Newly reported letter shows GOP-led Senate tried to drag Steve Bannon into Russian collusion probe

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Last year the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly tried to convince federal authorities to launch an investigation into three of President Donald Trump’s associates, including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

This happened under the auspices of then-committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, an ostensible Republican who’s been described as being “useless,” though the evidence now suggests he was plenty useful to Democrats.

On July 19, 2019, Burr’s committee submitted a letter to the Justice Department “asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidante, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The letter was sent after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his collusion probe and revealed that he hadn’t found enough evidence to substantiate the conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump had cheated in the 2016 race by colluding with Russia.

The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times, was signed by the panel’s then-chairman, Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner,” the Times confirmed Friday after reviewing the letter for itself.

The Times has not released the letter publicly, but it has shared some telling quotes from it.

“As you are aware, the Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As part of that inquiry, and as a result of witness interviews and document production, we now have reason to believe that the following individuals may have committed a criminal act,” the letter reportedly reads.

The letter then reportedly names Bannon and “and two other men — Erik Prince, a private security contractor, and Sam Clovis, who served as co-chairman of Trump’s campaign” — and then recommends all three be investigated for process crimes similar to the one that had landed former Trump 2016 campaign official Roger Stone in prison until the president commuted his sentence in July.

“According to the letter, the committee believed Bannon may have lied about his interactions with Erik Prince, a private security contractor; Rick Gerson, a hedge fund manager; and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign fund. All were involved in closely scrutinized meetings in the Seychelles before Trump’s inauguration,” the Times reported.

“The committee also believed Prince, best known as the founder of the former mercenary company Blackwater and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may have lied about his interactions with Dmitriev. … The committee also asked the Justice Department to investigate Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman of the Trump campaign, for possibly lying about his interactions with Peter W. Smith, a Republican donor who led a secret effort to obtain former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.”

But some have argued that any alleged lies that were told during the investigation should be dismissed given emerging evidence that the investigation itself was illegitimate.

In fact, on the same day that the report about the Senate’s troubling activities emerged, so did confirmation that U.S. Attorney John Durham, who’s been probing the Russia investigation at the behest of Attorney General Bill Barr, had scored his first scalp:

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith reportedly agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement while seeking a warrant for one of several 2016 Trump campaign officials who were spied upon during the Russia investigation.

If Clinesmith lied, then how many other investigators and officials associated with the original Russia probe also lied? Furthermore, why did Burr’s committee never submit a letter begging the federal authorities to investigate them?

Instead, the ostensibly Republican congressman seemed hellbent on relitigating the Russia investigation and the conspiracy theories linked to it.

For instance, while the bombshell regarding Bannon is new news, it was already known that in May of 2019, two months before the Bannon letter was sent, Burr signed off on a subpoena for the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

“The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators in relation to the Russia investigation,” Axios reported at the time.

The startling bombshell provoked outrage from Burr’s colleagues — outrage that’s likely to bubble up again once word about the Bannon letter goes viral (as of Saturday morning, it was still just beginning to percolate on social media).

See that outrage regarding Trump Jr.’s subpoena below:

The good news for conservatives is that Burr stepped down as chair in May. The bad news is that Sen. Marco Rubio replaced him, and well, his record on holding the actual perpetrators accountable isn’t so great either.

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Vivek Saxena

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