Grassley Presses FBI on Use of Foreign Intelligence in Russia Investigation and Whether Steele Was Underlying Source
Oct 06, 2017
WASHINGTON – In light of revelations that Christopher Steele pushed dossier allegations to British intelligence last year, in addition to working with Fusion GPS, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley pressed the FBI to explain what steps it took to determine whether the underlying source of any foreign intelligence used in the FBI’s Russia investigation was actually independent of Mr. Steele or his network. Fusion GPS reportedly oversaw Mr. Steele’s creation of the dossier of political opposition research alleging collusion between Trump associates and Russia while the company also worked closely with Russian interests to undermine United States sanctions against Russian human rights abusers. Chairman Grassley called for the FBI to provide answers on materially inconsistent information the FBI and Justice Department previously provided the Committee about the bureau’s interactions with Christopher Steele in the Russia investigation and their reliance on the dossier.
As revealed by Steele’s attorneys in the British defamation lawsuit against him, Steele also provided some of the dossier contents to at least one foreign government. This information could have been passed into intelligence sharing streams between the United Kingdom and the United States, creating the false appearance of two independent corroborating sources. It is unclear whether Mr. Steele and his associates also shopped dossier allegations, or related allegations, to additional foreign governments, or whether any such resulting foreign intelligence reports may have ended up in the FBI’s Russia investigation. 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.
In his letter, Grassley inquires as to whether any such foreign intelligence was relied upon in the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russia. Grassley also asks about what steps the FBI took to determine whether Steele was the ultimate source of any foreign intelligence reports if any were used in this investigation and what, if any, other foreign intelligence sources the FBI relied on in seeking investigative authorities in the course of the investigation.
Grassley began asking questions about the FBI’s work with Christopher Steele seven months ago, with a letter to then-Director James Comey on March 6. Since that first inquiry, the Committee’s questions have either gone unanswered or been met with material inconsistencies. Grassley followed up on that first letter with another on April 28, with questions at the FBI’s regular oversight hearing before the Committee on May 3 and again in a classified letter on August 25 to the FBI’s new Director, Christopher Wray, outlining the inconsistent information.
Full text of Grassley’s letter to Director Wray follows.
October 4, 2017
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Christopher Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear Director Wray:
On March 6, 2017, I wrote to then-Director Comey asking a series of questions stemming from press reports about the FBI’s interaction with Mr. Christopher Steele, the former British spy and purported author of the political opposition research dossier of allegations of collusion against President Trump and his associates. While the Committee did receive some information in response, most of the questions went unanswered, and the information the Committee received contained material inconsistencies.
To address these inconsistencies, I sent a follow up letter on April 28, requesting that the FBI answer all the questions in the original letter, explain the inconsistencies, and answer some additional questions. Although Mr. Comey indicated at his oversight hearing on May 3, 2017, that the FBI would provide answers, the President fired him shortly thereafter. The Committee has received no additional information about these issues from the FBI. The Committee continues to need this information to perform its constitutional duty of oversight of the FBI. On August 25, 2017, I sent you a classified letter addressing the issues in detail. I have yet to receive a response to that letter.
There is another concern about Mr. Steele’s and Fusion GPS’s work that the FBI needs to address. Public reports indicate that the FBI received the dossier and has used it in the Russia investigation. However, it appears that the FBI, the media, and various Congressional offices were not the only recipients of the dossier prior to its publication. In court filings by Mr. Steele’s attorneys in London, he admitted that he had passed at least some contents of the dossier to at least one foreign government – the United Kingdom.
Media reports have also claimed that foreign governments passed along information to the United States about purported contacts between Trump associates and Russians. Given that Mr. Steele also distributed the dossier’s contents to at least one foreign government, it is possible that this political dossier’s collusion allegations, or related allegations originating via Mr. Steele, may have also been surreptitiously funneled into U.S. intelligence streams through foreign intelligence sharing. If so, that foreign information would likely have ended up within the FBI’s investigation of allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russia. However, given that foreign intelligence agencies carefully guard their sources and methods, it may not have been clear to the FBI that the foreign reporting was actually based on the work of Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS.
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. 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.
The Committee must understand what steps the FBI has taken to ensure that any foreign information it received and used in the Russia investigation, beyond the dossier itself, was not ultimately sourced to Mr. Steele, his associates such as Fusion GPS, or his sub-sources. Please respond to the following by no later than October 18, 2017:
- Please provide all foreign intelligence reports that are or have been part of the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
- Please explain what steps, if any, the FBI took to determine whether Mr. Steele or his network were the ultimate source of each foreign intelligence document received.
- Other than the Steele dossier itself, did the FBI rely on any information provided by foreign nationals or foreign governments in seeking investigative authorities in the investigation of alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russia? If so, please include the relevant warrant applications and related documents.
I anticipate that your responses to these questions may contain both classified and unclassified information. Please send all unclassified material directly to the Committee. In keeping with the requirements of Executive Order 13526, if any of the responsive documents do contain classified information, please segregate all unclassified material within the classified documents, provide all unclassified information directly to the Committee, and provide a classified addendum to the Office of Senate Security. Although the Committee complies with all laws and regulations governing the handling of classified information, it is not bound, absent its prior agreement, by any handling restrictions or instructions on unclassified information unilaterally asserted by the Executive Branch.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Davis of my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225.
Charles E. Grassley
Committee on the Judiciary
cc: The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
 Those filings are attached to this letter.