'Extremely disturbing' if Donald Trump considering Russia pardons: Top Democrat on US Senate intelligence committee

US Senator Mark Warner, who is part of the Senate intelligence committee, delivers his opening statement at the start of a hearing on June 28, 2017, in Washington, DC.
US Senator Mark Warner, who is part of the Senate intelligence committee, delivers his opening statement at the start of a hearing on June 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The highest-ranking Democrat on the US Senate intelligence committee said it was "extremely disturbing" if United States President Donald Trump was contemplating a pardon for aides that could be implicated in a probe on Russian meddling in last year's presidential election.

Senator Mark Warner was referring to a Washington Post article late Thursday (July 20) saying that Mr Trump was consulting with advisers "about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself" in connection to the probe led by special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump's lawyers were attempting to "corral the probe" and were compiling a list of Mr Mueller's alleged potential conflicts of interest in order to "stymie his work", according to the Post, which quoted anonymous sources for the article.

In a statement, Mr Warner said that Russia's interference in the 2016 elections "was an attack on our democracy. Both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Special Counsel Mueller are currently investigating whether any coordination occurred between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign".

"The possibility that the President is considering pardons at this early stage in these ongoing investigations is extremely disturbing," said Mr Warner, the senior senator from Virginia and vice-chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Pardoning any individuals who may have been involved would be crossing a fundamental line."

 
 

The White House has yet to comment on the Post report.

However, in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr Trump warned Mr Mueller that some of his family finances should be off-limits to the ex-FBI director's wide-ranging investigation.

Asked if Mr Mueller looking at finances unrelated to Russia would be a red line, Mr Trump responded: "I would say yes."

US intelligence agencies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving an influence campaign to sway the November 2016 vote in Mr Trump's favour, allegations rejected by the Kremlin.

The Trump administration is currently under investigation by both Congress and the FBI over his presidential campaign's possible ties to Russia.

The controversy grew after Mr Trump's eldest son Donald Jr released e-mails in mid-July showing he held a meeting during the campaign with Kremlin-connected figures, hoping to get dirt on his father's election rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.