It is just the latest development in the ever-evolving saga about alleged Russian tampering in the 2016 presidential election. CNN has compiled a list of the growing and diverse cast characters at the start of a critical week of hearings for Senate investigators looking into Russia’s actions and its possible ties to Trump associates.
Several US lawmakers and agency heads have emerged as visible, and at times controversial, figures in the investigations into connections between individuals in Trump’s orbit and Russian hacking of Democratic Party groups including the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign adviser John Podesta.
Rogers played a key role in last week’s House hearing with Comey when he joined the FBI director in refuting Trump’s claim that Obama had had his phones tapped during the campaign. He in particular batted down the notion that the Obama administration requested that the British eavesdrop on Trump, an unfounded assertion made on Fox News cited by the Trump White House.
Sally Yates — A holdover from the Obama administration, the most memorable moment of Yates’ short tenure as acting Attorney General may have been her firing in the early days of the Trump administration after she refused to implement the President’s orders barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Members of Congress
Nunes particularly provoked Democrats after he disclosed evidence to the press and White House — before informing Democrats on his committee — that the Trump team’s communications may have been picked up in “incidental” collections by US surveillance of conversations with foreign nationals who were being lawfully monitored. That was seen as a move to bolster Trump’s claims of having been wiretapped. The news Monday that Nunes met his source on White House grounds the day before he briefed Trump sparked the latest round of partisan fighting and has left investigators unable to continue right now. Now, Nunes is facing calls to step down as chairman amid questions as to whether he can conduct an impartial investigation. He told CNN Tuesday morning, however, that he was “moving forward” with the investigation.
Adam Schiff — The Democratic “yin” to Nunes’ Republican “yang,” Schiff is his party’s most senior member on the House Intelligence Committee and has been one of the most visible lawmakers on the Russia investigation. Though the committee has historically been one of the more discreet on Capitol Hill, Schiff hasn’t held back his criticism of Trump or, increasingly, the committee chairman. On Monday, Schiff called on Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation in a stunning split between the two top investigators of a committee with a reputation for bipartisanship. Schiff has repeatedly maintained he’s seen additional evidence that is more than circumstantial proof of collusion between Trump aides and Russian entities.
Cummings has also gone beyond calls for Nunes to recuse himself, suggesting he be investigated after his comments disclosing the surveillance that may have picked up conversation of Trump associates. And he has also sharply denounced Flynn, brandishing emails that show the former national security adviser was paid by Russian entities for a trip there during the campaign, raising legal and regulatory questions.
Richard Burr — The North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee is leading a separate investigation into Russian efforts to tamper with the US election. So far it has been a low-key process, as he’s stayed out of the limelight while interviewing witnesses in private. Some of that will change Thursday, when the Senate Intelligence Committee hosts its first public hearing for its Russia investigation.
Investigations by the FBI and congressional committees have included several aides to the Trump campaign and their communication with key foreign entities and, in some cases, Russian operatives. Others have cropped up in headlines because of their dealings with the longtime US adversary. Several of these individuals have volunteered to testify before House and Senate Intelligence Committees in recent days to clear up questions about their actions and associations.
His reputation for outspokenness and criticizing Washington figures led to raised eyebrows inside the Beltway when Trump tapped him as national security adviser. His tenure in any case didn’t last long, as he resigned after acknowledging that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. He had initially denied that they had discussed sanctions recently imposed by the Obama administration. It is illegal for unauthorized private citizens to negotiate with foreign governments on behalf of the US, though the FBI has said that it has no intention of bringing charges against Flynn. At the time, Flynn did not hold a public office in the US government which technically qualifies him as a private citizen
His financial ties with Russia and other foreign countries have also attracted attention, including the emails obtained by Cummings showing that he was paid by a state-run Russian TV outlet from which he had originally denied receiving funds.
Jared Kushner — The 36-year-old businessman-turned-political operative played a crucial role in his father-in-law’s presidential campaign and has carved out a role for himself as one of Trump’s key White House aides. After amassing billions of dollars in properties over his decade in the New York real estate market, he now finds himself frequently assisting the President in matters of foreign policy.
Kushner has volunteered to testify before senators because of his role in arranging meetings between top campaign advisers and Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
Carter Page — Page worked for seven years as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch, which his biography said took him to London, New York and Moscow for three years in the mid-2000s, before Trump last year listed him as a foreign policy adviser in response to a question from The Washington Post.
Page has regularly espoused views at odds with much of the foreign policy community in Washington, in particular questioning the US approach toward Russia and called for warmer relations between the two countries.
J.D. Gordon — A former Pentagon spokesman under Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, Gordon contributed to a variety of media outlets before working as a national security adviser to the Trump campaign.
Stone repeatedly claimed throughout the final months of the 2016 campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew of the group’s forthcoming document dumps, which disseminated the materials hacked from the Democrats. Later, Stone walked back those tweets. His attorney told CNN on Friday that he is willing to speak to the House Intelligence Committee — preferably in public — but maintains he has done nothing wrong. Wikileaks also denies any connection with Stone.
Kislyak has also held several meetings — or at least photo-ops — with Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who has joined the calls for Nunes to recuse himself) claimed to have never met with Kislyak, but a photo surfaced showing the two individuals in the same room. Current and former US intelligence officials TELL CNN that Kislyak is a top spy and recruiter of spies, an accusation that Russian officials have dismissed.
Julian Assange — The founder of Wikileaks, the self-styled “radical transparency” organization with the stated goal of exposing the secrets of the powerful, Assange has cast a wide, blurry shadow over the center of US politics from his seclusion in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remains holed up to avoid facing sexual assault charges in Sweden and a potential extradition to the United States.
Roger Stone has been forced to defend contacts with the online persona via Twitter. While Stone said his messages to the hacker alias are of no consequence, he is the first person in Trump’s orbit to have acknowledged any contact with a hacker — not to mention one that claimed responsibility for hacking the DNC.
The FBI obtained a version of Steele’s dossier last summer and investigators compared it to some of their own work related to Russia’s attempts to influence the US election.
His file contained claims that Russian operatives had compromising personal and financial information about Trump. Trump has consistently denied the claims, dismissing them as “phony” in January, though Schiff and others drew on some of them in the Comey-Rogers hearing last week. US investigators said they have corroborated some of the communications in the dossier, but CNN has not been able to verify many of the specific allegations in the documents.
CNN’s Dylan Byers, Marshall Cohen, Thomas Frank, Jeremy Diamond, Barbara Starr, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Gloria Borger and Manu Raju contributed to this report.