Senate documents show FBI trying to suppress release of new Trump dossier info

Republican senators Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Mnuchin warns UK, Italy of tariffs if digital tax plans are implemented GOP can beat Democrats after impeachment — but it needs to do this one thing MORE (Iowa) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa What to watch for as Senate organizes impeachment on day one MORE (S.C.) on Monday released a letter they sent to the FBI asking that ex-British spy Christopher Steele be investigated for possible criminal violations. Steele authored the anti-Trump “dossier” that was full of false or unverified information, provided to the FBI and leaked to the press in 2016.
 
The FBI secretly used the Steele dossier to convince a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to permit one of the most sensitive invasions of privacy against a U.S. citizen: electronic surveillance by the government. Top Obama and Trump officials signed four wiretap applications against Trump adviser Carter Page starting in fall of 2016 — a month before the presidential election — relying, in part, on the dossier. That’s according to House Republicans who, on Friday, released a summary of classified documents they reviewed.
 
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Not only that, the newly-released criminal referral says Steele actually incorporated information that was funneled to him through Clinton associates and the U.S. State Department where Clinton had served as Secretary of State from 2009 to early 2013. In a memo dated Oct. 19, 2016, Steele wrote that a foreign source who was in touch with “a friend of the Clintons” passed him material through a U.S. State Department connection.
 
Even more problematic, the FBI may have violated strict rules — Woods Procedures — that forbid it from presenting even a single unverified fact to the special court, let alone a lengthy dossier full of them.
 
The criminal referral unveiled today says Steele's possible violations involve claims he reportedly made about his dealings with the media. Conflicting accounts arose as part of a lawsuit in Great Britain where Steele is defending a libel claim made by a Russian businessman. Steele publicly accused him of hacking the Democratic Party. The criminal referral is not a formal accusation of wrongdoing against Steele, but a request for an investigation.
 
Conflicts of interest?
 
In the bigger picture, the criminal referral highlights conflicts of interest questions emerging in the wide-ranging investigations:
 
The Steele criminal referral in essence asks the FBI to investigate a source with whom FBI officials collaborated, and whose evidence they used in a fashion that’s under congressional investigation.
 
 
It was also addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray whose choice for general counsel, Dana Boente, also signed at least one of the wiretap applications. Boente replaced James Baker, a confidante of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE, who signed three of the wiretap applications. (Baker was reassigned in December after questions arose about leaks promoting the anti-Trump material in the dossier. Last June, Comey admitted that he secretly orchestrated a leak to the press to prompt a special counsel investigation of any Trump-Russia ties. Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE was appointed two days later.)

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MORE BY SHARYL ATTKISSON

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Other potential conflicts of interest became apparent when senators Grassley and Graham asked the FBI for permission to release the Steele criminal referral last month. Grassley says the FBI stonewalled — then claimed that unclassified information was actually classified and said it could not be released.
 
Unlike the House of Representatives, which has processes allowing members to release formerly classified material without FBI approval, the Senate requires the FBI’s permission.
 
That’s why the documents released today still contain significant blacked out or redacted portions. The FBI’s explanation for that is also partly redacted. FBI Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs Gregory Bower stated “the FBI cannot and will not weaken its commitment to protecting [redacted]. Public reporting about [redacted] does not affect the FBI’s policy with respect to classification [redacted] nor does it diminish our obligations [redacted].”
 
Page, the target of at least four secret government wiretaps, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
 
Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy-award winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times bestsellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program “Full Measure.”