FBI Used Ex-British Spy as Main Source for Spying Warrants After Suspending Its Relationship With Him

Grassley releases new version of his criminal referral of Steele after FBI removed some redactions 

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Despite suspending its relationship with an ex-British spy who wrote the unverified dossier on President Donald Trump over the ex-spy's unauthorized contact with the media, the FBI presented him as a credible source to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court multiple times after that suspension, according to two Republican senators.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) late Tuesday afternoon released a new version of a Jan. 4 criminal referral he wrote with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) that asked the Justice Department to investigate Trump dossier author Christopher Steele for allegedly lying to the FBI, which is a crime.

At Grassley's request, the FBI removed multiple heavy redactions to the senators' criminal referral, which the senators first released Monday and asserts that Steele wrote a second memo with help of at least one of Hillary Clinton's friends.

"I appreciate the FBI's quick turnaround on a tight deadline to my request for a classification review of the Steele referral," Grassley said in a statement. "The more clarity we can provide to the American people about decisions at the FBI and Justice Department, the better."

Grassley pledged to keep pushing for additional transparency and thanked the men and women of the FBI and Justice Department for their continued service.

The newly released memo with fewer redactions states the FBI took "important investigative steps largely based on Mr. Steele's information—and relying heavily on his credibility."

It makes the point that the FBI's first FISA warrant application based on Steele's anti-Trump dossier was filed on Oct. 21, 2016 and was used to get authorization to spy on then-former Trump administration aide Carter Page without disclosing that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign paid for the dossier's creation.

The FBI then applied to renew its FISA application in January 2017 and only provided a footnote that it had suspended its relationship with Steele in October 2016 because of Steele's "unauthorized disclosure of information to the press."

Yet, the FBI continued to cite Steele's past work as evidence of his reliability and stated "the incident that led to the FBI suspending its relationship with [Steele] occurred after [Steele] provided" the FBI with the dossier information described in the application.

"The FBI then vouched for him twice more, using the same rationale, in subsequent renewal applications filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April and June 2017," the senators wrote in their referral.

The referral also asserted that Clinton associates were passing information to Steele while he was compiling the dossier.

The GOP senators allege that the additional memo dated Oct. 19, 2016 was at least partially based on information from a "foreign sub-source who ‘is in touch with [redacted], a contact of [redacted], a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to [redacted]."

The FBI did not lift the redactions dealing with the allegations involving Clinton associates feeding information to Steele. The Guardian and the Washington Post have reported that Clinton associate Cody Shearer was in contact with Steele about negative information regarding Trump and that Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer served as a conduit between Steele and the State Department during the 2016 campaign.

The Washington Free Beacon employed Fusion GPS for political opposition research during the presidential primary campaign but had no involvement in the Steele dossier. For more information, see here.

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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