As I commented on earlier this week, a few days ago Sen, Charles E. Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee made a criminal referral to the Justice Department against Christopher Steele. Steele, of course, is the former British spy who authored the infamous Steele Dossier about Trump’s ties to Russia. Exactly what crime was alleged isn’t clear, but what is clear is that we’re supposed to get the message that the whole Steele Dossier thing was just a Clinton political trick against Trump.
Note that the Senate Judiciary Committee has not interviewed Steele himself. However, the SJC did interview the founders of Fusion GPS, the company that commissioned the dossier. These guys, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, wanted their testimony to the committee made public.
Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.
We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.
The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.
The escalating campaign by President Trump’s allies to discredit the ongoing Russia investigation is based partly on the idea that the probe itself is an illegitimate abuse of power. Some Republicans in Congress are all in on this alt-narrative and are going to great lengths to employ Congress’s investigative machinery to bolster it, plainly in hopes of keeping the real truth about Trump and Russia from coming out.
But Democrats can make it harder for Republicans to get away with this. Democrats need to ensure that the transcripts of testimony delivered to Congress by the co-founders of the firm that commissioned the so-called Steele Dossier are made public. Hardball procedural tactics toward this end do exist: A Democratic senator can try to make the transcripts public by reading them into the congressional record on the floor.
Or, they can just release the records, as Diane Feinstein did today.
Feinstein said she released the transcript to set the record straight. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” she said.
Jennifer Rubin wrote,
Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made a fateful decision acting unilaterally with a phony “criminal referral” of Christopher Steele, a Brit over whom the United States has no jurisdiction anyway and whom they never saw testify, not just because it made them look like partisan hacks. They set a new standard that anyone on the committee could act independently and without bipartisan consent of their colleagues. So Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) did them one better.
You can read the transcript online here. The transcript has no classified information, btw. There was no reason to keep it sealed.
Among other things, Simpson and Frisch testified that Trump was doing considerable business inÂ the former Soviet states of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Technically that’s not Russia, but it’s certainly in Russia’s orbit.
For a time Steele was reporting his findings to the FBI because he believed there were national security issues surrounding Trump’s candidacy. He later told Simpson that the FBI already had this same information from several other sources, including from a “mole” in the Trump campaign itself.
However, you might recall the infamous October 31, 2016 article in the New York Times citing the FBI and saying that the intelligence agencies were not finding evidence linking Trump to Russia. This alarmed Steele and caused him to stop talking to the FBI.
“There was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Simpson testified, calling the Oct. 31 article “a real Halloween special.”
The Times story reported at a critical moment in the 2016 election campign that the FBI had found no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government” during a months-long inquiry. The story has come under fire in light of subsequent reporting, much of it by the Times’ own reporters, detailing contacts between the two.
Simpson testified that the article contradicted Steele and Fusion’s own research into Trump’s connections with Russia.
It would be really, really interesting to know who the sources were on that Halloween story. I blamed James Comey at the time, but it may not have been him.