Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., after a report was published detailing communications he had with a lobbyist for a Russian oligarch who said he could put Warner in touch with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the controversial “Trump dossier."
“Sen.Warner fully disclosed this to the committee four months ago.Has had zero impact on our work,” Rubio tweeted Thursday night.
Fox News' Ed Henry, who authored the report, responded to Rubio on Twitter, saying the key takeaway from the report was Warner's determination to not leave a "paper trail" throughout the communications.
Thanks for mentioning story @marcorubio — Q is why @MarkWarner said few months before that he would "rather not have a paper trail" — 9pm ET @FoxNews https://t.co/3wlc8mpcTw— Ed Henry (@edhenry) February 9, 2018
Warner and lobbyist Adam Waldman, whose firm is connected to Hillary Clinton, communicated back and forth for several months in 2017 about establishing communication with Steele, Fox News reported.
Steele composed the salacious and largely unverified dossier that Republicans claim the FBI and the Justice Department used to receive a warrant so they could spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Warner seemed interested in just contacting and meeting with Steele directly, although Waldman said Steele wanted a bipartisan letter to be sent from Warner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., requesting that Steele appear before the panel.
Waldman said on multiple occasions that Steele was worried about leaks and was hesitant to speak with Warner.
But Warner appeared to not want to involve other senators initially and said at one point he would "rather not have a paper trail" of the messages. The two attempted to reach an agreement, however, Steele never agreed to appear before the committee.
Burr knew that Warner had contacted a representative of Steele, but “I don’t believe he was aware of the content of the text messages” at first, an aide to Burr told Fox News.
The report said that the text messages were given to the panel after Warner and Burr signed a joint request for them in June 2017, and the two privately shared the texts with members of the panel because “they realized out of context it doesn’t look great,” a Warner aide told Fox News.
The two issued a statement to Fox News and condemned leaks based on “incomplete information.”
“From the beginning of our investigation, we have taken each step in a bipartisan way, and we intend to continue to do so," Warner and Burr said in the statement. "Leaks of incomplete information out of context by anyone, inside or outside our committee, are unacceptable.”
The Fox News report comes after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attempted to provide Fox News host Sean Hannity with details on Warner, according to the Daily Beast late last month.
Assange sent a message to an inauthentic Sean Hannity Twitter account. The messages from Assange arrived just before Warner revealed that the Senate Intelligence panel received “end-of-the-year document dumps” that “opened a lot of new questions” concerning Trump and Russia.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, along with special counsel Robert Mueller and other congressional panels, are seeking to determine if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.