On Monday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking for details about a reported FBI plan to pay Christopher Steele for information on the Trump campaign.
Steele is the author of the infamous “Trump Dossier,” a collection of poorly-vetted and unsubstantiated rumors about President Trump that wound up being promoted by BuzzFeed.
Since the media is currently in very high dudgeon about unsubstantiated allegations, it will doubtless applaud Grassley for his inquiry.
As Grassley explains to Comey in his letter, the Washington Post reported last week that the FBI “reached an agreement a few weeks before the presidential election” to pay Steele for continuing investigations of President Trump:
The article claimed that the FBI was aware Mr. Steele was creating these memos as part of work for an opposition research firm connected to Hillary Clinton. The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.
It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”
According to the Washington Post, the FBI’s arrangement with Mr. Steele fell through when the media published his dossier and revealed his identity.
On second thought, maybe the media won’t applaud Grassley for digging into this after all. They’re currently very eager to promote the idea that the Obama administration was utterly incorruptible and completely above partisan politics. It won’t look good at all if the FBI was preparing to hire the creator of the slipshod, frequently ridiculous Trump Dossier until certain media outlets decided to attack Trump by leaking his work.
Grassley asked Comey to provide all of the FBI’s records concerning this arrangement with Steele, plus any meetings FBI officials may have held with him. He wants these records squared with FBI policy on funding “an investigator associated with a political opposition research firm connected to a political candidate, or with any outside entity.”
“Were any other government officials outside of the FBI involved in discussing or authorizing the agreement with Mr. Steele, including anyone from the Department of Justice or the Obama White House?” Grassley asked.
He also wants to know how the FBI obtained a copy of Steele’s documents, whether it has additional documents that were not published by Buzzfeed, and whether any FBI activity was influenced by the Steele memo.
Halfway down Grassley’s list of questions comes what could be the most devastating of his inquiries, considering President Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wiretapped his 2016 presidential campaign:
Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process? Did the FBI rely on or otherwise reference the memos in relation to any National Security Letters? If so, please include copies of all relevant applications and other documents.
“National Security Letters” are one of the FBI’s most secretive instruments for obtaining information. They are frequently accompanied by powerful gag orders which forbid the recipient of the letter from discussing it.