GOP Senators Add to Questions About Dossier Author Steele
Two Republican senators allege the author of a controversial dossier lied to federal agents, or the Justice Department knowingly or mistakenly permitted “materially false statements” to appear in classified records, according a criminal referral from the lawmakers released on Monday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made the allegations in a written referral they sent last month to the Justice Department seeking a criminal investigation of the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele.
The letter doesn’t specify which classified records it is referring to, but later correspondence suggests it involves material from Mr. Steele that the Justice Department included in a surveillance application it submitted to a judge in 2016 to secretly monitor a former Trump campaign adviser.
The Justice Department has said it received the senators’ letter and is reviewing it. Mr. Steele’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A heavily redacted version of the senators’ letter was released Monday, following the disclosure last week by the House Intelligence Committee of a Republican-authored memo asserting that improper bias had infected the Justice Department’s investigation of ties between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian government.
Friday’s House memo, which was criticized by Democrats and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as containing inaccuracies and omissions, disclosed that U.S. authorities obtained a warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Carter Page, a one-time Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser who had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence since 2013.
The surveillance was approved on Oct. 21, 2016, about a month after Mr. Page announced he had taken a leave of absence from the campaign. The government was able to renew the warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page multiple times, the memo noted, suggesting that multiple federal judges found that the surveillance was productive.
The memo by the Republican staff of the intelligence committee suggested partisan bias in the application for surveillance of Mr. Page. The memo says research compiled by Mr. Steele was funded by Democratic groups, and that this fact wasn’t disclosed in the Justice Department’s application.
U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or state-owned entities. WSJ’s Niki Blasina provides a who’s who of the Russians at the center of the investigations.
Democrats have said the memo cherry-picked facts as a way to muddy the waters of the broader probe into ties between Trump associates and Russia, led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The memo also noted that the Justice Department’s surveillance request cited a September 2016 article from Yahoo News. The government apparently used that story to corroborate some of Mr. Steele’s information.
However, the GOP memo alleged, the application “incorrectly assesses” that Mr. Steele didn’t provide information to the author of that story. In fact, Mr. Steele had provided information to reporters at various news organizations including Yahoo News, the memo said—meaning the article wasn’t a separate information source independent of Mr. Steele.
The Yahoo News article appears to be at the crux of the newly released letter from Mr. Graham and Mr. Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging the Justice Department to undertake a criminal investigation of Mr. Steele.
In the letter, the senators say Mr. Steele told a British court that he had provided “off the record” briefings to a number of journalists, including those at Yahoo News. The Yahoo article, published on Sept. 23, 2016, examined ties between Mr. Page and the Kremlin.
The senators’ letter, which had large portions redacted, or blacked out, by the Judiciary Committee in response to objections from the FBI,said either Mr. Steele lied to the bureau or classified records contained misleading information.
In a message to the Justice Department sent Friday, shortly after the House intelligence committee released its memo, Mr. Grassley asked the government to declassify as much of his referral as possible because it overlaps with “much of the information” in the House memo—which dealt exclusively with the surveillance application.
“That information has now been declassified and can no longer be properly deemed as classified in our criminal referral,” the senators wrote.
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