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Wednesday May 22nd, 2019 7:01AM

The Latest: Officials wish Trump denial was more forceful

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the Russia investigation (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

Officials are expressing regret that President Donald Trump didn't more clearly and forcefully deny working on behalf of Russia when asked during a Fox News interview.

That's according to aides and Republicans close to the White House who spoke to The Associated Press.

The New York Times reported that law enforcement officials began investigating, in 2017, whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against U.S. interests. When asked about the Times report, Trump called it "insulting."

In the same interview, Trump also objected to a report in The Washington Post that said he went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin even from high-ranking officials in his own administration.

___

2:10 p.m.

Three Democrats who head influential House committees are warning President Donald Trump not to obstruct their efforts to question his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Their statement follows Trump's comments in a Fox News Channel interview in which he alleges potential legal problems involving a Cohen relative and takes digs at Cohen's honesty and own legal woes.

In their message to Trump, the chairmen of the Intelligence, Judiciary and Oversight committees say: "Our nation's laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress."

Cohen's testimony on Feb. 7 could serve as the opening salvo of a promised Democratic effort to scrutinize Trump, his conflicts of interest and his ties to Russia.

Cohen has gone from being a trusted legal adviser to the president to a public antagonist who has cooperated extensively with prosecutors. That's led Trump to have called Cohen a "rat."

___

12 p.m.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he'll force a vote in the coming days on the Treasury Department's decision to ease sanctions on three companies connected to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defended the decision, saying the companies are undergoing a major restructuring to "sever Deripaska's control and significantly diminish his ownership." He says Deripaska himself and any companies he controls remain under sanctions.

Schumer, however, contends the Russian oligarch maintains significant influence on these companies, including the aluminum manufacturing giant Rusal.

Schumer says it's important the sanctions remain in place while the special counsel's Russia investigation proceeds. Deripaska has figured into the investigation due to his ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

___

10:25 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has disputed President Donald Trump's claim that he's been tougher on Russia than any recent president.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia says almost all of the sanctions on Russia arose in Congress because of huge concerns by both parties about Russia's actions.

Speaking Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Warner accused the Trump White House of being slow to implement the sanctions.

Trump most recently made the claim following a published report that his behavior in the early months of his presidency gave federal law enforcement officials reason to begin investigating whether he had worked for Russia against American interests.

In Saturday's interview, Trump avoided giving a direct answer when asked if he currently is or has ever worked for Russia.

___

9 a.m.

President Donald Trump has avoided giving a direct answer when asked if he currently is or has ever worked for Russia after a published report said his behavior gave federal law enforcement officials reason to begin investigating whether he had worked for the U.S. adversary.

The New York Times reported that Trump's behavior in the days around his firing of James Comey as FBI director helped trigger the counterintelligence part of the investigation. The report Friday cited unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

Trump responded to the report Saturday during a telephone interview broadcast on Fox News Channel after host Jeanine Pirro asked whether he is currently or has ever worked for Russia.

He said: "I think it's the most insulting thing I've ever been asked."

Trump never answered Pirro's question directly.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business
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