Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., communicated extensively with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch in an effort to set up a private meeting with Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele.
Warner is the top Democrat on the committee, which is conducting an investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia.
“Wow! -Senator Mark Warner got caught having extensive contact with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch. Warner did not want a “paper trail” on a “private” meeting (in London) he requested with Steele of fraudulent Dossier fame. All tied into Crooked Hillary,” President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday night.
The president’s tweet is based on a Fox News story, which included texts between Warner and lobbyist Adam Waldman in the spring of 2017.
“We have so much to discuss u need to be careful but we can help our country,” Warner texted Waldman on March 22, 2017.
“I’m in,” Waldman, who has represented Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska and whose firm has ties to Hillary Clinton, texted back to Warner.
A conversation regarding the Virginia senator meeting with Steele had begun a few days earlier, with the objective of having the former British spy testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Waldman texted on March 16, “Chris Steele asked me to call you.”
Warner responded, “Will call tomorrow be careful.”
The senator texted a few days later, “Can you talk tomorrow want to get with ur English friend.”
Warner communicated later that month that he would like to meet Steele in England, in private, rather than in the U.S.
“We want to do this right private in London don’t want to send letter yet (to Steele inviting him to testify) cuz if we can’t get agreement wud rather not have paper trail.”
An aide to Warner confirmed the text messages are authentic, but said the senator disclosed the contacts to the committee.
The aide acknowledged that Warner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., revealed Warner’s texts to their colleagues on the panel because “they realized out of context it doesn’t look great.”
An aide to Burr said the chairman was aware of the “contact,” but not the texts initially.
Fox News reported that the senators released a joint statement stressing they are working together while blasting the “leaks of incomplete information.”
Fellow intelligence committee member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., came to Warner’s defense on Friday, saying the committee has known about the texts for months
Warner thanked Burr and Rubio in a tweet.
Last month, Warner chided Trump, when unverified reports surfaced of the president desiring to fire Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller.
“These are not the actions of an individual who doesn’t have something to hide,” Warner told CNN. “The President keeps saying, ‘There’s no there, there.’ Well, if there’s no there, there, let these investigations, including our bipartisan Senate intelligence investigation, finish our job.”
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