Congress still awaits answers from the FBI on their handling of a “dossier” compiled on Donald Trump by a former intelligence agent employed by oppo-research firm Fusion GPS. Special counsel Robert Mueller decided to go directly to the source. Sometime over the summer, a team from Mueller’s investigation met with Christopher Steele, CNN reports, while sources also tell them that the FBI took the information more seriously than previously acknowledged:
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators met this past summer with the former British spy whose dossier on alleged Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign spawned months of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Information from Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer, could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws.
CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged. James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, said in a January 2017 statement that the intelligence community had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.”
Aaaaaand … what? The story here is that Mueller essentially interviewed a potential material witness. That’s an interesting leak, but did anyone believe that Mueller would have left that stone unturned? There are no indications of any change in the posture of the probe, nor do CNN or CBS provide anything about Steele and the dossier that we didn’t already know. About the only thing that might be a development from this nugget would be an indirect analysis from Richard Burr’s comments Wednesday:
At a news conference Wednesday, Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate’s intelligence committee, said that his panel had been unsuccessful in its efforts to question Steele.
“The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and subsources?” Burr said.
“My hope is that Mr. Steele will make a decision to meet with either Mark or I, or the committee or both so we can hear his side of it,” said Burr, referring to Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat.
Now that we know Mueller’s team has already deposed Steele, the potential for witness tampering by the Senate committee is no longer an issue. So why won’t Steele meet with Burr and Warner? That seems pretty curious, too.
Chris Matthews says this will “get under [Trump’s] skin,” but at least thus far Trump hasn’t had any reaction to this. Perhaps it’s because there’s not anything new in this report, which is three minutes of regurgitating everything that came out over the summer, followed by the reporter’s assurance that Steele is a “serious person.” Maybe, but at least for now, all we know is what was in the dossier, its debunking, and the travelogue of Mueller’s investigators.