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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 RatcliffeFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office Grenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official 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 JohnsonJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission MORE (Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 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 TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend 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 PutinUN experts: International investigation into Navalny poisoning needed Views of China, Russia at record lows: Gallup West's 'wokeness' helped Russia to redefine a 'prisoner of conscience' 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE told Grassley while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.