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Senate Judiciary Chairman Questions FBI Use of Salacious Dossier

  • Grassley asks whether information was corroborated or repeated
  • Trump document was commissioned during presidential campaign

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a stern letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking whether a salacious dossier on President Donald Trump was the basis of the bureau’s Russia investigation.

Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa questioned whether information from foreign intelligence sources used to corroborate some of the dossier’s accusations was merely a regurgitation of information that had originally come from the former British spy who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele, or his network.

The dossier, which included unverified allegations about the president, was commissioned during the presidential campaign by a private investigative firm called Fusion GPS, run by former journalist Glenn Simpson.

Grassley said the FBI and the Justice Department have previously been inconsistent about the bureau’s interactions with Steele.

"Because foreign intelligence agencies carefully guard their sources and methods, it may not have been clear to the FBI if any foreign reporting shared with the FBI was actually the result of efforts by Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS," Grassley wrote in the Oct. 4 letter, which was released Friday.

Grassley has been seeking more information about the FBI’s work with Steele since March, and a classified letter he sent to Wray in August has gone unanswered.

"If this in fact happened, it would be alarming. Mr. Steele’s dossier allegations might appear to be ‘confirmed’ by foreign intelligence, rather than just an echo of the same ‘research’ that Fusion bought from Steele and that the FBI reportedly also attempted to buy from Steele," Grassley wrote. "It is even more alarming in light of what we are learning about the allegedly unregistered Russian foreign agents who Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson were working with to undermine the Magnitsky Act and who met with Trump family and campaign officials last summer."

Nunes Letter

Grassley’s letter follows a similar request in Sept. 1 letters from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Wray.

Those letters noted the committee issued subpoenas on Aug. 24 ordering the Justice Department and FBI to produce "any and all documents related to the agencies’ relationship" with Steele and the dossier. Nunes wrote the subpoenaes were issued because of the FBI and Justice Department’s "insufficient responses to the committee’s numerous Russia-investigation-related requests over the past several months."

The agencies had been given a Sept. 14 deadline to respond, but Nunes said this week that negotiations are continuing. 

"We’re working on it," he said.

Nunes stepped back from running the committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election after an earlier controversy, but still runs the panel.

The efforts of Nunes and some other House committee Republicans to get the documents have been criticized by Democrats on the panel. They say Republicans are merely trying to undermine Steele’s credibility.

"I think there’s a view if they can discredit Mr. Steele they can discredit the whole Russia investigation -- or the whole Russia involvement in our elections," said Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top committee Democrat. 

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