Maybe we waited for the wrong memo. While the actuality of the Devin Nunes majority report from the House Intelligence Committee appears to have fallen short of its preceding hyperbole, a newly released and partially declassified referral from the Senate Judiciary Committee might come closer to establishing connections between Christopher Steele, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and the Barack Obama administration. Byron York reports that much of what this might entail remains classified and redacted — for now:
The newly released document is an unclassified and heavily redacted version of the criminal referral targeting Steele filed on Jan. 4 by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It appears to confirm some level of coordination between the extended Clinton circle and the Obama administration in the effort to seek damaging information about then-candidate Trump.
According to the referral, Steele wrote the additional memo based on anti-Trump information that originated with a foreign source. In a convoluted scheme outlined in the referral, the foreign source gave the information to an unnamed associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton, who then gave the information to an unnamed official in the Obama State Department, who then gave the information to Steele. Steele wrote a report based on the information, but the redacted version of the referral does not say what Steele did with the report after that.
Published accounts in the Guardian and the Washington Post have indicated that Clinton associate Cody Shearer was in contact with Steele about anti-Trump research, and Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer was a connection between Steele and the State Department during the 2016 campaign.
Byron has the memo embedded in the Washington Examiner article, which allows everyone to read it for themselves. Much of it has been redacted, even some of the unclassified paragraphs. (Note that this memo was much more properly formatted for classified material than the Nunes memo, which left all the paragraphs unmarked.) Thanks to the magic of reciprocal leaks and the announcement of the criminal referral regarding Steele, we already know most of what’s left to read.
This part, however, hints at evidence of political bias within those big, dark blocks:
That allegation looks more straightforward than in the Nunes memo. The names are redacted, but Byron mentions Cody Shearer, a Clintonista who did his own dirt-digging on Trump. The FBI apparently used that dossier too, despite its lack of credibility and Shearer’s lack of experience in intelligence matters. Shearer claimed to have found a source within the FSB, but it’s far more likely that Russian intelligence had discovered Shearer as a conduit to the Clintons and fed him disinformation, manipulating him into getting the Obama administration involved in an effort to investigate Trump.
The Judiciary Committee clearly has concerns whether the Russians played Steele for a chump too, and for the same purpose. The referral notes that Steele admitted that he received “unsolicited intelligence” that he included in the dossier:
Small wonder that Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham don’t put much stock into either dossier. They see both men as “vulnerable to manipulation,” both before and after the election.
Mostly, though, the referral makes a better case that the continuing FISA extensions on Carter Page might have fatal flaws if the FBI kept using Steele’s work, even after it became known that he’d lied to the FBI. That may depend on when the FBI figured out that Steele had given them false information, a point that may or may not be clarified in the redacted parts of the referral. The memo states that “when information in those classified documents is evaluated in light of sworn statements by Mr. Steele in British litigation, it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false information.”
If the FBI only recently found that Steele lied to them, they can argue that they made representations to the FISA court in good faith. If they have submitted materially false information to the committee, then someone’s going to have a very bad end to a career and potentially some prison time. There is little doubt that we need to know what happened, and when.
This referral appears to hold much more promise for those who insist that the FBI and Department of Justice were politically tainted during the 2015-16 campaign. It still doesn’t prove it, but it goes much further than the Nunes memo in hinting at the mechanism of such corruption. Hopefully, we can see more of this without exposing legitimate methods and sources to get the answers we should have by now.