WASHINGTON -- The Senate Intelligence Committee sent a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department asking federal prosecutors to investigate Steve Bannon, a former Trump confidant, for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The letter, a copy of which was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, was signed by the panel's then-chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner.
It also raised concerns about testimony provided by family members and confidants of President Donald Trump that appeared to contradict information provided by a former deputy campaign chairman to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those it identified as providing such conflicting testimony were the president's son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.
The letter, which has not before been made public, was sent July 19, 2019, to Deborah Curtis, a top prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. It is not clear what action the Justice Department has taken on the referral. Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.
"As you are aware, the Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election," the letter states. "As part of that inquiry, and as a result of witness interviews and document production, we now have reason to believe that the following individuals may have committed a criminal act."
The letter then names Bannon, the chief executive of the 2016 Trump campaign and later a top White House strategist, and two other men -- Erik Prince, a private security contractor, and Sam Clovis, who served as co-chairman of Trump's campaign.
Criminal referrals from Capitol Hill have been somewhat common since Trump took office in 2017. But this one is rare because it involves the bipartisan leaders of a Senate panel that conducted its own probe without devolving into the partisan bickering that consumed its counterpart in the House of Representatives.
Disclosure of the letter comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee is close to releasing its final report on the panel's own investigation into Russian election meddling.
"The Committee will not discuss referrals," said a spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the acting chairman of the committee. "And those who in order to score cheap political points are speculating on or claim to know the identities of those referred are committing a grotesque injustice."
Rubio took over the chairmanship after Burr stepped down amid an investigation into insider trading ahead of the pandemic.