The Plot Thickens: Grassley-Graham Letter Sheds New Light on Steele Dossier, Nunes Memo

While politicians, pundits, and the people continue to react to (and spin) the contents of the Nunes memo that was released last Friday, and await the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal, a new document has been released that contains tidbits of illuminating information.

On Jan. 4, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime and terrorism, submitted a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray requesting that they consider investigating Christopher Steele for lying to the FBI, which is a federal crime.

Steele is the former British spy who was hired and paid $160,000 by Fusion GPS, a research company working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to do opposition research on Donald Trump. Steele is also the individual who produced a dossier that was used to support an application for a warrant to engage in electronic surveillance of Carter Page, a suspected foreign agent (wittingly or unwittingly) of the Russian government who was also working as an unpaid foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign.

And it is Steele’s credibility, as well as allegations of political bias at senior levels of the FBI, that are the center of this dispute.

Grassley-Graham Memo Informs Our Understanding of Nunes Memo

Attached to that referral letter was an eight-page classified memorandum (“Grassley/Graham memo”) setting forth the basis for the referral. Wray, very much to his credit, has declassified much (but not all) of the information in that memorandum, which has now been released.

The initial application (which was subsequently renewed three times) was filed on October 21, 2016, pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and was signed by a judge on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

As I wrote in a previous article, Former FBI Director James Comey has testified that the information in the Steele dossier was “unverified” at the time the initial FISA application was submitted, and, according to the Nunes memo, former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified before the House intelligence committee that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information,” suggesting the FBI did not believe probable cause existed based on the information it gathered on its own.

Several Democrats have charged that the Nunes memo mischaracterized McCabe’s testimony and have implied that there was more than enough information in the FISA application to support issuing the warrant without information from the Steele dossier.

In their referral memorandum, Grassley and Graham, who have reviewed all four FISA applications in their entirety, “as well as numerous other FBI documents relating to Steele,” make statements which, assuming they are true, tend to support what is contained in the Nunes memo.

Specifically, the Grassley/Graham memo states that the Steele dossier “formed a significant portion of the FBI’s warrant application,” that the application “relied more heavily on Steele’s credibility than on any independent verification or corroboration for his claims,” and that the basis for the warrant “rests largely” on Steele’s credibility.

The Steele dossier contains explosive allegations that the Russian government, acting under orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin, was carrying out an operation to tilt the election in Trump’s favor and that the Russian government had compromising information of a financial and sexual nature against Trump that could be used to blackmail him at some point in the future.

Why the FBI Trusted Steele

The FBI, it seems, trusted Steele and relied on this information because of his background as a spy and because he had provided the bureau with reliable information on several occasions in the past.

According to the Grassley/Graham memo, the FBI stated in its initial FISA application that, “based on [Steele’s] previous reporting history with the FBI, whereby [Steele] provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes [Steele’s] reporting to be credible.”

While that may have been so in the past, there was plenty of reason to distrust Steele in this case.

In addition to the fact that he was working on behalf of the DNC and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election, Steele detested Trump. A month before the government filed its first FISA application, Steele told Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, that he was “desperate” to see that Trump not win the election.

Moreover, the Steele dossier itself is replete with statement allegedly provided to Steele by various unnamed sources whom Steele claims are or were senior Russian officials or people who were close to them. In other words, the validity of the dossier depended not only on the credibility of the man preparing the dossier (whose credibility was subject to doubt in this case), but also his assessment of the credibility of other unidentified sources who were feeding him information.

Did Clinton Sources Contribute to Steele Dossier?

As disturbing as that is, another revelation in the Grassley/Graham memo is even more concerning.

The memo suggests that some of the information being fed to Steele and included in his dossier did not come from highly-placed Russian sources, but from people associated with the Clintons.

There has been some speculation that this individual may have been Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and employee of the Clinton Foundation and a long-time close confidant of Hillary Clinton.

As the memo states, “[i]t is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.”

Steele’s Relationship With FBI

The nature of the lies that Steele may have told the FBI are also significant.

Given the fact that the information in the Steele dossier was “unverified” and was central to the FISA application, the FBI was looking for some, any, information that might be deemed corroborative. According to the Grassley/Graham memo, at the time of the initial FISA application, Steele had told the FBI that he had not disclosed the contents of his dossier to anyone other than the bureau and Fusion GPS.

Roughly one month beforehand, Yahoo News, presumably doing its own investigative work, published an article that, as the FISA application stated, “generally match[ed] the information about [Carter] Page that [Steele] discovered doing [his] own research … .”

According to the Grassley/Graham memo, the FBI affirmatively stated in the FISA application that it did not believe Steele was the source of the information that appeared in the Yahoo News article, which attributed the source of its information to “a well-placed Western intelligence source … .”

If the Yahoo News source was indeed an independent source, this would be significant, but it wasn’t. Contrary to what he told the FBI, Steele had, in fact, provided information in his dossier to others. The source of the information in the Yahoo News article was Steele himself.

Steele, no doubt anxious to get his revelations into the public domain before the election, was leaking like a sieve. In addition to speaking to Yahoo News, Steele provided background briefings to CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and possibly other media outlets.

Shortly after the initial FISA warrant was obtained, Mother Jones published its own article in which Steele outed himself as an FBI confidential source, which prompted the FBI to formally terminate Steele’s designation as a trusted source.

Friends of Steele’s have stated that Steele was deeply troubled by what he learned during his investigation of Trump and that he felt like he was “sitting on a nuclear weapon.” Perhaps that was so.

But given the explosive nature of charges, the relationship of the target (Page) to the Trump campaign in the heat of a close election battle, the fact that Steele was paid by (and possibly given unsourced information by) the Clinton campaign, it was incumbent on the FBI to verify as much of this information as it could or, at the very least, to reveal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every bit of information it had that might cast doubt on Steele’s credibility.

In summary, the initial FISA application and, most likely, the renewal applications, relied extensively on the credibility of Steele. Yet in addition to the fact that it failed to disclose the full extent of Steele’s known or potential bias in the initial application, when the FBI learned that Steele had not been truthful during the process, it did not, it seems, tell that to the FISA court.

As Graham has stated: “You can be an FBI informant. You can be a political operative. But you can’t be both, particularly at the same time.”

All attorneys before a court have a duty of candor, which means they must disclose “all material facts known to the lawyer that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.” Would the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge have signed the warrant if this information had been disclosed? We will never know.

This is, of course, a developing story, and more information will likely be revealed once the memo from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is disclosed, assuming that it is disclosed.

Speaking of the Schiff memo, some Democrats have expressed the fear that the president, who must approve the memo’s release, will make “political redactions” to the memo to prevent the disclosure of information that will be unfavorable to him.  And some Republican sources have expressed the fear that the Democrats may have intentionally included highly sensitive information in their memo so that, if redacted by Trump, it would enable them to argue that the president is hiding something.

Let’s hope neither of these is true.

It is, of course, vital that the president protect against the disclosure of sensitive “sources and methods” that could imperil the integrity of current or future national security investigations. That having been said, it is also important that the public get to the bottom of what happened here. As I have previously stated, this “matter should be thoroughly and dispassionately (to the extent that is possible in Washington, D.C.) investigated. The matter is too important to do otherwise.”


From - The Daily Signal - by John G. Malcolm

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Thomas Haj
3 years ago

As long as the liberals control the means of communication, Trump will forever be tied to “collusion with Russia” and Obama will be forever known as the “best president ever”.

3 years ago

As I was discussing this situation with my daughter, she just realized that we probably have the most corrupted government on the planet. Also she was worried, who is protecting us??

Paul W
3 years ago

The Clinton cronies that supplied Steele with the “dirt” used in the dossier were undoubtedly Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal. Neither of them had the credibility to advance these lies. Enter Christopher Steele…Secret Agent Man who, at least at that time, had the credibility with the FBI to pass this trash off. This stuff is purely felonious at the least, and treasonous at the most. Now…we’ll see if anything happens to anyone of consequence. I’m doubting it.

Barbara J Struble
3 years ago

AMAC, thank you for keeping us up to date on these critical security issues. It is nice to have a place where truth trumps.

Bob L.
3 years ago

I’ve only heard rare hints of this mess being compared to the Watergate scandal.
Scandal this is not, it’s a full blown conspiracy, with foreign involvement, greater than anything Senator Joe McCarthy ever tried to uncover and expose. No one in government investigating the current situation, or even FOX News, dares say too much about the seriousness of it in public, but we are indeed on the brink of losing what’s left of our freedom and any pretending that we still have a Constitutional form of government. What is being exposed is the fact that Congress does little other than debate and go through he motions of being in control of anything. Those in Congress that do get their agenda “bullied” through are the radical Progressives of both parties. The REAL power in the federal government has been and is the unelected tens of thousands bureaucrats and appointees, backed up by selective hiring of even more radicals. We are now ruled more by rules, regulations, and mandates, most of which are unconstitutional that carry the weight and penalty of law than by actual law. Oh, and let’s not forget about unconstitutional Executive Orders as well that Progressive POTUS’ have written over decades and have not been rescinded.

Yes, the New World Order is real and licking it’s lips over how close they are to winning.

3 years ago
Reply to  Bob L.

Well said. Have to pin a name on iti that will stick and taint the perps forever. Donkeygate?

3 years ago
Reply to  Bob L.

Very well said Bob L. Don’t expect any of the U.S. media, FOX included, to devote any significant time to articulating the seriousness of what has transpired to date and how deep the corruption has gone in our government. All the media minus FOX have been owned and operated as de-facto propaganda arms of the Democrat party for decades. So they are NEVER going to give this type of story the coverage it deserves. Sorry, but that is just the way it is. FOX is no longer the network it was just two short years ago. Rupert Murdock has passed control of his empire to his two sons. One runs the entertainment arm (movies, sports, etc.) and the other runs news. Neither is what you would call conservative (can you say NY east side progressives?), so if you have been paying attention, you would have noticed how FOX News has been shifting in tone over the last 12 to 18 months. The commentary shows, like Hannity and the others are still conservative in nature, but the hard news shows have become much more moderate in tone. FOX News is also busy trying to win regulatory approval from the EU to acquire the remainder of Sky Network that it already doesn’t own. So they have been told, in no uncertain terms by Brussels, that their news coverage has to become “much more moderated and in-line with what is considered acceptable from the various state run news outlets throughout Europe”. Translation for those that don’t understand bureaucratic speak, that means lose the conservative tone or severely scale it back in your news coverage or you can forget ever expanding into the European market that the younger Murdock wants to do. So that is why you have noticed that FOX News isn’t exactly running with this item as hard as they would have a few short years ago. Yes, you’ll still see the story covered on their commentary shows, but not so much on the hard news shows anymore.

Yes, the globalist crowd is indeed licking their lips. Sure some of their puppets like Comey, McCabe, etc. have been forced out, but there are plenty more of them in senior positions within the federal government to take up the slack created by their departures. Progressives of both parties have been seeding all levels of government with like-minded followers for decades now. Congress is no threat to them, because as you rightly concluded Congress has chosen to endlessly debate the issue instead of use its over-sight authority to first shine a light on the corrupt and then force, through the power of the purse, to actually clean all that corruption out. Those progressive puppets identified have been allowed to retire and sail into the sunset with full government retirements. In essence, the guilty get off scot free and have a good laugh about it as they enjoy retirement on the taxpayer’s dime. So rule of law, once you’ve attained a certain level within the administrative bureaucracy, is pretty much dead.

3 years ago

So what’s going to be more amusing

Seeing some of these elite politico federales be held accountable
and maybe indicted and perp walked
Watching AdamMadMan Shiftless, NancyLegosi, ChuckU Schumer et al
Going Blah Blah Blah Blah to obfuscate deflect and splain it all away.
That would be a case study of what Duh Smartest Woman on Da Planet once described as
“The Suspension of Disbelief ”

How about a Mannafort type early morning raid on some FBI DOJ State Dept NSA homes
Or an Inquisition type interview like Donald Trump JR was subjected to

El gringo viejo
3 years ago

Is there anyone who would honestly say that Mr Putin might possibly prefer a ‘president hillary clinton’ over a President Trump?

If so, please explain your reasoning.

Oil! Russia’s economy is tied to its oil exports. Which of the above is more likely to compete with Russia in the world oil market?

Bill in TX
3 years ago

The Clintons would sell their souls (and I already believe they have done that) for financial gain. Hillary and Russia have an existing business relationship in Uranium One. Who knows what other “deals” lurk? Vladimir P. is mostly interested in instigating U.S. political upheaval. In the beginning I believe he felt Clinton relationship would best accomplish that. Later I feel Vladimir felt he could not trust the Clintons. You must also remember Trump was considered a long shot to become president. Russia was more surprised than the over-confident progressives over the Trump win.
World oil prices are strongest when the Democratic party punishes U.S. oil drillers, pipe line companies, and production companies with over regulation and executive orders against the petroleum/natural gas industries. That alone would tip Vladimir towards Hillary. But there is more to Vladimir than a concern about local economy. His desires lean more towards a world emperor.

3 years ago

As i’ve stated numerous times before in previous comments, the American Communist Party ENDORSED HILLARY AND OBAMA BOTH TIMES and certainly Russia wanted Hillary to win! THEY OWN ANY COLLUSION and are trying to now discredit President Trump with exactly what they are guilty of. Watergate pales in comparison!!!

3 years ago

Citing your one example, I think you’ve begun to answer your own question. Russia wants to expand, like a business. Which administration, Clinton or Trump, would make that more possible. Democrats have been yielding influence faster than their opposition. Russia would gain much more, much faster, with Clinton, than with Trump.

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