Trump-Russia investigation to turn focus on whether president is under foreign influence

Chris Riotta

The House Intelligence Committee will shift its focus into probing whether Donald Trump or any of his associates are under the influence of foreign powers, the chairman of the committee has revealed.

Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who leads the House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said in a new interview that he is worried about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has thoroughly probed the president’s financial ties to 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,” Mr Schiff told NBC News in a report published on Wednesday.

The chairman said those ties could be creating potential conflicts of interest in the White House, pointing to revelations about a secretive real estate project in Moscow the president’s former fixer and longtime attorney Michael Cohen made during a public testimony earlier this year.

“I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power,“ Mr Schiff said.

He added, “That's not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments.“

Mr Trump’s Russia connections have stirred controversy ever since he assumed the Oval Office in 2017. That year, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — who is scheduled to begin his nearly seven year prison sentence over foreign lobbying and witness tampering charges — was forced to register as a foreign agent for his work with a pro-Russian Ukranian political party.

His son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's Russian connections and foreign debts have also been a subject of scrutiny by House investigators, following his failure to include nearly 100 contacts with Russians on a security clearance application.

It was later reported the president stepped in and requested Mr Kushner be granted a clearance against the advice of experts involved in handling clearance applications.

Mr Trump has condemned Mr Schiff repeatedly on Twitter along with the House Intelligence investigation.

In February, the president wrote, “So now Congressman Adam Schiff announces, after having found zero Russian Collusion, that he is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so. Never happened before!”

He added, “Unlimited Presidential Harassment."