Donald Trump was very excited about the Republicans’ “Nunes memo,” though the stunt clearly didn’t work out well. The president was nearly as excited about a GOP report this week that suggested Barack Obama may have intervened in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton probe, before the story was completely discredited.But the guy who championed Birtherism for several years isn’t the type to give up on the search for exciting new conspiracy theories. And so, Trump published this missive last night about Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the Russia scandal:
“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.”
The president – who ostensibly has access to a vast, multi-billion-dollar intelligence apparatus, providing him with almost limitless amounts of vetted information – was apparently relying on something he saw on Fox News.
And that’s a shame, because Trump’s latest bombshell is also a dud. As the HuffPost explained overnight:
Fox’s “exclusive” Thursday report said Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had “extensive contact last year” with lobbyist Adam Waldman to set up a meeting with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote a dossier on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Waldman runs the Endeavor Group, a Washington lobbying firm that worked with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska in 2009 and 2010.
Waldman offered last March to connect Warner with Steele to discuss the infamous dossier. The article states that “secrecy seemed very important to Warner” and that the senator “seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop – at least initially.”
But as the Fox News story eventually acknowledges, Waldman informed the intelligence committee about the messages months ago, and the communication appears to fall in line with Warner’s duties on the intelligence committee.
Indeed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a far-right Republican on the Intelligence Committee, actually defended Warner, a Virginia Democrat, after Fox News ran its report. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairman, also criticized the misguided release of “incomplete information.”
A Bloomberg Politics reporter added on Twitter, “It is not news that Mark Warner personally tried to contact Steele to interview him. Burr said at October press conference he and Warner had *each* personally sought to contact Steele for interviews without success, and hoped he would reconsider…. It’s also not surprising Warner would want to do so quietly. Nearly everything Senate Intel does is behind closed doors. They don’t announce who they are talking to or when. No transcripts. Few public hearings. Etc. Intel considers secrecy in investigation a feature, not a bug.”
All of which suggests Trump’s latest “wow!” tweet was, as is too often the case, deeply foolish.
Over the summer, the president declared, “When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts… Before I make a statement, I need the facts.” More recently, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Trump “believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact.”
Oh, how I wish that were true.
Postscript: It’s worth noting that the anti-Warner story embraced by Fox News and the president comes just two weeks after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reached out to a fake Sean Hannity Twitter account, exploring “channels” for Assange to share anti-Warner information.