The redacted version of the Mueller report will be released tomorrow but Politico reports there is another significant DOJ investigation which could issue a report as soon as next month. DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz has been looking into the FBI’s 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign and is said to have reached some negative conclusions about the Bureau’s relationship with Christopher Steele, author of the Russia dossier:
Several people interviewed by the Inspector General’s office over the past year tell POLITICO that Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. One former U.S. official left the interview with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report “is going to try and deeply undermine” Steele, who spent over two decades working Russia for MI6 before leaving to launch his own corporate intelligence firm…
In 2010, Steele delivered information to the bureau’s Eurasian Organized Crime squad about corruption within the international soccer league FIFA, with links to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, that led to the ouster of longtime FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the indictment of several FIFA officials.
The inspector general’s office has concluded that Steele inflated his worth to the bureau in that case, and did little more than introduce agents to a journalist who had obtained hacked documents, according to two people who were interviewed and briefed on the matter. For the FBI to have formalized its relationship with Steele—paying him an undisclosed amount over beginning in 2013—as a result of his FIFA role may therefore have been bad judgment, the inspector general’s team has intimated. Horowitz’s probe also appears set to cast doubt on the veracity of the information Steele provided about Page that the FBI included in its application for a FISA warrant.
Reading through the Politico story, it seems pretty clear the author is in touch with sources close to Steele. As a result, the piece reads a bit like a pre-buttal made of future Democratic talking points.
The FBI began receiving Steele’s Trump-Russia memos directly. But the bureau cooled on the relationship after learning that Steele had described his Trump campaign research to reporters. (Two sources familiar with Steele’s actions insist that his research technically belonged to his clients, Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, not to the FBI—so he had no obligation to keep it secret.)
So you see, he did nothing wrong by personally trying to dump the contents of his unverified dossier into the public sphere before the election.
Steele is apparently prepared to make a public statement in reaction to the report. I’m not sure why that would matter. Democrats will do everything they can to attack it. They have long been desperate to downplay any criticism of the investigation into Trump. Steele’s addition will be a fly buzzing in a hurricane of recriminations. At most, it will provide an excuse for his defenders to make arguments they would have made anyway.
I think the ability of the left to downplay this is going to less effective than in the past. Before now, the left could always promise the next link in the chain tying Trump to Russia was just around the corner. But with the end of the Mueller investigation and his conclusion that there was no collusion, it’s a bit harder to make that promise. The most shocking claims in the Steele report have been weighed and found wanting. It makes the continued Democratic effort to prop him up look a bit pathetic.