Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters
The top congressional committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has set its sights on the Green Party and its nominee, Jill Stein, according to a former campaign employee.
Dennis Trainor Jr., who worked for the Stein campaign from January to August of 2015, says Stein contacted him on Friday saying the Senate Intelligence Committee had requested that the campaign comply with a document search.
Trainor, who served as the campaign’s communications director and acting manager during that time, told BuzzFeed News that he was informed of the committee’s request because during his time on the campaign, his personal cell phone was “a primary point of contact” for those looking to reach Stein or the campaign. That included producers from RT News, the Russian state-funded media company, who booked Stein for several appearances, Trainor said.
“Then I was told by Jill just to wait for further instructions,” Trainor said, adding that he was told the campaign would contact him in the next week with instructions, presumably from the Senate Intelligence Committee, for executing the document search, including precise search terms. That has not happened yet, Trainor said.
Trainor, who has done on-and-off work for Stein since formally leaving the campaign in 2015, said he is inclined to cooperate with the committee’s request but wants to first seek legal counsel. He said he believes Stein plans to comply as well and post the documents on her own website “in an effort to show complete transparency and kind of wage her own war against [...] what I imagine she thinks is an overblown investigation into collusion.”
Stein did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, declined to comment.
Stein has not previously been a major focus during the Russia investigations on Capitol Hill, but her name has surfaced occasionally. The Senate Judiciary mentioned her in a letter to Donald Trump Jr. in July, requesting copies of “all communications to, from, or copied” to the president’s son that related to Stein and a long list of other, more prominent figures in the investigations.
Trainor said he would be surprised if Stein ever communicated with Trump Jr., who participated in an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors for more than nine hours last Wednesday. “Don Jr. has been incredibly cooperative with the committee,” Burr said Thursday.
Stein’s name has also come up in the context of a 2015 dinner hosted by RT in Moscow. Stein sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn, who served as Donald Trump’s first White House national security adviser until he was ousted just 24 days into the job. Flynn recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting a criminal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Trainor said he expects the Senate Intelligence Committee will want to know more about the Moscow dinner, but that he wasn’t employed by the campaign at that time and therefore wouldn’t have any documents related to the event. Stein has said that unlike Flynn, she was not paid to attend the dinner and paid for her own travel costs.
Trainor said he believes the committee is primarily interested in Stein’s appearances on RT, “vilifying anyone who’s ever appeared on or talked with anyone on the RT network.”
A January assessment from the Intelligence Community on Russian election meddling called RT a “propaganda outlet.” And the Justice Department recently ordered RT to register as an agent of the Russian government.
Trainor, who said he has made appearances on RT himself, contests that characterization. “There’s a lot of smoke around RT and not a lot of fire,” he said. Trainor also believes Intelligence Community assessment refers to his own documentary about Occupy Wall Street, though not by name, in a section about RT’s alleged attempts to “fuel discontent” in the US — something he called a “body blow.” He said the documentary, American Autumn, fits the description of the film cited in the assessment and was airing on RT at the time.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is now entering the homestretch, with its leaders hoping to wrap up interviews with witnesses early in the new year and release a report before the primaries for the 2018 midterm elections begin. (Buzzfeed)