The nation’s former acting spy chief said there are documents showing early “red flags” casting doubt on the idea of collusion between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia as well as on the veracity of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier.
Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence, who oversaw the country’s 17 intelligence agencies from February through May, where he worked to release a trove of Russia investigation records, told Greg Kelly of Newsmax TV this week that the evidence of those early “red flags,” including about Steele’s dossier possibly being compromised by Russian disinformation, could and should be released in the near future.
“There are a variety of reports that highlight some of these individuals that have not come out yet, and we’re getting closer. I started the process when I was at the Office of Director of National Intelligence. We started to unwind some of these reports, but there are several that still need to come out,” Grenell said this week. “And these reports will show voices within the intelligence community early on — unheard of voices so far — but voices nonetheless from intelligence career officials saying, ‘This doesn’t stack up. This is not something that we should be relying on.’ Those voices were ignored, and their comments were pushed aside and classified information. We need to hear that. We need to hear all those voices.”
Grenell said: “There are a lot of reports that are coming out right now that there were early warning signs to the Steele dossier and to the Russian collusion narrative — early warning signs from intelligence officials raising red flags, saying, ‘You know what? This doesn’t make sense.’ The Russians are knowing about this. They’re putting out disinformation’ — propaganda is what we used to call it. This was an early warning system that was ignored. And I think that the FBI and the other intelligence agencies really have to come clean, and they have to say what they knew and when they knew it.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham released two documents declassified with the help of Attorney General William Barr on Friday. The first document was a 57-page transcript of the FBI’s interviews with Steele’s primary subsource in January 2017, which contradicted numerous claims made in the now-infamous dossier and undercut the FBI’s case against Trump campaign associate Carter Page. A second document showed typed notes from now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok harshly criticizing a New York Times report from February 2017. Strzok criticized Steele and repeatedly disputed the leaked claims in the piece alleging contacts between Trump associates and Russian intelligence.
A former senior intelligence official with knowledge of the situation told the Washington Examiner that the records made public by Graham on Friday were only some of the classified records alluded to by the former acting spy chief and said Grenell had started the declassification process for the other documents but that it wasn’t guaranteed that those other records would be made public.
Grenell said in the interview this week that further evidence existed showing how problematic the Steele dossier was, saying that “not only is it bogus, but it was filled with propaganda directly from the Russians, yet the narrative was that it was the other side that was working with the Russians.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s lengthy December report criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s unverified dossier. Steele put his research together at the behest of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm.
Declassified footnotes now show that the FBI was aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation. FBI investigators received information in 2017, “indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting,” seemingly related to the biggest salacious and unverified claims in Steele’s dossier.
“There’s no question about it that the leadership of DOJ, the leadership of FBI, the leadership of CIA, the leadership at ODNI — all of these intelligence agencies knew that there were red flags and knew that there were these dissenting voices that were pushed aside,” Grenell said. “I think at this point, now that we know that there were so many problems and that the Russian collusion narrative was wrong from the beginning.”
While acting spy chief, Grenell successfully pushed for a large number of Trump-Russia documents to be declassified and made public, including: the fully declassified version of the email that Obama national security adviser Susan Rice sent herself about an Oval Office discussion on the FBI’s investigation into retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; a National Security Agency document containing a list of dozens of Obama administration officials, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who were the authorized recipients of information in response to “unmasking” requests that revealed Flynn’s identity in surveillance intercepts; and dozens of witness transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation on Russian election interference that Adam Schiff had resisted making public quickly and which showed top Obama national security officials saying they did not have direct evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
“Now we have Adam Schiff who clearly knew from the beginning that there were dissenting voices [about the Steele dossier and Russian collusion],” Grenell said this week. “Why didn’t Adam Schiff and others on Capitol Hill have a full vetting? Why did they only take one side of the intelligence to put it out there?”