Trump, Jr., Kushner Russian connections questioned

Facebook came forward earlier this week and reported that a Russian troll farm had bought ads on Facebook, some of them targeted to specific regions to sow disinformation and influence voters, which certainly piqued lawmakers' interests, but if the social media company and others like it aren't forthcoming in handing over information and records to those probing possible Russian collusion, they will could face subpoenas.  

“To the extent that Facebook and other social media companies don't voluntarily cooperate, I would expect subpoenas to be issued and other legal avenues to be pursued," McClatchey News cited Jennifer Rodgers, head of the Columbia University law school's Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity and a former assistant U.S. attorney, as saying.

Calling the Facebook disclosure "the tip of the iceberg," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.), the Senate Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, said he wasn't surprised that “the very social media sites that we rely on for virtually everything – the Facebooks, Googles and Twitters … to intervene in our elections.”

As Facebook's revelations broke, speculation again rose that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner may have played a role in the Russia disinformation campaign.

“'There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia's online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,'” MSNBC's Rachel Maddow read on-air Thursday from a McClatchy News report in July that also said “'investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign's digital operation, overseen by Jared Kushner, helped guide Russia's sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.'”

Kushner is not the only one in the president's inner circle facing scrutiny this week over possible collusion with a Russian government campaign to sway the election in his father's favor. During five hours of questioning behind closed doors, Donald Trump, Jr., Thursday denied colluding with Russians to sway the U.S. presidential election and told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he met with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower to listen to any dirt she might have on Hillary Clinton to determine whether his father's Democratic rival had the “fitness” to be president.

“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” Trump said in his prepared remarks. “Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration.”

The younger Trump has said previously that the meeting amounted to nothing and devolved into a discussion of Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, assertions he repeated Thursday before the committee.

Saying his initial skepticism about taking the meeting was justified, Trump said, “The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented.”

He also said he didn't have real knowledge of a statement drafted on Air Force One in reply to a New York Times request for comments about the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. Reports have contended that President Donald Trump had a hand in crafting the response, something that lawmakers also are probing.

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