The Los Angeles Times is reporting the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee “sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Stephen K. Bannon, a former Trump confidant, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
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The previously unpublicized letter, which was signed by then-Intel Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), was sent last July and also cited concerns about the testimony provided by the president’s family and associates, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, as having been contradicted by the sworn testimony that a former deputy campaign chairman gave to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Although the letter was sent to Deborah Curtis, a top prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, it does not appear as if the Justice Department has taken any action on account of the assumedly criminal referral.
“As you are aware, the Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the Intel Committee letter states. “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.”
In addition to Steve Bannon, the letter also names Sam Clovis, a co-chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the current acting chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee since Senator Burr stepped down temporarily while accusations of his COVID-19-related insider trading are investigated, refused to comment on the leak of the previously unknown criminal referral.
“The Committee will not discuss referrals,” said a spokesman for Rubio. “And those who in order to score cheap political points are speculating on or claim to know the identities of those referred are committing a grotesque injustice.”
While Senator Warner also refused to comment on the leak, The Los Angeles Times has seen the letter and disclosed that it indicates that the committee believes that “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.”
Bannon, Prince, Gerson, and Dmitriev were all alleged to have been involved with a secretive meeting in the Seychelles before Trump’s inauguration.
Prince is also alleged to have lied about his relationship and interactions with Dmitriev, and both his and Bannon’s accounts of the Seychelles meetings apparently contained details not in alignment with each other’s story with Prince claiming that he updated Bannon on his conversations after returning to the U.S., while Bannon swore that no such update ever took place.
Someone is clearly either lying or failing to recollect the circumstances properly.
For his part, Sam Clovis was mentioned in the letter 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.
The questions about the testimony of Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, and Hicks are all related to discrepancies in their sworn declarations regarding the infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June of 2016.
Apparently, the dates that they gave as to when they were first aware of the meeting conflicted with the information provided to the committee by Manafort associate Rick Gates. In addition, they each denied to the committee knowing about the content of the meeting in advance despite the fact that Gates testified that Don Jr. had announced at a “regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation,” according to The Los Angeles Times account.
With both former Trump Organization attorney Michale Cohen and the president’s political dirty trickster Roger Stone each having been convicted of lying in their testimony to Congress about the Trump campaign, the new allegations are not very surprising.
Nor is any lack of action on the criminal referrals by the Justice Department now led by the Trump-protecting crony Attorney General William Barr out of character with his reflex dismissal of anything that reflects negatively on his boss, Donald Trump.
What is astonishing is that a Republican-controlled Senate committee could make a criminal referral for so many of the president’s family and close associates and that it hasn’t leaked until over a year after it was initially sent.
Now that the letter is out in the open, the public must demand action on the referrals immediately.
Or perhaps the GOP would rather wait until an Attorney General appointed by our next president digs into the backlog of corruption cases and goes after the defeated Trump’s criminal enterprise?
We’ve waited this long for action, what’s another six months at this point?
DEL QUENTIN WILBER, CHRIS MEGERIAN, SARAH D. WIRE, JENNIFER HABERKORN
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