Republicans release newly declassified intelligence document on FBI source Steele

A pair of GOP senators on Thursday released a newly declassified intelligence document related to the so-called Steele dossier, the latest move by Republicans to scrutinize aspects of the 2016 Russia probe ahead of the November elections.

Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffePat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE, who was confirmed to the role last month, declassified on Tuesday a two-page annex from the intelligence community's assessment on Russian interference at the request of Republican Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (Iowa).

Johnson and Grassley — chairmen of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Finance committees, respectively — on Thursday released the document, which details the information former British spy Christopher Steele collected on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. He later gave the information to the FBI.

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Steele served as a source for the bureau until the FBI severed ties over unauthorized disclosures to the press.

"An FBI source, using both identified and unidentified subsources volunteered highly politically sensitive information from the summer to the fall of 2016 on Russian influence efforts aimed at the U.S. presidential election," the newly declassified document reads. "We have only limited corroboration of the sources reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment."

The document did not mention Steele by name, but it described him as an "executive of a private business intelligence firm" and a former employee of a foreign intelligence service.

The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in part funded Steele's efforts to engage in opposition research against the Trump campaign. The former intelligence officer compiled a compendium of opposition research memos as part of Fusion GPS's research into Trump.

Some of the allegations in the Steele dossier have been disproven, and Republicans have largely argued that it was a politically motivated hit job on Trump. 

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But the annex to the newly declassified document notes that Steele was correct on several overarching themes about efforts by Russia and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBlumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Not a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' MORE to interfere in the heated 2016 presidential race.

The annex said some of Steele's reporting was "consistent with this assessment judgment."

"The FBI source claimed, for example, that Putin ordered the influence effort, with the aim of defeating Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, who Putin 'fear and hated,'" the document reads, with the rest of the sentence redacted.

It adds that Steele notified the FBI that the Kremlin gave a select number of Russian journalists privileged access to pre-published WikiLeaks material on Clinton and other Democratic Party officials.

Steele, who was not paid by the FBI, gathered this information from a "layered network" of identified and unidentified subsources, according to the annex. And some of the information he provided the FBI in the past has been corroborated, it says.

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The Steele dossier, however, also made a series of serious allegations about Trump's relationship with Putin that have been disproven and remain unsubstantiated. Those accusations, including claims of collusion and that Russia had compromising material on Trump, were described in the annex as the "most politically sensitive."

A 22-month investigation led by now-former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE did not find sufficient evidence that members of the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with Moscow to tip the election in their favor.

When Steele provided the FBI with information outside of his network of layered sources, Steele "caveated" that he was unable to vouch for the additional information's accuracy. That information was not included in this intelligence assessment, according to the annex.

Democrats and security officials have argued that it was important at the time to clear up any question of whether a presidential candidate might be conspiring with a foreign government and historic foe. Trump's allies, however, argue that the entire counterintelligence investigation into Russia was premised on flawed surveillance applications of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page that in part relied on Steele's information to the FBI.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigations into the Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant and renewals have since noted, in a report released late last year, that Steele was being fed misinformation from Russia.

"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 in his report.

"The FBI also assessed the possibility that Russia was funneling disinformation to Steele, and the possibility that disinformation was included in his election reports," he added.

Defenders of the probe note that the FBI did not include the dossier in such sensitive applications, but they did use some information from Steele.

"The Steele dossier was not in the FISA, was not submitted to the court. There is information from Steele that is in the application. ... My understanding is that what is in the affidavits is verified,” former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe MORE told Grassley while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.