Himes: Manafort, Stone likely witnesses in Congress’ Russia probe

MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

President Donald Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort is greeted by a delegate during his visit to the Connecticut delegation during the Republican national convention.

Washington — Rep. Jim Himes on Monday said Connecticut natives Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager, and Roger Stone, a self-described Trump campaign consultant, are likely to be key witnesses as the House Intelligence Committee continues its investigation of Russian hacking and the U.S. elections.

“I certainly would put him at the top of the list,” Himes, D-4th District, said of Manafort, a New Britain native.

As far as Stone, who comes from Norwalk, Himes told reporters, ”He had a bizarre ability to predict what Wikileaks was going to do next.”

Last summer, Wikileaks released hacked e-mails of the Democratic National Committee that may have hurt Hillary Clinton’s efforts to win the White House.

On Monday Stone tweeted, “It’s only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged ‘Collusion with Russians’ from 2day’s Intel Hearing,”

Himes said he hoped for bipartisan agreement on the Intelligence Committee on a list of witnesses.

The lawmaker was one of the most active members during a more than four-hour House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday that featured FBI chief James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

At one point, he even got Comey to rebut a tweet that was sent out in real time by Trump during the hearing.

Courtesy of Roger Stone

Roger Stone

The tweet said, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.” Himes asked Comey, “Is that accurate?”

Comey responded, “We’ve offered no opinion, have no view and have no information on potential impact because it’s never something we looked at.”

Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating links and coordination that may have occurred between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers.

Republicans grilled Comey and Rogers about efforts to uncover  who leaked information detailing former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

Democrats, meanwhile, pressed the witnesses on the investigation into Russian activity. Much of the questioning involved Stone’s admission that he was in contact with hacker Guccifer 2.0, believed to be a front for Russian intelligence, and had conversations with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Stone “played a role early on in his campaign but ended that role in August of 2015.”

As far as Manafort, Spicer said,  he “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”

“I’ve run five campaigns, and I would say a campaign manager does not play a limited role,” Himes said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District

Comey also said the FBI had no evidence former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, an accusation Trump made in an early-morning tweet in early March.

Himes told reporters the wiretapping allegations hurt the credibility of the White House and the president.

“How do we believe the president now when he says there’s an existential danger?” Himes asked.

During the hearing Himes said Trump would attack anyone, including the cast of a Broadway hit — anyone, that is, but Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia.

“He will attack the cast of Hamilton. He will attack Chuck Schumer. He will attack our allies Mexico, Australia, Germany. He will attack the intelligence community which you lead — associating you with McCarthyism and Nazism,” Hime said.

But Himes said Russia and Putin are the “one person, and one country, which is immune, which is inoculated from any form of presidential attack, no matter what the behavior.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., urged the FBI to work quickly on its probe.

“There is a big, gray cloud that you’ve now put over people who have very important work to do to lead this country,” he told Comey. “And so the faster you can get to the bottom of this, it’s going to be better for all Americans.”

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