On Dec. 19, 2017, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain named David Kramer witnessed before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors. He’d played important roles in bringing the salacious and unverified Steele dossier to the FBI’s attention, and members peppered him with questions about it.
Then something unusual happened. Word of Kramer &# x27; s testimony got out–to the lawyer of another witness.
The following, based on conversations with multiple sources familiar with the issues, illuminates the extraordinary breakdown of confidence between committee investigators and the witness they call. It likewise suggests that some people working on the committee investigation may be trying to covertly assist one of the president’s closest allies–when the president’s inner circle is ostensibly a focus of their probe.
A few days after Kramer’s testimony, his lawyer, Larry Robbins, got a strange call. The call was from Stephen Ryan, a lawyer who represents Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen is facing scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional examiners regarding potential is coordinating Trump’s team and the Kremlin. He featured prominently in the Steele dossier–the document that Kramer handled–and is currently suing Buzzfeed for publishing it.
Ryan told Robbins he reached out because someone from the House told him that Robbins’ client, Kramer, had information about the Steele dossier that could help Cohen.
Robbins declined to help. Ryan then asked Robbins not to tell the House intelligence committee about their dialogue.
Robbins told the committee anyway. CNN is available in February that Robbins wrote a letter to the committee complaining about leakages to another client’s lawyer. The Daily Beast can now confirm that this letter was regarding Stephen Ryan and Michael Cohen.
Michael Cohen is both the president’s longtime personal attorney and one of his most unflagging loyal admirers. He has a history of using every trick in the book–from intimidation to hush-money–to keep negative narratives about Trump from coming to illuminate, as The New York Times em> detailed last month. Cohen personally paid porn superstar Stormy Daniels $ 130,000 in return for her commitment not to discuss an affair she allegedly had with Trump. According to the Wall street Journal , the future president did not refund Cohen for his efforts.
Emily Hytha, a spokesperson for Rep. Michael Conaway, who is supervising the probe, said witness witnes was not shared improperly.( The evidence was deemed committee-sensitive, according to a committee source, but not classified .)
” Any accusation that a witness &# x27; s affidavit was shared with another witness or their lawyer is unequivocally false ,” she said.
Robbins and Kramer declined to comment for this story. Ryan did not respond to multiple is asking for comment.
Witnesses who voluntarily testify before the House intelligence committee generally do so under guarantees that members and staff will not share their evidence with the public or with other witness. Many witness are less likely to cooperate with sensitive Congressional investigations if they belief the information they share will get out publicly.
” Any time information leaks out that’s given to the committee behind closed doors–whether it’s classified or committee-sensitive or otherwise protected from public disclosure–it makes it harder for the committee to do its investigative undertaking and get honest and open witnes from the witness before it ,” said Jamil Jaffer, a visiting chap at the Hoover Institution and former senior counseling on the House intelligence committee.
This isn’t the only leak accusation leveled against House intelligence committee officials. The chairman has repeatedly skewered the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, for supposedly sharing sensitive information with reporters; it’s a charge that Schiff denies. Last week, The New York Times reported that leaders of the Senate intelligence committee believe House investigators leaked text messages that Sen. Mark Warner sent. Warner and Sen. Richard Burr, the Democrat and Republican who result the Senate committee, met with Speaker Paul Ryan to share their concerns. Accusations of improper coordination with the White House have dogged House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes( R-CA ), who was part of Trump’s presidential transition team, since the investigation’s inception.
Last March, Nunes proposed a whistleblower from within the intelligence agencies informed him that the name of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security consultant who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was improperly “unmasked” in internal reports. It subsequently become apparent that Nunes was fed that tale not by any whistleblower, but by White House officers close to both Nunes and Flynn–prompting an ethics investigation into Nunes himself that briefly derailed his leadership of the Russia probe.
More lately, Nunes gave an evasive and equivocal answer to committee Democrat who asked if Nunes or his staff collaborated in any way with the White House on his memo, which presented a counternarrative on Russia highly easier for Trump.
And committee Democrats have signaled that they are continuing seek to verify Cohen’s testimony.
At a recent closed-door committee meeting on February 5, a discussion of the Steele dossier pivoted to an aspect of it concerning Cohen–specifically, ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele’s claim that Cohen had visited Prague to meet with a Russian operative during the summer of 2016.
” All the evidence presented we have read is that Michael Cohen has never been in Prague, never in the Czech Republic, and indeed, was in California with his son at a campus in California at a time when he was supposed to be meeting with this Russian agent ,” said Peter King, a Long Island Republican, according to a hearing transcript.( PDF)
Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat and former attorney, hit back:” Would you support subpoenaing Mr. Cohen’s bank records, traveling records, communications logs, so we are not just taking him at his word but we could actually verify that through a third party ?”
King said he would, but” when Mr. Cohen was here, he was under curse, and you had your opportunity to ask him then .”
Schiff responded,” Yes, he did testify, and yes, we are really had the opportunity to ask him those questions. What we have not had the opportunity to do is determine whether he was telling us the truth, because we have constructed requests to get documents, the subpoenaed documents, and the majority has been unwilling to support those requests to subpoena documents. When that is the case, then we have no way of substantiating or refuting info .”( Schiff refused commentary for this piece .)
The exchange happened weeks after Ryan contacted Robbins concerning Cohen’s testimony.