WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has been subpoenaed to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, scheduled for Wednesday.
The unexpected legal maneuver came after officials say members of the committee could not coerce Manafort into a private Q&A with investigators.
“While we were willing to accommodate Mr. Manafort’s request to cooperate with the committee’s investigation without appearing at Wednesday’s hearing, we were unable to reach an agreement for a voluntary transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee,” Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a joint statement released on Tuesday.
The Judiciary Committee initially said it would not subpoena Mr Manafort, as he had agreed to negotiate a private meeting. But negotiations quickly broke down when Manafort pulled back and agreed only to a single, transcribed interview to Congress that would not be made available to the Judiciary Committee.
“We need answers. That’s why the Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Paul Manafort,” Ms Feinstein tweeted on Tuesday.
The subpoena comes after both Manafort and the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., were called to give testimony on what, if any, information they have in regard to Russian efforts to sway the outcome of the 2016 election.
Likely a topic of great interest to lawmakers will be the attendance by the pair at a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and her associates, who reports say offered to help provide “dirt” on then political rival Hillary Clinton. Manafort attended the meeting along with Trump Jr. and Trump, Sr.’s son in law, Jared Kushner, who said he left in the middle of the meeting. The threesome admit to attending the meeting but say it was counterproductive and that no useful information was obtained.
According to Manafort’s attorney, Jason Maloni, Manafort spoke to investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning to avoid another subpoena, but the subpoena issued by the Judiciary Committee still stands.
“Paul Manafort met this morning, by previous agreement, with the bipartisan staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and answered their questions fully,” Maloni said.
For his part, the president took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to call the probe into his staff a “witch hunt”.
“Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians,” Trump wrote on Twitter in regard to Kushner’s testimony before the investigative panel. “Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!”