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Paul Manafort Agrees To Testify Before Congress In Russia Probe


Now to developments in the House Intelligence Committee's efforts to investigate Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion with President Trump's associates. Three people who had key roles in Trump's campaign now say they're willing to testify before the committee. But an open hearing scheduled for next week has been canceled, and questions about White House interference in the investigation are growing. NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: A sign of where this fraud House investigation may be heading is the kinds of news conferences the panel's two leaders have been holding. Last week, Republican Chairman Devin Nunes and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff stood side by side as they took questions from reporters. Today they made separate appearances.

A rift has grown since Nunes went to the White House Wednesday and shared sensitive intelligence with President Trump that the rest of the committee has yet to see. This morning, Nunes made this announcement about Paul Manafort, who managed Trump's campaign last summer and who's previously worked for figures linked to Russia.


DEVIN NUNES: The counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client. We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering.

WELNA: Nunes said it's not clear whether Manafort would testify publicly or privately. He said, he'd be all right with either option. Schiff, who spoke a short time later, insisted that Manafort's questioning be public.


ADAM SCHIFF: We welcome his testimony before the committee. We would also welcome that that testimony be done in open session so the public may be informed of what he has to say.

WELNA: Hours later, two more figures associated with the Trump campaign announced that they, too, were ready to come before the committee. One is Roger Stone, a longtime adviser of Trump's who last summer foretold the publication of hacked emails associated with Hillary Clinton's campaign. The other is Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia.

Today, Chairman Nunes made one more announcement that the public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday with former CIA Director John Brennan, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates was being canceled. Instead, Nunes wanted FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, who both testified publicly on Monday, to return for a closed hearing.


NUNES: There are just questions that we have for Director Comey and Admiral Rogers probably that they just couldn't answer in a public setting. But it's necessary to get both of them back down here before we can move on to other interviews.

SCHIFF: I think this is a serious mistake.

WELNA: Ranking Democrat Schiff strongly objected to the public hearing being called off.


SCHIFF: There must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday's hearing. It's hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled. Clearly, it had to do with the events of this week.

WELNA: Schiff accused President Trump of going to ever-greater lengths to defend his contention that he'd been wiretapped by President Obama.


SCHIFF: I think in an effort to further justify the unjustifiable, he is now interfering in this investigation. And I think the fact that the German's press conferences was at the White House is not only symbolically important. It's important in terms of understanding what's really going on here.

WELNA: Nunes, for his part, was asked whether the White House was leaking the documents he's kept from the committee.


NUNES: You can ask me every single name that exists on the planet, and I'm still not going to tell you who our sources are.

WELNA: That from the same chairman who's trying to focus this investigation on official leaks. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDIS SONG, "THE LIVING END") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

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