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GOP senator says she’s open to demanding Trump’s tax returns as part of Russia probe

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on a Maine public radio program that she wants former national security adviser Michael Flynn to testify as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling, and will demand President Trump’s tax returns if necessary. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says she is open to requesting President Trump’s tax returns as part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 elections.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said on a local radio program Wednesday that “many of the members” of the intelligence panel will formally request that ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn testify before the committee.

Flynn has come under scrutiny after revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about the substance of conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period before Trump was installed as president. Intelligence officials said Flynn discussed sanctions that the United States has imposed on Moscow.

Collins did not say whether she expected Flynn to testify openly or behind closed doors to the committee, which conducts much of its business in private. But she did stress that there should “be some public hearings” as part of the process and that the Intelligence Committee should issue a report once its probe is completed.

Collins also added that the committee could ultimately subpoena Trump’s tax returns, after being asked directly about the subject by the program host. Democrats say that Trump’s tax returns would reveal any of his or his companies’ business dealings in Russia.

“If it’s necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect we would,” Collins said. She noted that at this point, she has no idea whether such a demand would be necessary.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s review appears to be kicking into a higher gear, after a nearly two-hour briefing that committee members received from FBI Director James B. Comey on Friday. Collins referred to the briefing as “helpful.”

Over the weekend, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted that the meeting inspired confidence that a bipartisan and thorough investigation of Russia’s election-related activities would take place.

“All of us are determined to get the answers,” Collins said. “In some ways, this is a counterintelligence cooperation — in many ways — and that’s what our committee specializes in.”