Rep. Devin Nunes: Brookings Institution Disseminated the Dossier

Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) accused the far-left-leaning Brookings Institution think tank and its leadership in disseminating the discredited anti-Trump dossier, defending its credibility and possibly even being involved in its very creation.

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee accused the head of the Brookings Institution, Strobe Talbott, of being directly involved in the anti-Trump dossier and stated he is examining “the three ‘D’s” of the dossier: its development, dissemination, and defense. “They [the Brookings Institution] were involved for sure in the dissemination and for sure in the defense of the dossier. We just don’t know yet were they also involved in the development,” Nunes said, adding it would be a “major” part of the story.

Speaking with Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday, Nunes highlighted how a court case in London involving Christopher Steele — the former MI6 agent who created the debunked Russia-Trump dossier — exposed direct links between Steele and the leadership of the Brookings Institution, and the possible creation of the dossier between Steele and the Brookings Institution leadership.

Nunes cited text messages between Steele and Strobe Talbott, then president of Brookings, leading him to question “what on earth was the president of Brookings doing texting back and forth to Steele, why was he accepting the dossier?” Nunes further questioned whether any of Steele’s sources came from Brookings, adding that the left-leaning institute has a lot to answer for.   

Steele is currently being sued by Russian tech executive Aleksej Gubarev in a London court for defamation. A memo in the discredited dossier accused Gubarev of using WebZilla, a tech company he owns, to facilitate hacks against Democrats.   

The Daily Caller reported on the text messages received from Gubarev’s lawyer, Andrew Caldecott, who read the text messages between Talbot and Steele to the court on Monday.

Talbot was friends with Bill Clinton when the two were students at Oxford, with Talbott eventually becoming a special adviser to the secretary of state during the first Clinton administration. Later, when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state, she created a board of outside advisers and installed Talbott as chairman.

In one text message, Talbot called Steele “out of the blue in August 2016,” inquiring about Steele’s work at the time and offering him advice if needed:

Mr. Talbott telephones Mr Steele out of the blue in August 2016, having heard about his work and offers advice if needed. 

In another text message after the elections, Steele asked Talbot how he wanted to handle “the package” (the dossier) that he received a copy of on  Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 to “discuss with John Kerry and other officials at the State Department.”

“Dear Strobe, I know this is not straight forward but we need to discuss the package we delivered to you the other week, and sooner the better. What you thought of it, what you did with it, how we (both) should handle it and the issue it highlights going forward etc.,” Steele wrote on Nov. 12, 2016, according to Caldecott.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on November 21, 2019, as part of the then impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, former White House adviser Fiona Hill described to Nunes how she received a copy of the dossier from Talbot — then President of the Brookings Institute — the day before BuzzFeed published it on January 10. Hill, previously a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution before joining the Trump administration, also mentioned how she met with Steele in 2016 prior to elections.

A partial transcript from the hearing reads:

NUNES: OK. Dr. Hill, in your testimony, you said that – no, in your deposition, excuse me, that Christopher Steele was your counterpart at one time. Is this correct?

HILL: That’s correct, yes.

NUNES: You testified that you met with Christopher Steele in 2016. I assume that’s still correct?

HILL: That’s correct, yes.

NUNES: And the only thing we didn’t get on that is do you know about when that was in 2016 and how many times?

HILL: I’m afraid I don’t. I actually met with him – well you asked me actually in a deposition when the most recent time that I had met with him in 2016 and he retired from the British Intelligence Services in 2009, which is the same time …

NUNES: Right, I’m asking about 2016.

HILL: 2016, I don’t recall, but I did meet with him some times before 2016.

NUNES: But you don’t remember the date?

HILL: I don’t, I’m afraid, no.

NUNES: OK. You stated in your deposition that a colleague had showed you the Steele dossier before it was published. Who was that colleague?

HILL: That was one of my colleagues at the Brookings Institution.

NUNES: And who – who was that?

HILL: That was the Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott, who had been sent a copy of this.

NUNES: And he shared it with you?

HILL: That was the day before it was published in Buzzfeed.

NUNES: Thank you. You mentioned in your deposition also that you thought that it was a – let’s get the exact quote – that the dossier was a rabbit hole. Is that still your testimony?

HILL: That’s correct.

According to Brookings’ mission, the think tank seeks to “conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.” It also claims to value the independence of its scholars and prides itself on “open-minded” inquiry.

Adam Andrzejewski, the CEO and Founder of OpenTheBooks.com — one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world — wrote an article for Forbes criticizing the think tank, arguing that public records his organization captured tell a very different story, writing: 

Rather than focusing on “open-minded” inquiry, Brookings [Institution] seems swayed by “open-wallet” inquiry. In many cases, Brookings [Institution] doesn’t resemble a think tank, but a jukebox – add a little coin and Brookings [Institution] will play your tune, if the price is right.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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