The Senate Intelligence Committee has found that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are responsible for leaking to Fox News confidential text messages between the Senate panel’s highest ranking Democrat and a Washington lobbyist associated with a Russian billionaire, sources familiar with the situation told The New York Times on Thursday.
Two Senate committee members ― Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), whose texts were leaked, and Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), the panel’s chairman ― were “perturbed” by the findings and discussed them with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last month, the sources told the Times.
The senators, whose committee is conducting an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, reportedly relayed to Ryan their concern about the direction of the House panel under the leadership of its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Nunes drafted and pushed for public release a controversial memo last month accusing the Justice Department and FBI of impropriety in their separate probe into the Russian meddling and possible connections to President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Fox News touted the text exchange as an “exclusive,” but even some Republicans discounted its worth.
Warner disclosed to his committee months before the leak that he had reached out last year to lobbyist Adam Waldman, who runs a firm that worked with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska in 2009 and 2010. Warner hoped Waldman could connect him with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the now infamous dossier that, among other things, alleges a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The leaked communication also appears to fall in line with Warner’s duties on the intelligence committee. Nevertheless, Trump seized on the shell of a controversy to attempt to discredit the investigations into the role Russia played in influencing the 2016 election.
Both the timing of the Fox News report and markings on the documents they published indicated to the Senate committee that Republicans on the House committee were behind the leak, the sources told the Times.
The documents containing the texts were leaked just days after one of Nunes’ staff members asked the Senate committee to share copies of the exchange with the House committee, one source said. Additionally, neither the documents sent to the House committee nor the ones published by Fox News contained page numbers, while the original copy possessed by the Senate committee did.