The Mueller report suggests that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, GOP Sen. Richard Burr, of North Carolina, may have identified for the White House targets of the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
On Mar. 9, 2017, FBI Director James Comey briefed the "Gang of Eight" lawmakers on the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.that White House Counsel Don McGahn's chief of staff, Anne Donaldson, indicated that President Trump was in a "panic" about the Russia investigation.
"POTUS in panic/chaos ... Need binders to put in front of POTUS. (1) All things related to Russia," Donaldson's notes from Mar. 12 read. Within a week, the Mueller report says, McGahn's office was in contact with Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, and appeared "to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation."
On March 16, according to the Mueller report, "the White House Counsel's Office was briefed by Senator Burr on the existence of '4-5 targets.'" Donaldson identified those targets in her notes as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and "Greek guy," which may have been a reference to another adviser, George Papadopoulos.
The special counsel's report points out that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has fought to preserve its reputation for bipartisanship, doesn't investigate people as "targets." Mueller surmises that Donaldson's notes "on their face reference the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Comey," and they "track the background materials prepared by the FBI for Comey's briefing to the Gang of 8."
"Donaldson could not rule out that Burr had told McGahn those individuals were the FBI's targets," the Mueller report says.
Intelligence Committee spokesperson Caitlin Carroll said in a statement that Burr "does not recall this specific conversation with McGahn in March of 2017."
She went on to say that "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," and she said that if "specific individuals" were in fact discussed by the two, their identities already would have been evident -- "they would have been those known to the Committee, the White House, and the media."
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner has not commented on the special counsel's assertion about Burr.
But the Mueller report also points out that it wasn't until Mar. 20, a few days later, that Comey, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee for the first time "authorized Comey toand agreed that Comey should decline to comment on whether any particular individuals, including the President, were being investigated." Dana Boente, then the acting attorney general for the Russia investigation, signed off on allowing Comey to confirm the existence of the investigation.
Manafort, Flynn and Papadopoulos were later indicted by the government as a result of the investigation.
Olivia Gazis contributed to this report