn, who served as Trump's first national security advisor, indicted himself separately to lie to the FBI for contacts with the Russian ambassador and collaborates with the Special Adviser. Manafort, who served as Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, was guilty of a number of conspiracies last year and a speech about justice obstruction related to testimony.

Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor contributed. ]
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