In contrast to the bitterly partisan Russia probe run by former House Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-California), the Senate’s probe was widely seen as fair. But the special counsel report revealed Thursday shows Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) provided information to the White House.
Held up as the last bastion of bipartisanship, the intel committee’s Russia probe procured reports from then-FBI chief James Comey about principal U.S. targets of investigation. According to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Burr leaked that information to the White House Counsel’s office.
Burr reported March 16, 2017 on targets of the Russia probe identified as Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George “Greek Guy” Papadopoulos. Burr’s report to the White House also noted that Manafort’s charges stemmed from Ukraine and Russia dealings not related to the campaign and that Page was targeted for the “$ game.”
While White House Counsel Don McGahn and his chief of staff Annie Donaldson told the special counsel they believed these four to be targets of the Senate probe and not FBI investigations, the special counsel’s office was skeptical — the Senate doesn’t investigate ‘targets,’ Donaldson’s notes specifically referenced the FBI and James Comey, and the notes track with Comey’s briefing of Congressional leadership.
“We’ll be judged at the end of this on the product that we produce,” Burr told CBS in an interview on the Senate probe. “We’ll also be judged on the process that we chose.”
The Mueller report has cast a partisan pall over the celebrated Senate investigation — and specifically chairman Burr — though that veneer of bipartisanship had already begun showing cracks. Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner (D-Virginia) had publicly split on the committee’s findings showing evidence of collusion.
“Nothing in this town stays classified or secret forever,” Burr told the Associated Press last year. “And at some point somebody’s going to go back and do a review.”
It seems now that Senator Burr’s prescient statement that nothing stays secret forever has come home to roost.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.