When someone claims they have damning information about someone involved in Capitol Hill intrigue but that they can’t tell you yet, color me suspicious.
However, when the man who says he has the information is Sen. Lindsey Graham and the target is Trump dossier assembler Christopher Steele, well, that’s a horse of a different color.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had promised to “get to the bottom of what happened” with alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses under the Obama administration, particularly those directed at obtaining a warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The source of much of the information the FBI used to get the warrant against Page came from Steele’s dossier on Trump — an unverified mess of allegations put together as an act of opposition research paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign (but I repeat myself) and put before a judge as if it were the God’s honest truth.
That hasn’t aged well, particularly because most of the explosive parts of the Steele dossier cannot be verified, especially the salacious bits like the allegations involving Donald Trump, prostitutes and urination games. That’s probably because Steele’s methods were suspect, such as relying on second-hand information from sources he’d built up in Russia during his career in British intelligence.
As The Daily Caller notes, the Mueller report debunked a number of the Steele dossier’s claims. One of the biggest bombshells in the dossier, that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had been in Prague in August of 2016 — purportedly to meet with Russian apparatchiks — was proven to be baseless in the Mueller report.
Now, Graham says he has some more dirt on Steele: Authorities had been notified on possibly a half-dozen occasions that Steele was unreliable and had done nothing.
“There’s four events that I’m aware of — five actually — where the system was informed that Christopher Steele was an unreliable informant when it came to Trump. That he had a political bias and agenda,” Graham said during a Friday radio interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, according to the Washington Examiner.
“That on five different occasions, the system, for lack of a better word, was told, ‘Be wary of this guy.’
“Some of them I can’t tell you yet until we get this stuff declassified. But I think it’s going to be five; it may be six,” Graham continued.
Graham added he wanted a chart to show Americans the timeline of the different times when “the system” was made aware of the fact Steele wasn’t the most reliable ex-spy the FBI could have possibly hired.
“You had warnings before you got the first warrant. Then you had more evidence coming in all the way through to the fourth application,” Graham said of the four FISA warrants obtained against Page. “During that period of time, the system continued to receive input that Steele was unreliable. What did they do to assure themselves that they were on the right track?”
The Graham-Hannity interview had taken place just hours after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz informed Attorney General William Barr that he had completed his look into potential FISA abuses by both the Department of Justice and the FBI — the two agencies that looked over the Carter Page warrant.
Graham’s Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take what he calls a “deep dive” into the investigation of Donald Trump’s campaign and possible Russia connections during the 2016 election and beyond.
However, the use of the Steele dossier in obtaining a warrant on Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will likely play a key role in that inquiry.
If you ask the left, the dossier had little to do with getting the warrant in the first place.
Appearing on Fox News last year, former FBI Director James Comey said he thought there was more to it than just the Steele dossier, which he called “unverified” and “salacious.”
“My recollection was there was a significant amount of additional material about Page and why there was probable cause to believe he was an agent of a foreign power. And the dossier was part of that but was not all of it, or a critical part of it, to my recollection,” he said.
If that’s the case, however, why does the warrant itself not seem to bear that out? Why was it used in the first place if it was both unimportant and dubious? Why are we still listening to James Comey when his only core competency seems to be posting pictures of himself brooding out in the forest?
These are important questions that have to be answered by the Judiciary Committee. (Perhaps the last one we can leave for the after-lunch sessions.)
If it turns out that there were up to a half-dozen warnings that Steele wasn’t a reliable source, this isn’t going to look good.
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