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 partner Rick Gates during a press conference Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opted to leave the press conference that was supposed to be focused on judicial nominees, ahead of a Q&A session with reporters. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley nearly mowed down an American flag while attempting to escape out the back door.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, after attempting to steer questions back to religious liberty and nominees, said questions regarding the investigation should be directed toward the Department of Justice (DOJ) and argued the investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the U.S. election is under the agency’s jurisdiction.
“That really isn’t our job, it’s not our wheelhouse,” Cornyn 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, as well as the DOJ, will continue to carry out the processes on the matter.
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 held — both under house arrest — on a $10 million and $5 million bond, respectively.
Two bipartisan bills have been introduced in the Senate and are aimed at preventing the president from removing Mueller from the investigation. Cornyn told reporters following the press conference Monday he “doesn’t think the legislation is necessary at this point.”
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