A top Republican defended his committee releasing the declassified FBI interview with a top source for British ex-spy Christopher Steele and said a forthcoming document would show the bureau misled Congress about the reliability of his anti-Trump dossier.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the former MI6 agent, said Steele’s dossier was compromised by Russian disinformation, and argued newly public FBI notes from a January 2017 discussion with Steele’s “primary subsource” demonstrated the FBI knew the dossier was unreliable but continued to use it anyway. During his interview with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News, he also previewed new bureau records to be released in the upcoming week he said would show the FBI misled not just the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the Steele dossier, but also lawmakers.
“We also now have found, and this will come out next week, that Congress got suspicious about the Russian subsource and reliability of the Steele Dossier, and that members of Congress asked to be briefed about it,” Graham said. “Here is what I think I’m going to be able to show to the public: not only did the FBI lie to the court about the reliability about the Steele dossier, they also lied to the Congress. And that is a separate crime.”
Graham said congressional investigators “got suspicious … about Steele and the reliability about the dossier” and “so they started asking questions to the FBI… and I found the notes that the FBI used to prepare that briefing.” The South Carolina Republican said, “You’re gonna find not only did the FBI lie to the FISA court, they lied their ass off to the Congress” in 2018.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December report on FISA abuse seemed to reference the notes Graham was referring to, noting that “according to an FBI memorandum prepared in December 2017 for a Congressional briefing, by the time the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was transferred to the Special Counsel in May 2017, the FBI ‘did not assess it likely that the [Steele] [election reporting] was generated in connection to a Russian disinformation campaign.’”
Declassified footnotes now show the FBI became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.
Igor Danchenko, a 42-year-old Russian-trained lawyer born in Ukraine, was identified as Steele’s primary subsource after Graham released declassified documents that undercut the credibility of Steele’s dossier, including a three-day interview with Danchenko in January 2017 where Danchenko contradicted claims made in the dossier and undercut the FBI’s case against Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Graham said he wants to call the FBI analyst who prepared the memo and the case agent who interviewed Danchenko and ask, “Did you tell anybody above you that the dossier is a piece of Russian disinformation?” Graham dismissed criticism from the New York Times and others, including Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, that a source such as Danchenko had now been outed, claiming, “Russian disinformation was used by American law enforcement in weapons form to go after a sitting president. They’re laughing their ass off in Russia about this. They would give this guy a medal.”
Horowitz released a lengthy report in December that criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s unverified dossier.
“Not only do we now know that the FBI lied to the FISA court about the reliability of dossier, they told the court that the subsource was truthful and cooperative and Russian-based — the truth is that the subsource was American-based,” Graham said. “He was an employee of Christopher Steele, who was on the payroll of the Democratic Party, and he told Christopher Steele this is all a bunch hearsay. And when the FBI understood the dossier was no longer reliable they continued to use it.”
Horowitz’s report noted the second and third surveillance application renewals targeting Page advised the FISA court that, after the interview with Danchenko, “the FBI found the Russian-based sub-source to be truthful and cooperative.” But despite a few trips to Russia in 2016, Danchenko was not “Russian-based” since he had lived in the United States for many years.
The DOJ watchdog said the renewals “continued to rely on the Steele information, without any revisions or notice to the court that the Primary Subsource contradicted the Steele election reporting.”
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.
“[Danchenko] told Christopher Steele, ‘Here’s what I’ve got. It is bar talk. It’s rumor. It is innuendo. It is not really reliable.’ And what did Christopher Steele do with that? He turned it into a Tom Clancy novel. He sold it to the FBI,” Graham said. “They sold it to the FISA court to get a warrant against Carter Page. … After they knew it was a bunch of garbage, they continued to use it anyway. Somebody needs to go to jail.”
Graham also pointed to another recently declassified document showing typed notes from now-fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok criticizing a New York Times report from February 2017 where Strzok critiqued Steele.
Graham said that Strzok “has a duty to report to the court exculpatory information, he has a duty to notify his superiors that the key document to get warrants against Carter Page, the Russian dossier, is no longer reliable.” He said he found it “impossible to believe” that FBI Director James Comey and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe would not have been made aware of the dossier’s flaws, adding, “Anybody that knew that the Russian dossier was unreliable and continued to get a warrant against Carter Page based on that document should go to jail for defrauding the court.”
U.S. Attorney John Durham is expected to release a report about his criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation by the end of the summer.