The Senate Intelligence Committee sent a bipartisan letter last year to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation into possible lying by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon when he testified about Russian interference in the last presidential election, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
It’s not known what the response was.
The letter, sent July 19, 2019, has not been released publicly but has been seen by the Times. It also raised concerns about testimony by family members and other confidants of President Donald Trump. Their testimony seemed to contradict information provided by former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates to former special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the letter, the Times reported.
“As you are aware, the Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the letter stated, according to the Times. “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 names Bannon, who served as chief executive of the 2016 Trump campaign. It also names private security contractor Erik Prince — brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — and Sam Clovis, who served as co-chair of Trump’s campaign, according to the Times.
The committee believed Bannon may have lied about his interactions with Prince, hedge fund manager Rick Gerson and Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign fund, according to the newspaper’s account of the letter.
All were linked to meetings that took place in Seychelles before Trump’s inauguration.
Investigators suspected that the men may have been working to arrange back-channel communications between the Trump administration and Moscow, the Times reported. Bannon and Prince have told conflicting stories about the Seychelles meeting.
Bannon’s lawyer William Burck told the Times he never heard from the U.S. attorney’s office about his client. Prince’s lawyer dismissed the report.
Before Trump’s inauguration, Prince, the founder of the controversial military contractor Blackwater, said he met Dmitriev by chance on Seychelles and ended up talking with the financier, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an April 2019 article in The Washington Post. Prince later told the Mueller investigation that he briefed Bannon about the meeting and gave him contact information, but Bannon later denied any such meeting took place, according to an article last year in U.S. News & World Report. The Mueller report concluded the meeting had not been happenstance and had been arranged between Prince and Dmitriev.
The Senate committee’s letter also referred to concerns about testimony by Donald Trump Jr., White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former communications director Hope Hicks and former Trump campaign manager and now convicted felon Paul Manafort, according to the newspaper.
Concerns about Trump Jr. involved the nature of his meeting in Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who promised she had “dirt” on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton. The president’s son claimed the meeting was to discuss American adoptions of Russian children.
The letter was sent to Deborah Curtis, a top prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., the Times reported. The Justice Department declined to comment when contacted by the Times.
Lying to Congress is a felony.
The news emerged just as the Senate committee is close to releasing its final report on its investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
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