On Thursday, Ed Henry at Fox News dropped a story about how Sen. Mark Warner (D-NV), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, exchanged texts with a Russian oligarch regarding a meeting with dossier author Christopher Steele.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) dismissed the report because he claimed that Warner made the texts known to the committee.

So is this a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. It does raise a few questions like, as Kimberley Strassel points out, why did he want to avoid a paper trail? Why did Steele need to use this oligarch to reach Congress?

The Report

Fox News published the texts between Warner and lobbyist Adam Waldman, a man who had lobbied the U.S. government for oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska, who lost his visa “in 2006 because of charges, which he has denied, that he has organized crime ties.”

Here are some excerpts (I emphasized a few that raised my eyebrows):

“We have so much to discuss u need to be careful but we can help our country,” Warner texted the lobbyist, Adam Waldman, on March 22, 2017.

“I’m in,” Waldman, whose firm has ties to Hillary Clinton, texted back to Warner.

Throughout the text exchanges, Warner seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop — at least initially. In one text to the lobbyist, Warner wrote that he would “rather not have a paper trail” of his messages.

The conversation about Steele started on March 16, 2017, when Waldman texted, “Chris Steele asked me to call you.”

Warner responded, “Will call tomorrow be careful.”

The records show Warner and Waldman had trouble connecting by phone. On March 20, Warner pressed Waldman by text to get him access to Steele.

“Can you talk tomorrow want to get with ur English friend,” Warner texted.

“I spoke to him yesterday,” Waldman texted.

The two men appear to have finally connected about Steele by phone on March 22, according to the records.

“Hey just tried u again gotta give a speech but really want to finish our talk,” Warner texted.

Waldman told Warner that Steele “really wanted a bi-partisan letter requesting his testimony first” over concerns of possible leaks to the media about their talks.

So it looks like Steele wanted to bring in both sides. But Warner insisted he didn’t want to bring in other senators:

“Ok but I wud (sic) like to do prelim call u me and him no one else before letter just so we have to trail to start want to discuss scope first before letter no leaks.”

This did not quell Steele’s fears, especially since The Wall Street Journal contacted him and asked “if he was an intermediary between the panel and Steele.”

Warner did not give up though and badgered Waldman about a trip to see Steele and even brought up Paul Manafort:

On March 26, Warner texted, “Really need to set date things r going to really pick up.”

“Standying by to do it,” texted Waldman. “Awaiting call from your scheduler and also the letter he (Steele) would like they(sic) we discussed. And have second interesting thing to raise. Pls call.”

But after calls back and forth, Warner made clear that he wanted to talk to Steele directly without Burr or anyone else being involved, even though Steele was insisting through Waldman that the contact start with a bipartisan letter inviting him to cooperate with the Senate panel.

“Hey can’t we do brief (off the record) call today before letter so I can frame letter,” Warner texted Waldman on March 29.

“Steele wants to have letter first. Or did you mean call w me?” Waldman texted back.

The Committee

Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Warner sent these text messages to the intelligence community in June and the rest of the committee in October because the men “realized out of context it doesn’t look great.” Fox News continued:

But aides to Warner and Burr both stressed that the chairman was kept apprised of Warner’s efforts.

An aide to Burr knew there was a “back channel” Warner was using to try and get to Steele and was not concerned that Warner was freelancing on the matter.

Rubio even tweeted out that the committee received these texts and they have had “zero impact on our work.”

Questions

Strassel from WSJ sent out this tweet:

Excellent questions. Someone reminded us of this previous exchange:

People also want to know why it took Warner so many months to alert the rest of the committee about his contact with the oligarch?

I would also like to know why this is brushed aside when you KNOW if the tables were turned the Democrats and the media would be SCREAMING to the heavens about how this proves collusion or something.

Is Russian collusion bad or not? Because this looks like a form of Russian collusion to me.