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Manafort Will Not Testify In Open Senate Judiciary Panel Hearing


And now to Capitol Hill, where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort first met privately today with staff of the Senate intelligence committee. The panel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Well, meanwhile, Paul Manafort was on the receiving end of a subpoena from the Senate judiciary committee, which is conducting its own Russia probe. The subpoena was aimed at forcing Manafort to testify in public at a hearing scheduled for tomorrow, but late today the committee dropped it.

NPR's Geoff Bennett joins us now from the Capitol with more on all of this. And, Geoff, why aren't we going to hear from Paul Manafort in public tomorrow?

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: I think because he realizes it's not in his best interest to do that. He wants to avoid what would certainly be a public spectacle. And so the subpoena the Senate judiciary committee originally issued last night forcing Manafort to appear at a scheduled public hearing tomorrow was enough to bring Manafort back to the negotiating table.

Now, prior to this, the judiciary committee had been talking with Manafort's attorney and Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney about the terms under which both of them would sit for a private interview with the committee and then they would also turn over any relevant documents. But before the committee dropped the subpoena against Manafort today, Senate judiciary committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was leaving the door open for the two sides to strike a deal. And here's what he told reporters earlier today.


CHUCK GRASSLEY: We want Manafort to come like we want Trump Jr. to come and other people that we're going to call in. The point is that we're willing to give all sorts of accommodations, but we can't mess around with back-and-forth and playing off one committee against another.

SIEGEL: That's Chairman Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa. What does he mean when he says playing one committee off against another?

BENNETT: It really speaks to the classic Capitol Hill turf war that is playing out among the several congressional committees looking into this Russia issue. I'll say the Senate intelligence committee is seen really as the primary congressional Russia probe, particularly because they were up and running first and have been since the very beginning the least overtly partisan in their approach. And Manafort is really caught in the crosshairs here since he's a central figure in the broader Trump-Russia investigation. He has well-documented ties to Russian businessmen and politicians over the course of his very lengthy lobbying and consulting career.

SIEGEL: Now, Manafort, as we said, met privately with Senate intelligence committee staffers today. He is the second senior Trump campaign associate to do that this week.

BENNETT: That's right, the other being Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser who met yesterday in private with that panel. Today, by the way, he met in a closed session with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee for about three hours. But as for Manafort, we understand he provided the committee - the Senate intelligence committee with contemporaneous notes that he took at that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer that we talked so much about. Kushner says he left that meeting after about 10 minutes. Manafort, we understand, was there for the entire thing, so his notes could be crucial.

SIEGEL: OK. Geoff Bennett covers Congress for NPR. Geoff, thanks.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.