On Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley posted a heretofore unpublished portion of the uncorroborated Trump-Russia dossier that shows that officials of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign provided information to former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier. Grassley posted the heavily redacted referral he sent to the Department of Justice Department in which he called for a criminal investigation into Steele and whether he lied to the FBI. The referral is jointly signed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

In Grassley’s referral to the DOJ is a reference to a memo Steele wrote that is dated October 19, 2016. It was not included in the infamous dossier that was posted on January 10, 2017 by BuzzFeed. Grassley is calling on the FBI to update the classification of the referral to allow complete disclosure of important context from the documents on which it is based.
 
“Seeking transparency and cooperation should not be this challenging.  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. There are still many questions that can only be answered by complete transparency.  That means declassifying as much of the underlying documents as possible,” Grassley said, according to a release. 

Grassley’s referral notes that a “foreign sub source is in touch with [name redacted] a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to [name redacted.]” The referenced associate of the Clintons may have been channeling information from the State Department under then-president Barack Obama, which passed first through a named person. 

The relevant passage in the referral is as follows:

  • One memorandum by Mr. Steele that was not published by Buzzfeed is dated October 19, 2016. The report alleges XXXXXXXXXX , as well as XXXXXX. Mr. Steele's memorandum states that his company "received this report from XXXXX US State Department," that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who "is in touch with XXXX, a contact of XXXXXX , a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to XXXXXX ."

Grassley said in the referral, “It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clintons associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.” 

A declassified House memo that was released on Friday contends that the FBI used the salacious dossier, which was prepared by the Fusion GPS opposition research firm at the behest of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to snoop on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The FBI neglected to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in its petition for the warrant that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign had funded the dossier that was prepared by Steele. 

The reclassification of the redacted material by the Department of Justice will allow its publication. According to Grassley’s release, while the memo released by the House Intelligence Committee is no longer classified, the “underlying text of the FISA applications that it references is still controlled by the Executive Branch.” The referral sent by Sens. Grassley and Graham contains verbatim quotes from the FISA applications that are not included in the published House Intelligence Committee memo. “Specifically, the referral quotes the government’s description of Steele’s statements to the FBI about his contacts with the media. Those quotes remain redacted in the version currently approved for public release,” said Grassley’s release.

On Friday, Grassley sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray to update the referral and “remove the extensive redactions to allow a more complete understanding and better inform the public debate.”

Grassley's letter to Wray follows:

February 2, 2018
 
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Christopher A. Wray 
Director                                                          
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535
 
The Honorable Rod J. Rosenstein
Deputy Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
 
Dear Director Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein:
 
Pursuant to Section 3.5 of Executive Order 13526, I am writing to formally demand a Mandatory Declassification Review of the classified criminal referral Chairman Graham and I sent to the FBI and Justice Department regarding Christopher Steele’s potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.[1]
 
On January 4, 2018, Senator Graham and I sent a classified memo to the Justice Department and the FBI.  The eight-page memo referred for further investigation materially inconsistent statements reportedly made by Christopher Steele, the author of the anti-Trump dossier funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 Presidential election.  On January 19, 2018, an FBI Congressional liaison, Greg Brower, sent a letter claiming that a few of the paragraphs marked as unclassified in our memo contained classified information.  A redacted copy of Mr. Brower’s letter is attached for reference. 
 
As I explained in a speech on the Senate floor, the FBI’s claims mischaracterize and misstate what those paragraphs actually say.  Nonetheless, on January 29, I wrote to Director Wray and Inspector General Horowitz, raising my objections to the FBI’s classification claims, but attaching a further redacted version of the referral that addressed FBI’s concerns.  On February 2, 2018, Mr. Brower stated that the FBI had no concerns with the public release of that further redacted version, which is attached to this letter. 
 
Today, the President formally declassified a memorandum drafted by the majority staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI).[2]  Much of the information in the declassified HPSCI memorandum overlaps with the information in the criminal referral made by Senator Graham and me.  That information has now been declassified and can no longer properly be deemed as classified in our criminal referral.  Accordingly, I ask that you immediately review the classified referral in light of today’s declassification and provide a declassified version of it to the Committee with the declassified version by no later than February 6, 2018. 
 
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.  Please contact Patrick Davis of my staff at (202) 224-5225 if you have any questions.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Charles E. Grassley                                                    
Chairman                                                                    
Committee on the Judiciary                                       
 
 
Enclosures: As stated.
 
cc:       The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz
Inspector General
United States Department of Justice
 
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
 
Director, Office of Information Policy
United States Department of Justice 
1425 New York Ave, NW
Suite 11050
Washington, DC 20530


 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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