GOP senators attempted to dodge questions on the indictment of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort and Manafort’s business associate, Rick Gates, during a press conference Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opted to leave the press conference, which was supposed to be focused on judicial nominees, ahead of a Q&A session with reporters. Shortly after lawmakers started to take questions, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley nearly knocked over an American flag while trying to escape out the back door.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters questions about the investigation should be directed toward the Department of Justice (DOJ), arguing the probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election fall under the agency’s jurisdiction.
“That really isn’t our job, it’s not our wheelhouse,” he told reporters. “The special counsel was appointed by the Department of Justice, and that is the person you need to be asking the questions, that’s not our responsibility.”
The Texas Republican went on to say the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee will also continue their respective investigations.
The indictment follows a federal grand jury approving the first criminal charges from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the independent probe into potential collusion. Authorities charged Manafort and Gates on 12 counts, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States, and knowingly making false and misleading statements.
Both Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty on all counts and are currently being held under house arrest with their bonds set at $10 million and $5 million respectively.
Two bipartisan bills aimed at preventing the president from removing Mueller from the investigation have been introduced in the Senate. Cornyn told reporters he “doesn’t think the legislation is necessary at this point” after exiting the press conference.
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