“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.
Steele famously put together the anti-Trump dossier of unverified information that was used by FBI and Justice Department officials in October 2016 to get a warrant to conduct surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page. Despite the efforts, Steele has not agreed to an interview with the committee.
Secrecy seemed very important to Warner as the conversation with Waldman heated up March 29, when the lobbyist revealed that Steele wanted a bipartisan letter from Warner and the committee’s chairman, North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, inviting him to talk to the Senate intelligence panel.
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.
An aide to Warner confirmed to Fox News that the text messages are authentic. The messages, which were obtained from a Republican source are all marked “CONFIDENTIAL” and are not classified, were turned over to the Senate panel by Waldman last September.
Waldman, who did not return calls seeking comments, runs the Endeavor Group in Washington.
Waldman is best known for signing a $40,000 monthly retainer in 2009 and 2010 to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of controversial Russian billionaire Oleg V. Deripaska. Deripraska had his visa revoked by the State Department in 2006 because of charges, which he has denied, that he has organized crime ties.
An aide to Burr, the Republican chairman, told Fox News that Burr was aware of the “contact” Warner made with Steele’s representative but added, “I don’t believe he was aware of the content of the text messages” initially.
Waldman, at one point, texted back that Steele really wanted a bi-partisan letter requesting his testimony first. He added that Steele was concerned about word leaking to the media that they were talking.
In one text, Warner suggested he did not want Burr or any other senator included in the discussions: “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.”
Waldman noted repeatedly that Steele was concerned about leaks and was “spooked” by all of the attention he had received around the world. Steele, he said, was skittish about talking to Warner.
Warner texted back on March 30: “We want to do this right private in London don’t want to send letter yet cuz if we can’t get agreement wud rather not have paper trail.”
On April 5, Warner texted, “Any word on Steele.”
“Yes seems to have cold feet from the leaks. Said he wanted a bipartisan letter followed by written questions,” texted Waldman, adding that the Wall Street Journal had contacted him asking if he was an intermediary between the panel and Steele.
In the text messages, Warner also discussed the possibility of a trip to see Steele.
On March 23, Warner texted, “Need to coordinate date for trip can u talk with my scheduler also want to discuss Paul,” an apparent reference to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose initials are used in the next text by Waldman.
In January 2009, Harper’s Magazine reported that Deripaska had hired an advisory firm with close ties to Hillary Clinton to help him get a visa to enter the United States.” The magazine quoted Waldman as saying his firm does not lobby, though he filed paperwork with the Justice Department to represent Deripaska before the U.S. government.
In the dozens of text messages between February 2017 and May 2017, Waldman also talked to Warner about getting Deripraska to cooperate with the intelligence committee. There have been reports that Deripraksa, who has sued Manafort over a failed business deal, has information to share about the former Trump aide.
In May 2017, the Senate and House intelligence committees decided not to give Deripraska legal immunity in exchange for testimony to the panels. The text messages between Warner and Waldman appeared to stop that month.