Donald Trump

Manafort Volunteers to Give House Intel Committee Interview

It wasn't yet clear if the interview with Trump's former campaign chairman would be public or private.

Paul Manafort, a former chairman of President Donald Trump's campaign, has volunteered to come to the House Intelligence Committee for an interview, the committee's chairman said Friday. 

Manafort was Trump's unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, during the critical run-up to the Republican National Convention. He's been a leading focus of the U.S. investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to recent Associated Press reports. 

The AP reported this week that Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago. Manafort did not dispute working for Oleg Deripaska but said he had represented him only in personal and business matters. He called the focus on him a "smear campaign," and said he was ready to defend his work if investigators wish to learn more about it.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced that an attorney for Manafort contacted the the committee Thursday to offer the interview. 

He said it wasn't yet clear if the interview would be public or private. 

Manafort also offered to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a part of their separate investigation, a Senate aide confirmed to NBC News on Friday.

Nunes said he would "encourage others" to speak voluntarily to the committee. 

He also said that FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Michael Rogers would appear before the committee in a closed session, postponing an appearance by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Chief John Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to make room for them.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., took issue with canceling the hearing, as he put it on Twitter.

He said it is "an attempt to choke off public info," and later told reporters, "Some of this should be done, needs to be done, in the public eye, so we strongly object to the cancellation of this hearing."

Nunes said he still encouraged Clapper, Brennan and Yates to come forward.

"Events of this week are not encouraging," Schiff told reporters, adding that members on the committee on both sides of the aisle are "essentially in the dark" over what Nunes told Trump in an abruptly called meeting this week about intelligence at the White House.

Schiff is seeking an independent commission that should look into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the participants in the meeting Rep. Nunes postponed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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