A sub-source used to compile the so-called Steele Dossier, a controversial opposition research document against then-candidate Donald Trump, was previously the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation, Attorney General William Barr disclosed in a letter released on Thursday.
The detail was previously redacted from a footnote in Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s 2019 report
on four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant applications.
But U.S. Attorney John Durham, tapped by Barr to review the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe, signed off on Barr releasing the detail to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is doing his own investigation into the FBI’s probe into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and the Trump campaign.
“I have consulted with Mr. Durham, who originally brought this information to my attention in the course of his investigation, and he has informed me that disclosure of the information will not interfere with his criminal investigation,” Barr wrote in the letter to Graham.
Durham allowing the detail to be publicly released is a signal that he is unlikely to be planning criminal indictments related to this part of his investigation.
The declassified footnote states that the “primary sub-source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian counterintelligence officers.”
A two-page document compiled by the FBI and Barr and sent to Graham along with the declassified footnote adds that the investigation was opened “based on information by the FBI indicating that the Primary Sub-source may be a threat to national security.” The investigation was closed in 2011 and not reopened.
The letter to Graham comes as Trump and his allies have lashed out at the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, the name for the probe into Russia’s election meddling and the 2016 campaign, as a “witch hunt.”
Administration officials, including Barr, have aided GOP senators in releasing new information as they’ve sought to use their committees to dig into the FBI’s previous probe heading into the November election.
Graham is expected to have former FBI Director James Comey before his committee next Wednesday, and has vowed to release a report next month on his investigation into the FBI and subsequent former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Graham said on Thursday that he would be forwarding the information to the FISA court, arguing that it was the latest example of the FBI not including exculpatory material from its warrant applications.
“To me, failure of the FBI to inform the court that the Primary Sub-source was suspected of being a Russian agent is a breach of every duty owed by law enforcement to the judicial system,” Graham said.
Barr has also come under scrutiny from top congressional Democrats because of his public remarks about Durham’s probe. Barr has teased that he could release some findings
from the investigation before the November election.
“We’ll develop this case to the extent we can before the election, and we’ll use our prudent judgment to decide what’s appropriate before the election and what should wait until after the election,” Barr said.
Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to Durham, resigned from the Justice Department probe earlier this month with sources telling the Hartford Courant she was concerned about political pressure from Barr.
–Updated at 11:58 p.m.