Trump ally Stone offers to testify in Russian meddling investigation

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Political advisor Roger Stone poses for a portrait after an interview in New York

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, said on Sunday that he offered to testify before a congressional committee investigating possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and his ties to the Trump campaign.

Stone, an informal Trump adviser, told ABC “This Week” that he had not received a response from the House intelligence committee on his offer of public testimony.

Along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who also volunteered to appear before the panel, Stone was among Trump associates whose communications and financial transactions were being scrutinized by the FBI and others as part of a larger investigation. about possible links with Russian officials. according to a Jan.20 report in the New York Times.

Without citing any names, FBI Director James Comey confirmed at the committee’s public hearing last week that the FBI was investigating possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign as Moscow sought to influence the 2016 election.

Stone said he was eager to testify in public.

“I reiterate again, I have had no contacts or conspiracies with the Russians,” he told ABC, then added: “There is no collusion, none, at least none that I know of, in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.”

At Monday’s intelligence committee hearing, Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat, cited his concern over Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Guccifer 2, who claimed responsibility for hacking into Democratic groups. .

Stone said he had spoken to Assange through an intermediary and to Guccifer on Twitter in an exchange that he made public. Stone also cast doubt on whether Guccifer was a Russian agent.

“The fact that the intelligence services say something, as we know from history, does not make it true,” he said, reflecting the doubts that Trump himself has sown about US intelligence agencies.

Carter Page, another Trump campaign adviser whose contacts with the Russians were mentioned by Schiff in Monday’s hearing, also offered to appear before the committee, according to multiple media reports.

The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia sponsored the hacking of Democratic Party groups during the 2016 campaign to benefit Republican Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Russia has denied the meddling allegations.

Trump has dismissed the idea of ​​any coordination between his campaign and Russia and has accused Democrats and the media of using the issue to attack him.

The House committee’s investigation was clouded on Wednesday after its Republican president, Rep. Devin Nunes, announced to the public and informed Trump that US intelligence may have swept communications from Trump associates before reporting. to the committee.

Nunes apologized to the intelligence panel the next day.

However, he further alienated Democrats on the committee on Friday when he canceled a hearing with intelligence officials from the administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama to have a classified briefing with the directors of the National Security Agency and the Federal Office. of Investigations.

The committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, suggested the cancellation came after pressure from the White House.

Schiff and other Democrats said last week’s actions raised further questions about whether Nunes, a Trump ally who served on the president’s transition team, can conduct a credible investigation.

“I think the president has a decision to make whether to act as a substitute for the White House as he did during the campaign and transition or to lead an independent and credible investigation,” Schiff told CBS on “Face the Nation.”