In what critics called a "dangerous precedent" and identified as an obvious move to deflect the still serious concerns about allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, multiple news outlets reported late Monday that the Senate Intelligence Committee is now investigating the campaign of Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Regardless of what people think of Jill Stein or the Green Party, this Senate investigation sets a dangerous precedent. As does the lionization of the FBI, Comey and Mueller. Very short-sighted. It will all come back around.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) December 19, 2017
People do realize that it is a Republican senator, Richard Burr, who is pushing this investigation of @DrJillStein and the Green Party campaign, right? Not the heroic FBI or the greatest lawman to ever live, Robert Mueller.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) December 19, 2017
"This smacks of the dangerous underbelly of these investigations. The extent to which they exercise overreach, politicizing, and sensationalism is a danger to democracy, especially in the current climate of all-out war on our First Amendment rights. This is not a time to be attacking the rights of political speech and political association."
—Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee chairman, told reporters Monday that in addition to the campaign of President Donald Trump, the committee has "two other campaigns that we're just starting on." As the Washington Post noted, Burr has indicated previously the committee is looking into Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Dennis Trainor Jr., Stein's former campaign communications director and acting manager, told BuzzFeed News, which first reported the story, that he was contacted Friday about the investigation into Stein's campaign. When Burr was asked by BuzzFeed what the committee was looking for in its probe of the Green Party candidate, he said, "collusion with the Russians."
In 2015, Stein attended a dinner in Moscow that was hosted by the Russian television news network RT—which was also attended by Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whose interactions with Russian officials have been a focal point of special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation. Stein's attendance at the dinner spurred criticism earlier this year, but as Politico reported in June, "Unlike Flynn—whose initially undisclosed $45,000 RT payout landed him in hot water with congressional investigators—Stein has said she was not offered any speaking fee and that she declined the Russian network's offer to cover her travel."
In a statement released Monday, Stein reiterated, "Our communications with Russian indiviuals regarding an invitation to speak on international relations at the RT 10th anniversary media conference will confirm what we stated publicly at that time and since: that we did not accept any payment or even reimbursement for the trip, and that we made the trip with the goal of reaching an international audience and Russian officials with a message of Middle East peace, diplomacy, and cooperation against the urgent threat of climate change, consistent with long-standing Green principles and policies."
"Absurd targeting of Jill Stein once again shows that a central aim of the "Russia investigation" has always been to constrict the range of what is seen as acceptable political opinion: classic dissent-stifling tactic."
—Michael Tracey, journalist
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"We strongly support legitimate inquiry into any illegal activity in our elections—including quid pro quo deals, money laundering, corruption and violation of campaign finance laws," the statement continued, while also warning, "we must guard against the potential for these investigations to be used to intimidate and silence principled opposition to the political establishment."
"This smacks of the dangerous underbelly of these investigations," Stein told The Intercept. "The extent to which they exercise overreach, politicizing, and sensationalism is a danger to democracy, especially in the current climate of all-out war on our First Amendment rights. This is not a time to be attacking the rights of political speech and political association."
Stein is fully cooperating with the investigation and Trainor told BuzzFeed she may even post all the documents requested by the commitee 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." Trainor also said he believes the committee is interested in Stein's appearances on RT, and in "vilifying anyone who's ever appeared on or talked with anyone on the RT network."
News of the "absurd" investigation triggered intense criticism, with journalist Glenn Greenwald noting that several Democrats were "strongly implying if not outright stating she's a Kremlin agent."
Click on "Jill Stein" that's trending & you'll see countless leading Dems - with large platforms - strongly implying if not outright stating she's a Kremlin agent: all because of a Congressional inquiry. They couldn't better replicate McCarthyism if they tried. https://t.co/HOWU16bS6O
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 18, 2017
Absurd targeting of Jill Stein once again shows that a central aim of the "Russia investigation" has always been to constrict the range of what is seen as acceptable political opinion: classic dissent-stifling tactic
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) December 19, 2017