Christopher Steele texted a senior Justice Department (DOJ) official he was “very concerned” and “needed some reassurance” in light of Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, probing the nature of his relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Newly-obtained text messages were released along with hundreds of pages also containing emails and memos that shine a new spotlight on the relationship between Fusion GPS — and, more specifically Mr. Steele — and senior DOJ officials.
As John Solomon of The Hill opined, they “provide the clearest evidence yet that a research firm, hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to find dirt on and defeat Donald Trump, worked early and often with the FBI, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official and the intelligence community during the 2016 presidential election and the early days of Trump’s presidency.”
The Clinton campaign and DNC hired by the shadowy firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research against President Trump. Fusion GPS hired Mr. Steele, the former British intelligence officer, who almost exclusively used the Kremlin contacts from his days on the Russian desk at MI6 to source the dossier.
The DOJ and FBI relied upon the unverified dossier to secure a FISA warrant to spy against Carter Page, and by extension, the Trump campaign. While it was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign, Obama Administration officials never told the FISA court that it was political opposition research.
Lawmakers are focusing in on former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The two maintained contact before, during and after the election. That relationship continued three months after the FBI terminated its agreement with Mr. Steele.
The FBI concluded on November 1, 2016, that he broke the agreement by leaking parts of the dossier to the media. They characterizedhim as “not suitable for use” as a confidential source, internal memos show.
“Would it be possible to speak later today please?” Mr. Steele asked Mr. Ohr in a text message on March 7, 2017. “We’re very concerned by the Grassley letter and it’s possible implications for us, our operations and our sources. We need some reassurances. Many thanks.”
On March 6, 2017, Chairman Grassley sent a letter to then-FBI director James Comey requesting a briefing on the agreement between the FBI and Mr. Steele pertaining to the research. He also wanted to know whether the FBI ever independently verified the salacious and still-unproven claims in the dossier.
“The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” he wrote to Mr. Comey.
“It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that ‘the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.'”
In January 2018, Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent a a criminal referral for Mr. Steele. It cites potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, or making false statements to investigators particularly regarding the distribution of claims contained in the dossier.
As far as Mr. Ohr, his association with Fusion GPS went far beyond his relationship with Mr. Steele.
In fact, he was demoted after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) uncovered that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS in 2016 to “assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump.”
Mr. Ohr, who also served as the director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), was ousted from the fourth floor of “Main Justice” in 2017. He was demoted a second time in January and stripped of his role at the OCDETF.
Mr. Steele also seemingly expressed concern that Mr. Ohr and others could be held accountable, leaving him without contacts and in the dark.
“Thanks. You have my sympathy and support. If you end up out though, I really need another (bureau?) contact point/number who is briefed,” Mr. Steele texted to Mr. Ohr on January 31, 2017. “We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous all around, though his position right now looks stable.”
His “sympathy and support” is a reference to the firing of Ms. Yates, who was fired for refusing to enforce President Trump’s travel ban. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Trump Administration, calling the order “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.”.
“B, doubtless a sad and crazy day for you re- SY,” Mr. Steele initially texted earlier in the day. “Just want to check you are OK, still in the situ and able to help locally as discussed, along with your Bureau colleagues.”