Remember Jill Stein? The Green Party candidate who garnered only 1 percent of the vote in the presidential election may have left the public spotlight, but it looks like Congress hasn’t forgotten about her.
The congressional probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election took a strange turn on Thursday, when the far-left campaign team sent a surprisingly stubborn message to the Senate committee conducting the investigation.
“The Jill Stein campaign is refusing to comply fully with a Senate intelligence committee request for documents and other correspondence, made as part of the committee’s probe into Russian activities in the 2016 election,” reported The Intercept.
That committee is looking beyond the much-touted but unproven claims that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and is investigating the broader, much more plausible possibility that the former Soviet nation tried to undermine the overall election process.
“The Green Party campaign will agree to turn over some documents, but raised constitutional objections to the breadth of the inquiry, which was first made in November 2017, arguing that elements of it infringe on basic political rights enshrined in the First Amendment,” continued The Intercept.
A letter from Stein’s campaign committee addressed to Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, one a Republican and one a Democrat, scoffed at the request as “so overbroad in reach as to demand constitutionally protected materials.”
The evidence that Stein’s team is refusing to provide is particularly interesting.
According to The Intercept, Congress requested the “campaign’s policy discussions regarding Russia” around the time of the election. Stein has refused to comply, raising serious questions about what she may be trying to hide.
While much ink has been spilled trying to link Donald Trump to Russia, it looks like Jill Stein might be the one with some explaining to do.
“Stein, who was also the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, traveled to Russia in 2015 and attended a dinner marking the 10th anniversary of the Russian-backed news service RT,” explained The Intercept. “Russian President Vladmir Putin made an appearance at the event.”
That was the same dinner attended by now-outed White House insider Michael Flynn. His appearance at a dinner with Putin raised many eyebrows, but Stein’s presence received much less attention.
The Green Party candidate has previously downplayed that Russia trip, and insisted that she didn’t even talk with Kremlin officials, let alone Putin.
“There were no introductions, no conversations,” she said in December, according to The Hill.
“Russians spoke Russian, I spoke to the only person in earshot who spoke English, who was a German diplomat that was sitting to my right,” Stein continued. “So it was really quite a non-event.”
On the one hand, it’s possible that Jill Stein and her campaign genuinely object to what they see as overreach by the bipartisan congressional investigation. To a certain extent, she has a point: The request for internal and private foreign policy discussions from her team may be a bridge too far, and set a dangerous precedent for the future.
On the other hand, it seems to be a very bizarre request to deny. The obvious question is this: Why not simply provide information about the campaign’s Russian policy discussions? What could possibly be incriminating or revealing about that?
Presumably, the bipartisan Senate committee had good reason to ask for this information. It’s possible and even likely that there is a trail of questions that led them to make this request, and that makes Stein’s refusal all the more puzzling.
Third-party candidates have been used in the past to “take” votes from mainstream candidates and influence the results of a close race. Whether or not there was any sort of plan to use similar tactics in the 2016 election is an open question, but one that is definitely of interest to the American people.
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