Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein answers questions during a press conference at the August 23, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.
Dennis Trainor Jr., a former senior staffer for Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s 2016 presidential campaign, says he is weighing whether to comply with a directive to turn over correspondence related to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the committee, said Monday that the purpose of the request from Stein is to investigate “collusion with the Russians.” The request was first reported by Buzzfeed.
“I think this represents a tremendous overreach,” Trainor told TYT Tuesday, adding that he has not decided whether to comply and was seeking legal counsel. He said that on December 15 he received a phone call from Stein notifying him of the request. He said he has yet to hear directly from Senate investigators.
Trainor served as Stein’s communications director during an early phase of the campaign, from January through August of 2015. At the time, the shoestring operation lacked much of an infrastructure. “In the infancy of the campaign—before the website got set up—my personal Gmail account was the primary point of contact for the campaign in terms of media requests,” Trainor said.
Trainor said in this capacity he frequently communicated with producers and bookers at RT America, the state-funded Russian TV network that has since been targeted in multiple Congressional investigations, to arrange appearances for Stein. For example, shortly after she launched her exploratory committee for the 2016 campaign in February 2015, Stein was a guest on “Redacted Tonight,” an RT show hosted by Lee Camp. Trainor says he arranged the appearance.
Trainor appeared on his own YouTube show, which is affiliated with TYT’s YouTube Partner Network. A TYT official said Trainor’s channel has been dormant since the he began work for the Stein campaign.
Trainor called his communications related to RT bookings “innocuous, innocent stuff,” but expressed apprehension that even routine correspondence with RT employees could be misconstrued in the current political climate.
“I think the link that the people on the Senate committee are making is that any link to RT America—unless you’re Larry King, I guess [. . . ] means that you are either a witting or unwitting fool for the Putin administration,” Trainor said. “So I believe that’s their argument. I believe they’re casting a very wide net.”
Trainor declined to make any of the emails available to TYT, citing advice from legal counsel.
“Nothing that happened between the Stein campaign and the RT station or Vladimir Putin’s Russia rises to the level of any criminal intent,” he said. “I don’t believe that Jill Stein was in any way colluding with Vladimir Putin or anyone else to shift the election to Donald Trump.”
Appearing on RT doesn’t make anyone “guilty of espionage or any kind of collusion with foreign governments,” Trainor said. “Larry King—the master of the softball, cotton ball, cream-puff interview question—is working for Vladimir Putin in some way in this warped universe.” King’s independently produced interview show is aired by RT and other media companies.
Stein, who received scant attention from the U.S. media over the course of the 2016 campaign, turned to RT at times for exposure. The most exposure she received may have been for her appearance at an RT anniversary dinner in Moscow in December 2015, which has been portrayed as reflecting Stein’s willingness to abet a Russian campaign to influence the American electorate. But Stein publicized the appearance herself at the time and has answered repeated questions on the topic, describing the dinner at great length on the Intercepted podcast.
Last month, RT registered with the U.S. government as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the face of threats of criminal prosecution by the Justice Department.
Trainor said he expects to receive instructions from a campaign representative within a week or two about how to execute a document search of his files, and then how to turn them over to Senate investigators. “I was led to believe those files would include texts from my phone and emails from my private email,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This is going to consume Jill’s life for a little while,” he said. “I don’t intend for it to consume mine. But I do have to do my own due diligence.”