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The Latest: White House says it didn't stop Yates' testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on an investigation into purported ties between Trump associates and Russia (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

The White House says it has "no problem" with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testifying before a House committee investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Spokesman Sean Spicer says the White House did not try to block Yates' testimony. He pointed to a March 24 letter from Yates' attorney, in which the attorney says that if the White House does not respond by a deadline, Yates will consider that to mean that the White House is not trying to invoke executive privilege, which would limit what she could disclose.

Spicer says the White House did not respond to the letter. He says the White House has "no problem with her testifying, plain and simple."

This week's hearing at which Yates was expected to testify has been canceled.

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11:50 a.m.

A lawyer for former deputy attorney general Sally Yates says in letters last week that the Trump administration had moved to squelch her testimony in a hearing about Russian meddling in the presidential election.

In the letters, attorney David O'Neil said he understood the Justice Department was invoking "further constraints" on testimony she could provide at a House intelligence committee hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday. He said the department's position was that all actions she took as deputy attorney general were "client confidences" that could not be disclosed without written approval.

The Washington Post first reported the letters. A person familiar with the situation confirmed them as authentic to The Associated Press.

The White House called the Post story "entirely false."

—By Eric Tucker

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11:17 a.m.

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee is asking whether an open congressional hearing on the Russia probe was canceled because the White House did not want former acting Attorney General Sally Yates to testify and assert executive privilege.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California says Yates was poised to testify Tuesday about the events leading up to the firing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, including his attempts to cover up conversations he had with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

Schiff says Yates had sought permission to testify from the White House. Schiff says he hopes the hearing can be rescheduled without delay.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan also were to testify.

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11:10 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is expressing confidence in the chairman of the House intelligence committee, saying he should continue to lead the panel's probe into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump's associates.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is facing increasing pressure from Democrats to step away because he's seen as being too close to the White House, especially after he went to the White House grounds to review secret reports.

Ryan said at a press conference Tuesday that there is no need for Nunes to resign or step aside from probe.

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10:40 a.m.

The chairman of the House intelligence committee investigating Russian activities during the presidential election says he's not going to step down.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., asked reporters, "Why would I?" when they asked whether he was stepping down in response to growing calls from some lawmakers. He dismissed those comments as "a lot of politics."

Nunes is facing increasing pressure from Democrats to step away because he's seen as being too close to the White House, especially after he went to the White House grounds to review secret reports.

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9:45 a.m.

Sen. John McCain says House intelligence chairman Rep. Devin Nunes must explain why he went to the White House alone to review intelligence critical to a bipartisan congressional investigation on Russia.

McCain tells CBS "This Morning": "I've been around for quite a while, and I've never heard of any such thing."

A spokesman for Nunes has said the congressman went to the White House because the classified documents still belonged to the executive branch and couldn't be moved. Democrats say they should have been invited and briefed on the same specifics.

McCain, an Arizona conservative and critic of President Donald Trump, said Nunes must divulge the identity of the source to rule out political influence. He said: "Something's got to change, otherwise the whole effort in the House of Representatives will lose credibility."

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8:05 a.m.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House intelligence committee, is calling on Chairman Devin Nunes to step down from the panel.

Speier had already said Nunes should recuse himself from the panel's Russia investigation. On Tuesday, she told CNN that Nunes should go farther.

She said: "I'm asking for him to step down in the interest of our integrity."

Nunes has acknowledged reviewing information on the White House grounds a day before he told reporters that Trump and his associates may have been caught up in "incidental" federal monitoring of foreign targets.

Speier said that Nunes' actions raise questions about whether the House committee's investigation can be unbiased and independent.

"If you become a White House whisperer, you are not independent," she said.

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7:50 a.m.

A Republican senator says the House intelligence chairman has "put his objectivity in question" when it comes to investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina conservative, stopped short of saying whether Rep. Devin Nunes should recuse himself from the probe. But Graham tells the NBC "Today Show" that "most Americans want to know, who did he meet with and what did he see?"

Nunes has claimed there is evidence of incidental federal surveillance of Trump associates during the campaign. But he hasn't said where he got the information other to acknowledge he was briefed on the details at the White House, raising questions about politically motivations.

Graham said: "I think he put his objectivity in question at the very least."

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7:23 a.m.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has criticized Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election, calling it a hostile act.

Cheney said Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a serious attempt to interfere in the 2016 election and other democratic processes in America.

In a speech at a speaker's conference in New Delhi, Cheney said, "In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war."

Cheney's accusation Tuesday came at a time when both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees are investigating possible Russian interference in the election that brought President Donald Trump to power.

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6:55 a.m.

The Kremlin says a meeting between President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and representatives from a Russian state-owned bank was a routine encounter.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters in Moscow: "It was ordinary business." Peskov says the Kremlin was not aware of the meeting with Kushner before it took place.

Vnesheconombank, or VEB, (v-NESH'-ay-CON'-ohm-bank) said in a statement Monday that it met with Kushner last year as part of a series of discussions with representatives of leading financial institutions in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Kushner has agreed to speak to the U.S. Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump associates and senior Russian officials.

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3:40 a.m.

House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes acknowledges he went to the White House grounds to review intelligence reports and meet the secret source behind his claim that communications involving associates of President Donald Trump were caught up in "incidental" surveillance.

The Republican congressman's revelation Monday prompted the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, as well as the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, to call on Nunes to recuse himself from the committee's Russia probe.

Schiff said Nunes' connections to the White House have raised insurmountable public doubts about whether the committee could credibly investigate the president's campaign associates.

Mar. 28, 2017 1:25 PM EDT

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