(RFE/RL) — A Republican member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said she’s open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump’s tax returns for possible connections to Russia.
Susan Collins in an interview with Maine Public Radio on February 22 also said that many members of the committee, which is leading Congress’ investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, will formally request that ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn testify before the panel.
Collins was asked if the committee would subpoena Trump’s tax records, which he has refused to release, prompting her to break ranks with the Republican president. She responded that she hopes for “voluntary cooperation” but is open to using a subpoena if necessary.
“If it’s necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect we would,” she said. “All of us are determined to get the answers… This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways. That’s what our committee specializes in… We are used to probing in depth in this area.”
Collins noted in the interview that Republicans hold only a one-seat majority on the committee. Her vote on the subpoena matter could prove crucial, as Democrats have been calling on Trump for months to release his tax records.
Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns is a break with longstanding tradition among U.S. presidents. He has said he would be happy to release them after the completion of an Internal Revenue Service audit.
Using a subpoena to get access to the tax returns would be a more aggressive move than Republicans in Congress have been willing to take thus far in their investigations of alleged Russian meddling in the election. House and Senate GOP leaders have thus far shown no interest in taking such a step.
Last week, House Republicans blocked an attempt by Democrats to use an obscure law to obtain the tax returns from the U.S. Treasury. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee had framed the issue as a matter of national security, questioning whether Trump has any investments in Russia.
In saying that the intelligence committee will seek Flynn’s testimony, Collins did not indicate whether his appearance before the committee would be public or behind closed doors.
Flynn was ousted last week following reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about phone conversations he had before taking office discussing Russian sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.
Collins said the committee is in the midst of a “broad investigation” about Russia’s alleged influence in the election and it’s too early to speculate about the results.
FBI Director James Comey on February 17 gave the committee a two-hour briefing on the agency’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling, which started before the November election.
Collins touted the “bipartisan” nature of the committee’s probe and pledged: “We will get to the bottom of this.”