House Democrat calls GOP Clinton probe scheme to 'distract' from Russia inquiry

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on a House of Representatives committee accused its Republican leaders of launching a spurious investigation of Hillary Clinton to divert attention from inquiries on alleged links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Tuesday wrote to the panel’s chairman, Trey Gowdy, complaining that Republicans had “rushed to launch” an investigation of a purported scandal involving Clinton and Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating allegations about Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

“With no consultation with Democrats, you and other Republicans rushed to launch your latest investigation of Secretary Clinton and Mr. Mueller directly after President Trump initiated his own Twitter campaign just days earlier to distract from the ongoing Russia investigations,” Cummings wrote.

“This investigation is not - nor will it ever be - about one individual,” Gowdy said in response to a query. “It is about whether or not all pertinent information was known and shared with CFIUS at the time they made their decision and whether the actions of Russia in 2015 and 2016 should cause the U.S. to re-evaluate Russia’s motives in 2010,” he added, referring to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Cummings said Ron DeSantis, the Republican who chairs the oversight committee’s National Security Subcommittee, claimed he interviewed a confidential informant who had helped the FBI uncover a “scheme” to “bribe” then-Secretary of State Clinton to get the interagency committee to approve the sale of a Canadian uranium company to Russia.

However, Clinton did not represent the State Department on the foreign investment committee, which approved the sale. Moreover, the major donor to her husband’s Clinton Foundation had sold his stake in Uranium One more than a year before Clinton became secretary of state and three years before Russia’s Rosatom bought the Canadian firm.

Cummings said five congressional committees, including the House oversight committee, have investigated the deal and have “identified no evidence to substantiate allegations that Secretary Clinton orchestrated, manipulated, or otherwise coerced” the interagency committee to approve the deal.

Several Republican members of Congress and some pro-Trump media organizations have demanded that Mueller resign, apparently because he was FBI director when the sale of the uranium company was approved.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Dan Grebler