Jill Stein's campaign objects to Senate request for some Russia documents
Posted April 30, 2018 4:26 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — The presidential campaign of 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein told CNN on Monday she has objected to turning over some documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee related to the campaign's contacts and discussions related to Russia.
Stein's campaign provided some documents last month as part the Senate committee's Russia probe, but the campaign objected to several requests as overly broad and infringing on "constitutionally protected materials," according to a letter from Stein's attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Washington-based Partnership for Civil Justice.
The Green Party candidate provided documents related to communications with officials tied to Russian media organizations and the Kremlin, as well as documents related to Stein's 2015 trip to Moscow for the RT dinner that was also attended by both former Trump administration aide Michael Flynn and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But the campaign objected to the committee's request for communications with "Russian persons, or representatives of Russian government, media, or business interests," arguing it was broadly targeting the communications of people "because they happen to be Russian immigrants or of Russian dissent."
In an interview with CNN Monday, Stein said she felt the investigation into her campaign was "completely unjustified," but she said she was willing to cooperate with the panel's questions about election interference -- not when the committee infringed on her campaign's civil liberties.
"We thought that where requests were made that violated basic constitutional protections, that wasn't a good idea, not for anybody, and we did not want to be part of setting a precedent that intrudes further on our civil liberties," Stein said. "Legitimate concerns about interference in our election should not be twisted into a campaign of censorship, war-mongering and political intimidation against opposition to the bipartisan establishment."
Stein has been connected to the Senate panel's investigation into Russia's 2016 election meddling in part because of her appearance at a now-infamous dinner that was hosted by RT, the Russian television network. Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was sitting at a table with Putin at the dinner -- along with Stein.
The Green Party candidate also praised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 after WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails, saying there was "no question" he was a hero.
The intelligence community and congressional panels investigating Russia's election meddling have concluded that the Kremlin was behind the hacking and facilitated the dissemination of the DNC emails as well as the hacked emails of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Online trolls from the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency used social media to promote Stein's candidacy during the 2016 campaign, according to an indictment brought by special counsel Robert Mueller against the Russian organization and 13 of its employees. The Russians' pro-Stein efforts included paid advertisements on Facebook that explicitly encouraged Americans to vote for Stein, according to the indictment.
But it was Stein's presence at the 2015 dinner that initially generated questions about whether the Kremlin was also seeking to prop up the third-party campaign.
Stein has argued that the event received no US press coverage anyway, and said the photo with her, Flynn and Putin was "extremely misleading." She didn't speak to Putin at the dinner, she said, and spoke no more than a "few innocuous words" to Flynn, who was not "interested in her elevator pitch."
"The Green Party's agenda hasn't really changed," Stein said. "Our stuff was all about nuclear weapons, the need for disarmament, the need for the US to participate in the new UN treaty" on nuclear weapons.
Stein has not been accused of wrongdoing or colluding with the Russians. But her political views often align with the Kremlin and mirror talking points heard on Russian state TV: She claims the American political system is rigged, opposes the notion of American exceptionalism, is a vocal critic of US military operations overseas and downplays the impact of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In November, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent Stein's campaign a letter requesting documents in the panel's Russia probe, which is still ongoing. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said that the committee was seeking to learn whether there was "collusion with the Russians."
"I said at the beginning we would look at all the campaigns and possible collusion by any campaign," Burr said.
Verheyden-Hilliard said the campaign did provide documents detailing communications with representatives of the Russian government and media organizations, but that the committee's larger request amounted to "a hunt for identification of persons based on nationality or descent."
The campaign also would not provide the committee documents related to the campaign's policy discussions involving Russia, writing in its response that the committee's request "intrudes on political and associational privacy rights established by the First Amendment," Verheyden-Hilliard wrote.
Stein says that the material turned over was "completely trivial," such as scheduling the timing for interviews with RT. She said the campaign also provided evidence that it paid in full for Stein's 2015 trip to Moscow.
Stein's campaign said that it did not have any records of communications with Fusion GPS or Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence agent who compiled the opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia, nor did it have records of communication with WikiLeaks related to disseminating information about the 2016 election.
A spokeswoman for Burr did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's top Democrat, declined to comment.
Verheyden-Hilliard said that since the campaign sent its letter to the committee last month, there have been ongoing discussions about the document request, and a handful of additional material has since been provided.
Stein said Mueller's team has not contacted her.