Grassley, Graham Call on Barr to Review Classified Oversight Material Related to Russian Interference Probe
Mar 08, 2019
WASHINGTON – The former and current chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee are calling on the newly-confirmed Attorney General to review source records and committee oversight work product regarding investigations stemming from Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) shared material previously sent to the Justice Department, its inspector general and Special Counsel Robert Mueller in order to apprise Barr of outstanding questions and concerns raised by the committee’s oversight of the Justice Department and FBI. Barr is now overseeing the special counsel investigation.
The material includes a February 28, 2018, letter to the Justice Department inspector general seeking a broad review of potential improper political influence, misconduct, or mismanagement of the counterintelligence and criminal investigations related to Russian interference. That letter raises more than 30 classified and unclassified questions related to the Trump-Russia probe based on the committee’s review of public and classified records.
Among the documents prompting questions are applications for secret surveillance authority of Trump campaign associate Carter Page, which relied heavily on information provided to the FBI by Christopher Steele while he was conducting opposition research for Fusion GPS on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Those documents also prompted Grassley and Graham to issue a criminal referral into discrepancies between sworn statements by Steele and information in the surveillance applications.
Grassley and Graham also provided Barr with a November 16, 2017, letter to Mueller regarding selective references in charging documents to fragments of internal Trump campaign emails, which have led some media outlets to misinterpret the nature of the internal campaign dialogue. The committee has reviewed the same emails referenced in the charging document, the fuller context of which paint a different picture of senior campaign officials’ responses to requests for meetings with foreign nations. Those emails have not been publicly released. The November 16 letter has not been made public because it contains the additional context in question.
In an unclassified letter today, Grassley and Graham call on Barr to review the enclosed material related to Justice Department and FBI actions surrounding the investigations. Text of the unclassified letter follows:
(UNCLASSIFIED when separated from attachments)
March 8, 2019
VIA CLASSIFIED COURIER
The Honorable William Barr
Department of Justice
Dear Attorney General Barr,
On February 28, 2018, we transmitted an unclassified cover letter with classified attachments to the Justice Department Inspector General requesting that the office conduct a comprehensive review of potential improper political influence, misconduct, and mismanagement in the conduct of the counterintelligence and criminal investigations related to Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the presidential transition, and the administration prior to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The referral was based in part on 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. The documents we have reviewed also raise questions about the role Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, had in passing allegations from Steele and Fusion GPS to the FBI after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a source.
In addition, on November 16, 2017, the Committee wrote to Special Counsel Mueller regarding the selective use of emails in the George Papadopoulos Statement of Offense. As one example, in the absence of additional context, news outlets have seized on the fragment cited in the Statement’s footnote to suggest that a Trump “Campaign official suggested ‘low level’ staff should go to Russia.” The Trump Campaign voluntarily provided copies of many emails to multiple congressional committees. In full context, the emails in question actually show that the Trump Campaign wanted someone “low level” to decline these types of invitations. Another citation was reported by some news outlets as evidence that the campaign, notably Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis, encouraged personnel to meet with the Russians. However, additional context shows that Papadopoulos had conversations with representatives from multiple governments, not just Russia, and that Clovis had opposed any trip to Russia for Mr. Trump and the campaign.
In light of the fact that you are tasked with overseeing the Russia investigation, it is important that you know and understand the subject matter contained in our unclassified and classified transmissions. Accordingly, attached to this unclassified cover letter is the February 28, 2018, unclassified cover letter and the classified attachments that we originally sent to the Inspector General, the unclassified cover letter and classified Steele referral that we sent to the Department on January 4, 2018, and the November 16, 2017, letter to Special Counsel Mueller. No later than March 22, 2019, please confirm that you have reviewed the aforementioned material.
Should you have questions, please contact Zachary Somers of Chairman Graham’s Committee staff at 202-224-5225 and Josh Flynn-Brown of Chairman Grassley’s Committee staff at 202-224-4515.
Lindsey O. Graham
Committee on the Judiciary
Charles E. Grassley
Committee on Finance
Classified request and memorandum relating to the Committee’s Russia investigation sent to DOJ OIG on February 28, 2018.
Classified Steele criminal referral sent to DOJ on January 4, 2018.
November 16, 2017, letter sent to Robert Mueller.
 Statement of the Offense at 8, U.S. v. George Papadopoulos, 1:17-cr-00182-RDM (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017).
 Jeremy Herb, Evan Perez, Marshall Cohen, Pamela Brown, & Shimon Prokupecz, Ex-Trump campaign adviser pleads guilty to making false statement, CNN (Oct. 31, 2017, 4:13 AM), http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/30/politics/paul-manafort-russia-investigation-surrender/index.html.
 Rosalind S. Helderman & Tom Hamburger, Top campaign officials knew of Trump adviser’s outreach to Russia, WASHINGTON POST (Oct. 30, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-campaign-adviser-pleaded-guilty-to-lying-about-russian-contacts/2017/10/30/d525e712-bd7d-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html?utm_term=.24983c6669f0
 Statement of the Offense at 9, U.S. v. George Papadopoulos, 1:17-cr-00182-RDM (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017). Brianne Pfannenstiel, Reports: Iowan Sam Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos’ Russia meeting, DES MOINES REGISTER (Oct. 31, 2017, 12:53 PM), http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2017/10/31/sam-clovis-encouraged-papadopoulos-russia-meeting/817054001/.
 The “campaign supervisor” cited in the Statement has been identified as Sam Clovis. See, e.g., Rosalind S. Helderman & Tom Hamburger, Top campaign officials knew of Trump adviser’s outreach to Russia, WASHINGTON POST (Oct. 30, 2017).