Senate Investigators Turn Focus to Carter Page and Trump Campaign's Foreign Policy Team

11_29_Feinstein_Grassley_Page_Russia
Senator Dianne Feinstein, pictured on November 14, has asked members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its Russia investigation. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Updated | The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee has sent letters requesting interviews with three former members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and documents from a fourth member, advancing the panel's investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is one of three congressional panels examining Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. On Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the committee, sent letters to Carter Page, Sam Clovis, Walid Phares and J.D. Gordon. The letters asked Clovis, Phares and Gordon to provide documents and schedule interviews with the committee for December. From Page, who has already testified about Russia before the House and Senate intelligence committees, the senator asked only for documents. Her office announced the requests on Wednesday.

Related: Will Anything Come of Congress's Trump-Russia Probes?

Page, Phares and Gordon were members of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team. Clovis helped oversee the team and is now a White House adviser to the Department of Agriculture (USDA). In early November, amid controversy over his nomination and his proximity to the Russia issue, he withdrew from consideration to be chief scientist for that department.

Another person who was on the foreign policy team, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion.

In a statement by email, Gordon said, "I'm always glad to clear up popular misconceptions, myths and blatant falsehoods surrounding all things Trump-Russia, like I've already done with other Congressional committees. I look forward to a valuable exchange of information with the Senate Judiciary Committee as well."

Also by email, an assistant for Phares said the former campaign adviser "will review Senator Feinstein's letter to see whether he has any information she requests that has not already been provided to the Senate." Through the assistant, Phares addressed the claim in the letter that he reportedly "met" with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the 2016 Republican National Convention. "Ambassador Kislyak was just one of many foreign diplomats present in the audience at a panel discussion in which Dr. Phares was a panelist," the assistant wrote.

Page was not immediately available to comment on the requests. A spokesperson for the USDA was not immediately available to comment on behalf of Clovis.

Feinstein's requests did not contain the signature of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee chairman. In late October, Feinstein told Mother Jones that the Democrats on the panel would pursue the Russia issue without the Republicans because those across the aisle seemed more interested in other topics. Days later, she sent what her office called its "first tranche" of letters related to the Russia probe, all without Grassley's signature.

In early November, Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat on the committee, told Newsweek that bipartisan progress on the probe had "slowed dramatically over the last couple of months, and my understanding is it's come to a complete standstill." On November 15, Feinstein sent four more letters related to the Russia investigation without the chairman's signature.

But a source on the Republican side of the committee said it is not unusual for the leader of one party on the committee to send a letter without the signature of the leader of the other party. For the letters announced Wednesday, the source said that because of meetings, the Republicans did not have enough time to review the letters before the deadline for sending them.

The Democratic side also downplayed the fact that Grassley did not sign the letters. "Sending letters from just one senator is routine," Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for Feinstein, said by email. "You've seen some signed by both Feinstein and Grassley, others by just one of them."

On November 16, Grassley and Feinstein sent a joint letter requesting information from a lawyer for Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser to the president. It was their first bipartisan letter in almost two months.

Requests from the majority party generally carry more weight than those from the minority, as on the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is the chairman from the majority who holds the authority to issue subpoenas compelling a person to testify. (To issue a subpoena, the chairman needs the agreement of the ranking member or a vote by the committee. The chairman can designate another member to issue a subpoena.)

Feinstein's office said it expects to send additional requests in the coming weeks.

This article has been updated to include comments on behalf of Walid Phares.

Senate Investigators Turn Focus to Carter Page and Trump Campaign's Foreign Policy Team | U.S.