- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Thursday evening Fox News reported that Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) had multiple text message exchanges with a Clinton-linked lobbyist with ties to a Russian oligarch. 

“We have so much to discuss u need to be careful but we can help our country,” Warner texted the lobbyist, Adam Waldman, last March.

“I’m in,” Waldman, whose firm has ties to Hillary Clinton, texted back to Warner.

Waldman was hired on a $40,000 per month retainer to lobby on behalf of Oleg V. Deripaska, a businessman with alleged ties to the Russian mafia. Waldman, according to Ed Henry’s exclusive report, was somehow Warner’s gateway to Christopher Steele, the former British agent responsible for assembling the salacious and unverified Russian dossier that was paid for by the Clinton presidential campaign and appears to have been used to obtain FISA search warrants against Carter Page. 

Secrecy seemed very important to Warner as the conversation with Waldman heated up March 29, when the lobbyist revealed that Steele wanted a bipartisan letter from Warner and the committee’s chairman, North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, inviting him to talk to the Senate intelligence panel.

Throughout the text exchanges, Warner seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop — at least initially. In one text to the lobbyist, Warner wrote that he would “rather not have a paper trail” of his messages.

On the face of it, the report is damning and explosive. Warner’s text messages to a highly paid lobbyist with connections to Clinton, an alleged Russian mobster and Steele show the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee purposely going behind the back of his fellow senators to avoid a “paper trail” in his efforts to contact Steele. He even goes so far as to offer to travel to London to meet the author of the dossier, a political opposition research paper at the center of allegations against the Trump campaign. 

Almost immediately after the report, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida threw Warner a lifeline on Twitter: 

Indeed, Rubio’s tweet was immediately picked up by left-leaning news outlets like HuffPo highlighting not the damning report, but Rubio’s defense. Marco Rubio Defends Democratic Colleague Over Misleading Fox News Reportreads the write-up at the liberal website. 

But, Rubio’s “defense” of Warner is, in every significant way, meaningless. 

Let’s break it down: “Sen.Warner fully disclosed this to the committee four months ago.”  Yes. We know that. How do we know that? Because the original Fox News reported that fact. 

Warner’s text messages were quietly given to the intelligence committee after he and Burr signed a joint request for the messages last June. Warner and Burr privately informed the rest of the Democratic and Republican senators on the panel of Warner’s text messages in a meeting last October.

Rubio suggests in his tweet that the original report had not contained this information at that Warner’s lack of disclosure to other members on the committee was in some way the crux of the story when it was not. Now, people who had not even read the original report (like most people on Twitter and quite possibly the reporter at HuffPo) felt like they had some kind of “gotcha” revelation against Henry and his report. They did not. 

Furthermore, on the face of it, Warner’s disclosure to his fellow senators may have happened “months ago” but it was several months after the text messages were sent. Warner was texting with Waldman in March but didn’t disclose the contacts until October.

Which brings us to the second part of Rubio’s defense: “Has had zero impact on our work.” 

So what? Rubio is defending against an allegation that no one ever actually made. In Henry’s initial report and in the reaction to the report, not one person has made the claim that Warner’s contacts somehow impeded the work of the Intelligence Committee. No one cares if it has had an impact on the committee’s work. No one thinks Warner was trying to impact the committee’s work. 

It is a complete non-sequitur. 

Why did it take Warner five months to turn these text messages over to the committee? 

Why did it take an additional four months for the American people to learn about these contacts and while we are at it, why didn’t Rubio and the committee disclose them?

Why did it take a leak to a reporter for us to learn about them?

Why did Warner try to contact Steele directly (through a high-paid lobbyist with ties to Clinton and Russia) while an FBI investigation was already underway and just weeks before a special counsel was named to investigate the matter? 

Was Warner, like his counterpart in the House of Representatives Adam Schiff, eager to get dirt on President Trump?

Why was he willing to fly across the Atlantic to secure information from Steele, a man the FBI deemed an unreliable source and is now the subject of a criminal referral from the Senate Judiciary Committee? 

Rubio’s “defense” doesn’t answer any of these relevant and legitimate questions. It only accomplishes one thing: It provides a fig leaf to reporters giving them an excuse for not pursuing the story or asking these and many other questions associated with the report. 

 


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