Senate Russia probe looking into 2016 candidate Jill Stein
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate intelligence committee has asked for documents from Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, adding another new thread to the panel’s investigation as it heads into next year.
Stein said Tuesday that she was cooperating with the probe and providing documents to the committee. She has captured the interest of investigators partly because she attended a 2015 dinner in Moscow sponsored by Russian television network RT with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, R-N.C., appeared to confirm the investigation’s new focus on Stein on Monday. Asked what the committee wanted to know about from Stein’s campaign, Burr responded: “Collusion with the Russians.”
The request to Stein is more evidence that the Senate panel will still have much work to do in 2018. While the investigation has largely focused on both the Russian interference and whether it was in any way connected to President Donald Trump’s Republican campaign, investigators are following multiple leads.
Burr was coy about other campaigns the panel may be looking into. On Monday, he told reporters that the committee has “two other campaigns that we’re just starting on,” one of which he indicated was Stein’s. He would not answer questions from reporters Tuesday about what the other campaign is but hinted that it was Democrat Hillary Clinton’s by ruling out other candidates.
The panel has already interviewed several Clinton campaign officials and has been investigating a dossier of allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund that political research. It’s unclear if Burr was referring to a new phase of the investigation or work they have already done.
The top Democrat on the panel, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, would not say whom the panel is investigating but noted on Tuesday that Stein was at the “infamous dinner” with Putin. Michael Flynn, who later became Trump’s national security adviser, also attended the 2015 dinner. Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Russian meddling and has pleaded guilty to a count of making false statements to FBI agents.
Warner also said Stein had said complimentary things about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who Warner said “clearly was being used by the Russians to take some of the hacked information and release into our political system.”
WikiLeaks released stolen emails from several Democratic officials during the campaign. Assange denies receiving the material from Russia.
Stein ran against Trump and Clinton and received about 1 percent of the vote. She said in the statement Tuesday the documents show she “made the trip with the goal of reaching an international audience and Russian officials with a message of Middle East peace, diplomacy and cooperation against the urgent threat of climate change, consistent with long-standing Green principles and policies.”
As the Senate investigation seems far from finished, the House Intelligence Committee is working to wrap up its own probe into the meddling early next year. Investigators are talking to people this week in hopes that they will finish most of their interviews before January. A final report — or two final reports, if Democrats decide to write their own — could come in early 2018.
One of this week’s witnesses is Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who talked to House investigators Tuesday as Republicans have charged political bias among the ranks of the FBI. They have focused on hundreds of text messages between an FBI counterintelligence agent and an FBI lawyer that show the officials using words like “idiot” and “loathsome human” to characterize Trump as he was running for president.
Peter Strzok, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, was removed from Mueller’s team over the summer following the discovery of the text messages exchanged with Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who was also detailed to the group of agents and prosecutors investigating potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s Republican campaign.
The messages were reviewed by The Associated Press.