Democrats Slow Roll Subpoenas For Christopher Steele Associates, Republicans Say

Gary Peters
Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.) / Getty Images
August 22, 2020

Sen. Gary Peters (D., Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is slow rolling a subpoena for a former State Department official tied to the Christopher Steele dossier, Senate Republicans say.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), who chairs the committee, vented at Peters Thursday, accusing him of resorting to "absurd process arguments" to undermine the panel's investigation. The official, Jonathan Winer, was Steele's "main conduit" into the State Department, and he has since destroyed much of their correspondence, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Russian electoral interference.

"Among other issues, Mr. Winer's admitted destruction of his records related to his contacts with Christopher Steele is concerning and deserves an explanation," Johnson told the Washington Free Beacon. "I am looking forward to learning more from Mr. Winer in spite of Democrat attempts to further delay our investigation."

A committee source with knowledge of the process told the Free Beacon that Peters believes the full committee must vote anytime it changes the date, time, or location appearing on the subpoena. Since such changes are frequent, committee Republicans believe that Peters is trying to bog the panel down in a series of logistical votes, thus delaying Winer's testimony.

"They're throwing up all these roadblocks and kicking and screaming the whole way," the source said. "The question is, what is there to hide?"

Senator Peters's office did not respond to the Free Beacon's inquiries.

The Homeland Security Committee is conducting an investigation into misconduct at the FBI surrounding the Steele dossier, the various unmaskings during the Trump transition, and the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane inquiry. The committee granted Johnson power to subpoena about 30 people, including Winer.

Winer and Steele first became acquainted given a mutual interest in Russian oligarchy and organized crime, according to the Intelligence Committee report. Steele was a prolific source for Winer and his Foggy Bottom colleagues, providing over 100 reports on Eastern European political and economic issues between 2013 and 2016.

In September 2016, Winer reviewed Steele dossier materials and created a two-page memo to disseminate to senior State Department colleagues. That memo served as the basis for an "extremely sensitive" dossier briefing delivered to then-secretary of state John Kerry. Winer also arranged meetings between Steele and other State Department officials, according to visitors logs the Intelligence Committee obtained.

After BuzzFeed News published the dossier in full in January 2017, Winer destroyed all of his correspondence with Steele, as well as the reports Steele shared with the State Department. Steele asked Winer to do so out of concern that they could be used to reconstruct his source network.

Johnson and committee Republicans want to question Winer about his connection to Steele. The chairman also issued a subpoena to FBI director Christopher Wray.

Peters is seeking a second term in the Senate this November. He faces Republican John James.