Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr had taken steps to distance himself from conflicts of interest during his panel’s probe — but also corresponded with the White House. | Win McNamee/Getty Images
Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr apparently supplied the White House counsel’s office with information about the Russia probe.
The Senate GOP found itself ensnared in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday, with new revelations about Sen. Richard Burr’s communications with the White House and details about a GOP aide’s quest to obtain Hillary Clinton‘s emails.
Though the vast majority of the report centered on Russian influence in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s apparent efforts to undercut Mueller’s probe, the report also offers a window into how the broad investigations have touched on individual senators and even a relatively unknown congressional staffer. It also shows how eager the White House was for insight into the series of federal probes that were launched early in Trump’s presidency.
Senate Intelligence Chairman Burr (R-N.C.), for instance, apparently supplied the White House counsel’s office with information about FBI investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the report.The report says that on March 9, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey briefed congressional leaders and intelligence committee heads on the ongoing investigation into Russian interference. That briefing included “an identification of the principal U.S. subjects of the investigation.”
Burr then corresponded with the White House a week later about the Russia probes, and the White House counsel’s office, led by Don McGahn, “appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation,” the special counsel report said.
Caitlin Carroll, a spokeswoman for Burr, said that the senator “does not recall this specific conversation with Mr. McGahn in March of 2017; however, any conversations between the two would have been in reference to the need for White House personnel to voluntarily comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation.”
The Senate Intelligence probe has been widely viewed on Capitol Hill as more productive than its corresponding House investigation. There’s been far less infighting and Burr has taken steps to distance himself from conflicts of interest, including skipping meetings with Trump while he’s been overseeing investigations. Former House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), now the committee’s ranking member, was seen by Democrats as far more partisan than Burr in his probes.
“If specific individuals were discussed, they would have been those known to the committee, the White House, and the media. The Chairman’s stewardship over the Committee’s bipartisan and fact-based investigation over the last two years speaks for itself,” Carroll said.
But Burr communicating with Trump’s aides about the FBI probe could undercut some of those warm bipartisan feelings. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking member, Mark Warner (D-Va.), did not respond to a request for comment but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the panel, made an indirect reference to Burr in a statement on Thursday.
“Given evidence from the Mueller report, the committee must take steps to ensure its investigations do not leak to the executive branch,” he said.