Chuck Ross, DCNF
Two Republican senators claim to have “substantial evidence” suggesting that former British spy Christopher Steele misled the FBI about “a key aspect” of the infamous dossier.
The senators — Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — also provided new details about a previously undisclosed memo that Steele wrote based on information provided by a Hillary Clinton associate.
“It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility,” Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Monday.
The details are in a heavily redacted memo that Grassley and Graham released on Monday. The two Republicans sent the document to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last month along with a letter referring Steele for criminal investigation.
The FBI reviewed the referral for classified information and approved the release of the document in heavily redacted form.
It has two bombshell revelations.
“There is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility,” Graham and Grassley wrote to Wray and Rosenstein.
Much of their letter refers to Steele’s contacts with media outlets prior to the 2016 election. Steele has disclosed in court filings in London that he held off-the-record meetings with reporters at several news outlets prior to the election.
The Grassley-Graham referral suggests that Steele misled the FBI about contacts he had with reporters about the dossier. A four-page memo released by the House Intelligence Committee on Friday contains similar hints about Steele’s disclosures about his contacts with the press.
That memo suggests that Steele, an ex-MI6 officer, did not tell the FBI that he met reporters in September 2016 to discuss an investigation on Donald Trump that he was doing on behalf of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was in turn working for the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Steele met with Michael Isikoff, a reporter at Yahoo! News who wrote the first news article based on information from the former British spy. That article was cited along with the dossier in the FBI and DOJ’s application for a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
But according to the House Intel memo, Steele “improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI” about his contacts with reporters, including Isikoff.
Steele’s dossier, which includes 17 memos in all, was published on Jan. 10, 2017 by BuzzFeed.
But according to Grassley and Graham, Steele wrote another memo — one dated Oct. 19, 2016 — that was not part of the BuzzFeed dossier.
In that memo, Steele stated that he received information from someone at the State Department. The identity of the contact is redacted in the Grassley-Graham letter, as are other portions of the document.
The information originated with “a foreign sub-source” who had been in touch with a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. That Clinton associate, whose name is redacted, passed it on to another person.
Though the identities of the State Department official and Clinton associate are unclear, there has been some reporting recently that sheds some light on the matter.
The Guardian reported last week that Clinton hatchet man Cody Shearer compiled a dossier of his own prior to the election and that Steele passed some of the information to the FBI. Shearer has long worked on dirty tricks campaigns for Democrats and the Clintons. In 1991, he was involved in spreading a fake story accusing former Vice President Dan Quayle of buying drugs from the notorious political operative Brett Kimberlin.
Shearer is also a close associate of Sidney Blumenthal, another Clinton operative.
The Daily Caller asked Shearer last year if he was involved in the Steele dossier.
“I have had absolutely nothing to do with the release of materials contained in the Russian dossier, nor have I pushed these documents to reporters. Do not promote fake news,” he said at the time.
One recently retired State Department official has emerged at the center of the dossier controversy.
Jonathan Winer, the State Department’s special envoy to Libya, recently disclosed that he met Steele in Summer 2016 and was provided information about Trump. Winer wrote a two-page memo based on Steele’s information and briefed then-Sec. of State John Kerry.
Winer served as counsel to Kerry when he served in the Senate. The Washington Post reported last week that the State Department did not do anything with Steele’s information. Instead, they reached out to the FBI and determined that the bureau had already been in contact with the former spy.
Grassley said Monday that he is calling on the FBI to conduct another review of the referral on Steele and to “allow complete disclosure of important context from the documents on which it is based.”
“Seeking transparency and cooperation should not be this challenging. The government should not be blotting out information that it admits isn’t secret, and it should not take dramatic steps by Congress and the White House to get answers that the American people are demanding. There are still many questions that can only be answered by complete transparency. That means declassifying as much of the underlying documents as possible,” Grassley said.
Grassley also says that his referral contains verbatim quotes from the Carter Page FISA applications that are not included in the House Intelligence Committee memo.
“Specifically, the referral quotes the government’s description of Steele’s statements to the FBI about his contacts with the media. Those quotes remain redacted in the version currently approved for public release.”
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