Grassley pushes to reveal more about Steele criminal referral
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is pushing the FBI to allow him to make public more details from an unclassified criminal referral of Christopher Steele, the author of the controversial opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump.
Grassley, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), on Monday morning released a heavily redacted version of the referral, which asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Steele lied to investigators about his communications with the press.
“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,” the referral reads.
According to a spokesman for Grassley, the blacked-out sections of the referral contain “verbatim quotes” from government surveillance warrant applications that include “the government’s description of Steele’s statements to the FBI about his contacts with the media.”
Those same warrant applications are referenced in a House Intelligence Committee memo that was declassified on Friday. Grassley and Graham now argue that the classification of the referral should be updated and the redactions removed.
The bureau only signed off on the release of the redacted version of the referral after Trump declassified the House Intelligence Committee memo.
“Seeking transparency and cooperation should not be this challenging,” Grassley said. “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.”
The Steele dossier has been a flashpoint in the debate over the federal investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign. Republicans have alleged that the FBI inappropriately relied on the document, once described as “salacious and unverified” by former FBI Director James Comey, to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The House Intelligence Committee memo, spearheaded by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), also raises concerns about Steele’s communications with the press.
“Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violation — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016 Mother Jones article by David Corn,” the memo reads.
“Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.”
Democrats have argued that the Republican efforts to discredit Steele and allege wrongdoing related to the dossier at the Justice Department are part of a unified effort to muddy the waters around the ongoing federal investigation, now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Intelligence Committee Republicans behind the memo insist that its findings have no bearing on the Mueller investigation, which they say should continue unimpeded.
Trump on Saturday tweeted the memo “totally vindicates” him.