Grassley Runs Interference for Trump, Dodges Questions on Russia Probe

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Sen. Chuck Grassley, second from right behind the American flag, ducks out of a press conference Monday to avoid reporters' questions about the Mueller Russia probe.

At a press conference assembled by Republican senators Monday to discuss President Trump’s judiciary nominees, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley became visibly uneasy when reporters’ questions turned to the news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which had just ensnared former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on charges including conspiracy against the United States and resulted in a guilty plea for lying to the FBI by Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous, who has connections to Iowan and Trump national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis.

Flanked by Grassley and other GOP senators, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, refused to address questions about Mueller’s probe as Grassley looked on before ducking out of the press conference before its end in view of the cameras.

RawStory, which posted a C-SPAN clip of Grassley’s awkward exit, described the scene: “As Cornyn declined to comment on Monday’s indictments against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Robert Gates, Grassley began eyeing doors hidden behind a row of American flags. He finally makes a break for it, hitting several flags in his hasty exit.”

Grassley chairs the Senate’s powerful Judiciary Committee, where he’s been at work undermining its own investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Last week, the committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, told Mother Jones that its probe had broken down because of partisanship — and, specifically, Grassley’s continued focus on Hillary Clinton. “Feinstein this summer agreed to allow Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to pursue tangential probes that appeared aimed at appeasing conservatives wary of investigations of a Republican president,” the magazine reported. But that “agreement broke down in recent weeks as Republicans insisted on focusing on inquiries into matters such as the sale of a uranium company to Russians while Clinton was secretary of state, and allegations that the Justice Department soft-pedaled its Clinton probe.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that Feinstein has accused Grassley of slowing down the committee’s investigation and earlier this year declining to issue a subpoena for Manafort’s testimony when it had the chance before FBI agents raided his apartment. Grassley, meanwhile, blames the failure to get testimony from Manafort on Feinstein and said in a statement Monday that “it’s important to let our legal system run its course.”

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.