With Congress Back, Trump-Russia Investigations Ramp Up

Chairman Richard Burr, right, talks to Vice Chairman Senator Mark Warner during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21. The committee is one of at least three in Congress investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Alex Wong/Getty

As Congress returns from August recess, its committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election are picking up where they left off.

At least three congressional committees are supervising Russia probes: the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. (At one point, the House Oversight Committee expressed interest in doing its own inquest, but Representative Trey Gowdy, its new chairman, backed off that idea.) Those investigations are separate from the FBI probe headed by Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller.

Related: House Intelligence Committee subpoenas FBI, DOJ

Two of the three committees are already moving forward with their inquests in the days since the recess ended. On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee issued new subpoenas to the FBI and Justice Department for information related to a dossier about President Donald Trump and Russia. Later on Tuesday, Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, told MSNBC that it was the Republicans on the committee who wanted to issue subpoenas to the bureau and department, and that the decision to do so "perplexed [the Democrats] because we hadn't even made a voluntary request for the information."

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to meet on Thursday with Donald Trump Jr. to discuss contacts between his father's presidential campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing three committee members. The committee also wants to meet with Paul Manafort, who was the president's campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and adviser, to discuss the June 2016 meeting they and Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

As for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr, the chairman, told the Post on Tuesday that he wants his investigation to finish before January. That committee has already interviewed Manafort and Kushner, and Burr told the Post he hopes that Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer—who was found to have emailed the Kremlin during the presidential campaign about building a Trump Tower in Moscow—will also speak with the committee.

None of those committees has publicly announced any upcoming hearings.

The special counsel Russia investigation is moving forward too, and that has created tension with the congressional panels, CNN reported on Tuesday. Beside the subpoenas from the House Intelligence Committee to the FBI and Justice Department, the Senate Intelligence Committee blocked a request from the special counsel team for the transcript of an interview it conducted with Manafort, according to CNN.

Another issue for the committees could be scheduling, as the legislative agenda for the coming weeks and months is full of issues, not just Russian meddling. "The agenda is just dominated by the budget, taxes and the debt ceiling," Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former political director in the George W. Bush White House, told McClatchy. "Despite all the other intrigues that are out there…that drives everything."