Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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After House GOP Memo, FBI OKs Release of Unclassified Steele Referral

Feb 05, 2018

UPDATE | Feb. 06, 2018: Following Senator Grassley's request of 02/02/2018, the FBI today removed a number of redactions from the Steele referral referenced below.  The less-redacted version released today is available HERE.


FBI Required Redactions of Unclassified Material; Grassley Seeks Full Declassification Review
 
WASHINGTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation signed off on an unclassified version of the criminal referral by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham only after the White House declassified a House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) Majority memo largely based on the same underlying documents.  Grassley is now 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.
 
On January 4, Grassley and Graham referred Christopher Steele, the author of an unverified “Trump dossier,” to the FBI for further investigation after reviewing Justice Department documents that conflicted with Steele’s sworn statements in British court about the distribution of his research.  At the time of the referral, the existence of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications described in the HPSCI memo was still classified.  Grassley had sought the FBI’s cooperation to confirm that portions of the referral derived from sources other than the applications were unclassified. Following weeks of consultation, the FBI asked the committee to redact additional material despite confirming that it was, in fact, not classified, and only approved the release of the unclassified, heavily-redacted version of the referral after the White House formally declassified the House memo.
 
While the HPSCI Majority memo is no longer classified, the underlying text of the FISA applications that it references is still controlled by the Executive Branch.  The Grassley-Graham referral contains verbatim quotes from the FISA applications that are not included in the HPSCI 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.  Friday evening, Grassley formally requested the FBI to update the classification of the referral and remove the extensive redactions to allow a more complete understanding and better inform the public debate.  That letter 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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