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Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe

Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' MORE (R-S.C.) on Friday released two recently declassified documents tied to the years-long Russia probe, including notes suggesting FBI officials were skeptical of reports in early 2017 of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials.

The documents — an annotated version of a New York Times story and a 57-page memo of an interview with a source for Christopher Steele, who compiled a controversial research dossier against then-candidate Trump — comes as Republicans are ramping up their Obama-era investigations.

Graham, a top ally of Trump's, is investigating "Crossfire Hurricane," the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference and the Trump campaign, and former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's probe, which subsumed it.

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In one of the documents released by Graham, Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent, annotated a New York Times February 2017 article headlined "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence."

"This statement is misleading and inaccurate as written. We have not seen evidence of any individuals affiliated with the Trump team in contact with IOs," one of Strzok's annotations reads, referring to intelligence officers.

"Again we are unaware of ANY Trump advisors engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials," he adds in another note.

Graham, in a statement, argued that Strzok's notes "question the entire premise of the FBI's investigation" and undercuts Mueller's probe.

“These documents, which I have long sought, tell a damning story for anyone who’s interested in trying to find the truth behind the corrupt nature of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 and beyond," Graham added.

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But Strzok's comments came before the investigation into Trump adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet Michael Cohen on Giuliani's legal fees: He won't get 'two cents' from Trump Cohen on Giuliani: 'Chickens coming home to roost' MORE, who he wrote in one note had not been investigated. A 2016 Trump Tower meeting that involved Donald TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE Jr., son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerNew Kushner group aims to promote relations between Arab states, Israel Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Iran moves closer to a diplomatic breakthrough that may upset Israel MORE, campaign manager Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThere was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence Hunter Biden blasts Trump in new book: 'A vile man with a vile mission' MORE and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya also wasn't first reported by The New York Times until mid-2017, months after Strzok made his notes.

A 22-month investigation led by Mueller did not find sufficient evidence that members of the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Moscow to tip the election in their favor.

The other document released by Graham is a memo detailing a three-day interview with a key source for Steele. The documents, which still include several areas of redaction, were declassified by Attorney General William BarrBill BarrLawyer for former officer charged in George Floyd death alleges witness coercion CNN legal analyst joins DOJ's national security division Barr threatened to resign over Trump attempts to fire Wray: report MORE

It's the latest instance of Trump administration officials declassifying documents tied to the Russia probe for Senate Republican chairmen, who have vowed to "investigate the investigators."

Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonImmigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart GOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins MORE (R-Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (R-Iowa) released a two-page annex last month from the intelligence community's assessment on Russian interference after Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump alumni launch America First Policy Institute Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE declassified it at their request.

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Republicans have homed in for years on the Steele dossier, viewing it as a politically motivated hit job. It was funded, in part, by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit More than half of eligible Latinos voted in 2020, setting record Fox News signs Trey Gowdy, Dan Bongino for new shows MORE's 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee and made a series of serious allegations about Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Menendez calls on Biden to support Armenia amid rising tensions with Azerbaijan Biden says Colonial Pipeline hackers based in Russia, but not government-backed MORE that have either been disproven or remain unsubstantiated.

The report from Graham isn't the first to note discrepancies between Steele and his source. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz previously highlighted it in a report where he noted 17 inaccuracies and omissions in the surveillance warrant applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

"The FBI discovered discrepancies between Steele's reporting and statements sub-sources made to the FBI, which raised doubts about the reliability of some of Steele's reports," Horowitz wrote.

But former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinProtect the police or the First Amendment? Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office MORE told members of the Judiciary Committee earlier this year that while information from Steele was in the dossier it was, to his understanding, only verified information.

"The Steele dossier was not in the FISA, was not submitted to the court," he added.