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Dem senator on Trump-Russia: No evidence yet ‘in terms of criminal collusion’

The Hill logo The Hill 12/12/2018 Tal Axelrod
Chris Van Hollen wearing a suit and tie: Dem senator on Trump-Russia: No evidence yet ‘in terms of criminal collusion’ © Anna Moneymaker Dem senator on Trump-Russia: No evidence yet ‘in terms of criminal collusion’ Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Wednesday poured cold water on speculation that Democrats would try to impeach President Trump when they take control of the House of Representatives in January, saying they will wait for the results of Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion with the Russians.

He also said there is no evidence so far of "criminal collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russians, "but that's the whole purpose of this ongoing investigation, for that investigation to conclude, and let's see what they come up with."

"What we're all waiting for is the results of the Mueller investigation, both into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and issues of obstruction of justice. And until we know what the facts are, no, people are not itching to get into an impeachment of President Trump. That is not good for the country," he said on Fox News.

"As of right now, as you know, there have been lots of contacts with the Russians, but in terms of criminal collusion, meaning that there was actually active discussions between the Trump campaign coordinating activity with the Russians, to my knowledge the answer is no," he continued.

The Democrats take over the House majority in the new year and have threatened to open new investigations into Trump, but Democratic leadership has downplayed the possibility of impeachment proceedings against the president.

Most Democrats, like Van Hollen, suggest they are waiting for the results of Mueller's ongoing investigation before considering such a step and point to recent developments in the probe as evidence Mueller might be closing in on Trump.

As part of Mueller's investigation, Michael Cohen, Trump's former attorney and fixer, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have been increasingly under scrutiny over their contacts with Russians during the campaign.

Mueller revealed Friday that Cohen told prosecutors about a previously unknown 2015 contact with a Russian national, who claimed to be a "trusted person" in the Kremlin offering the campaign "political synergy" and "synergy on a government level." Cohen claimed that person repeatedly suggested a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cohen was also recently charged with making false statements to Congress about his contacts with Russians surrounding a possible Trump Tower Moscow project. Cohen allegedly kept Trump abreast of the conversations and the talks allegedly lasted longer into 2016 than previously known.

Cohen was also sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for campaign finance violations in which he has implicated the president.

Mueller also revealed in a separate filing Friday that Manafort lied to prosecutors about his recent contacts with the White House and an associate with suspected ties to Russian intelligence. The revelation provided details surrounding prosecutors' accusation that the former campaign chairman lied "to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel's office on a variety of subject matters," in breach of his plea agreement.

Mueller said in the filing that after signing a plea agreement, Manafort stated he had no direct or indirect communications with anyone in the administration. However, evidence shows that Manafort authorized a person to speak on his behalf and "had been in communication with a senior administration official" up through February 2018.

Mueller also claimed that Manafort misled prosecutors about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who ran the offshoot of Manafort's firm in Ukraine and is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence.


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