One of the congressional investigations into Russian election meddling has a new politician in its crosshairs. BuzzFeed reported Monday that the Senate is investigating possible Jill Stein ties with Russia as part of its broader probe into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. When asked about the reports on Monday, committee chair Richard Burr told reporters that the committee is looking for evidence of "collusion with the Russians" from the 2016 Green Party candidate's campaign. Bustle has reached out to the Stein campaign for comment on the reports.
Dennis Trainor Jr., a former communications director and acting manager of Stein's campaign, told BuzzFeed that Stein contacted him on Friday to tell him him that the intelligence committee had requested to search documents from the campaign. Trainor, who says he was "a primary point of contact" for people trying to reach Stein during the campaign, said that Stein told him to "wait for further instructions" after informing him of the intelligence committee's request. He added that he doesn't yet know what terms the committee intends to search for in the Stein documents.
In his comments to reporters, Burr said that there are "two other campaigns that [the committee is] just starting on." He identified one of those campaigns as Stein's, but did not name the second one. But it's been known for months that the committee is investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government. So presumably, that was not one of the two campaigns Burr referred to on Monday.
Trump, the Trump campaign, the White House, and the Russian government have repeatedly denied any and all allegations of collusion. On Twitter, the president has said that "the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election."
The ingelligence committee was not previously known to be investigating Stein's campaign. But the Senate Judiciary Committee — which is conducting its own investigation into Russian election meddling — did send a letter to Donald Trump Jr. in July requesting, among other things, any information regarding communications between him and Stein. When that letter was made public, Stein tweeted that it was "laughable" to suggest she had communicated with Trump Jr., and added that the "whole thing is an obvious smear designed to generate a fake news feeding frenzy."
Some have pointed out that Stein expressed several policy positions during the campaign that mirror those of the Russian government, particularly regarding the sovereignty of Ukraine and the utility of NATO. In addition, Stein has at least one documented association with a Russian government official.
In 2015, the future Green Party candidate attended a dinner in Moscow to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, one of the country's state-sponsored media outlets. Pictures from the event show Stein seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin (and, incidentally, Michael Flynn, Trump's future National Security Advisor who would later plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian government).
Stein received 1,449,370 votes, or 1.1 percent of the vote, in the 2016 general election. It has been argued that her candidacy cost Hillary Clinton the election by splitting the progressive vote in three crucial states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that Trump ultimately won. Many dispute this claim, however, arguing that Stein voters wouldn't have necessarily pulled the lever for Clinton had Stein not been in the race.
After the election, Stein crowdfunded a campaign to pay for recounts in those three states, ultimately raising $7.3 million. However, only the Wisconsin recount was carried out to completion, and it found that Trump's margin of victory in the state was larger than originally reported.
Trainor told BuzzFeed that he's "inclined" to cooperate with the intelligence committee's request, and that he expects Stein to post the documents in question on her 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."