- The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat has sent letters to several members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team.
- The letters contained new names that may be of interest to investigators probing Russia’s election interference.
- Those entities had not been known to be of interest to the Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has requested new documents related to Russia’s election interference from several of the Trump campaign’s foreign-policy advisers.
She asked them in separate letters for documentation of any contact they had with Russia-linked entities during the 2016 US election. Several of the advisers had not been known to be of interest to the committee.
One of them is Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican activist who told associates that he was an adviser to President Donald Trump’s transition team. Erickson reportedly started a limited liability company called Bridges LLC with the Russian gun-rights advocate Maria Butina, and he traveled to Moscow in August 2014 to meet with Butina’s organization.
Butina and her associate Aleksander Torshin, a Russian politician and banker close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also of interest to the committee. Torshin asked the campaign through an intermediary whether Trump would meet with him on the sidelines of the National Rifle Association’s convention last year, according to emails forwarded to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.
Feinstein, whose committee is investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, asked Sam Clovis, the campaign’s national co-chair, and J.D. Gordon, its national security adviser, for their communications with or concerning “the NRA, Paul Erickson, Alexander Torshin, Maria Butina,” and others associated with Torshin’s outreach.
“I’m always glad to clear up popular misconceptions, myths, and blatant falsehoods surrounding all things Trump-Russia, like I’ve already done with other congressional committees,” Gordon told Business Insider. “I look forward to a valuable exchange of information with the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.”
A new request to Carter Page
In her letter to Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, Feinstein asked for “all communications to, from, or copied to you with or concerning” Sergey Karaganov, a Russian political scientist and foreign-policy adviser to Putin; Randi Levinas, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the US-Russia Business Council; and Bernie Sucher, a former managing director and head of global markets for Russia at the wealth management firm Merrill Lynch.
Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016 just before the Republican National Convention has come under heightened scrutiny amid revelations that he met with a top Russian government official and at least one employee of Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.
Levinas told Business Insider on Wednesday that the US-Russia Business Council reached out to the Trump and Clinton campaigns before the election to figure out each’s “Russia person” who was “dealing with economic and business issues.”
“Page’s name had been mentioned in the press,” Levinas said. “So I reached out to Bernie Sucher to try to get in touch with him.”
Sucher and Page evidently overlapped at Merrill Lynch – Page worked there from 2000 to 2008, and Sucher joined in 2007. Sucher had previously been the chairman of Alfa Capital, a limited liability company that is a member of Alfa Group.
Feinstein also asked Page for his communications with or concerning Alfa Group, which came under scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators after a computer server for the Russia-based Alfa Bank “repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization – far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all lookups to the Trump server,” CNN reported in March.
The US-Russia Business Council “wanted to have a discussion about business with respect to Russia,” Levinas said. “So I tried to set up a meeting with Page and got a small dinner together that didn’t materialize until later.”
Levinas said she did not attend that dinner and did not know what was discussed.
‘Happy to help’
Page told Business Insider on Wednesday that he would be “happy to help” the committee with its “latest tranche of irrelevant witch hunt information.” He characterized it as an “extremely intrusive request, requiring many hours of work and delving into extensive amounts of their personal information which has nothing to do with anything as an innocent, wrongly accused person.”
“I guess dirty swamp politicians play the same tactics, whether from Minnesota or California,” Page added, alluding to Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who has been accused of sexual harassment.
Page said he was not in touch with Karaganov during the campaign, adding that he hadn’t spoken to him in “about 10 years or so.”
“I’m pretty sure that was the last time we talked,” he said.
Karaganov, who is now the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, supported Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014 and has advocated Moscow’s presenting itself as a moral defender of ethnic Russians to gain political influence in the regions they inhabit.
“We want the status of being a great power,” Karaganov told Germany’s Der Spiegel last year. “We unfortunately cannot relinquish that. In the last 300 years, this status has become a part of our genetic makeup.”
He added later: “We believe that Russia is morally in the right. There won’t be any fundamental concessions coming from our side.”