Grassley intensifies probe into Russian oligarch

Grassley intensifies probe into Russian oligarch
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is intensifying inquiries into Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who some Republicans suspect may have links to the former MI6 agent behind the controversial “Steele dossier.”

A series of text messages between Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFBI director casts doubt on concerns over mail-in voting fraud Democrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials It's time to upgrade benefits MORE (D-Va.) and a D.C.-based lobbyist named Adam Waldman, published by Fox News earlier this month, revealed that Waldman was acting as an intermediary for both Deripaska and the former British spy, Christopher Steele, to negotiate for cooperation with the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia's election interference.

Grassley this week sent a letter to Waldman requesting an interview and demanding information on Steele's relationship to Deripaska.

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“Is it the case that Mr. Steele, through you, works or has worked on behalf of Mr. Deripaska or businesses associated with him? If so, when has such work occurred?” Grassley asked.

“Are you otherwise aware of any business or financial relationships between Mr. Steele and Russian government officials, Russian oligarchs, or Russian businesses?”

He has previously pressed a U.K. lawyer believed to represent Deripaska on the same issues. 

Separately on Wednesday, Grassley also issued a letter to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security requesting visa records and immigration history details for Deripaska, writing that, “Notably, after Mr. Waldman began to advocate for him, Mr. Deripaska was apparently issued a diplomatic passport, and allowed entry into the United States.”

The Judiciary chairman, along with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-S.C.), has had Steele in their sights for months and the pair have asked the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into the former spy.

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Republicans have increasingly sought to tie Russia to the creation of the dossier, which was paid for in part by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio Trump, Biden court Black business owners in final election sprint The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE's campaign and contains a series of unproven allegations claiming ties between President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE and Russia. House Intelligence Committee Republicans earlier this month released a previously-classified document alleging that the Justice Department inappropriately used the dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

“The truth is that they [Democrats] are covering up that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump to feed it to the FBI to open up an investigation into the other campaign,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog | Trump extends ban on racial discrimination training to contractors, military Trump nominates former Nunes aide to serve as intel community inspector general Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election MORE (R-Calif.) said earlier this month.

House Intelligence Democrats in a countermemo released Saturday claimed that elements of the dossier about Page have been corroborated by intelligence officials, though the details were redacted.

Deripaska, an aluminum magnate, owns one of Russia’s largest industrial groups and is closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin.