For more than two years, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has been touting the “Steele dossier” at the center of the Mueller investigation as evidence that the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Now, with Mueller having debunked key claims in the dossier and concluded there was no collusion, Schiff doesn’t want to talk about it.
Furthermore, the New York Times reported U.S. intelligence officials are considering whether Russian operatives planted disinformation with dossier author Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer who has worked in Moscow.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Schiff whether the Russian-disinformation theory should be investigated, since the Russians “were trying to set Americans against each other, not only to tarnish Hillary Clinton, but also to tarnish Donald Trump,” the Daily Caller reported.
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, dodged the question.
“Chris, you know, the reality is that the Republicans on our committee spent two years investigating exactly that because, frankly, they weren’t that interested in what Russia had done, the systemic attack on our democracy. They spent the focus of their two years investigating the investigators and investigating exactly that question,” Schiff said.
But Wallace pointed out that the Mueller report either disproved or found no evidence for specific allegations of Russia collusion, including the charge that Trump adviser Carter Page coordinated with the Russian government to influence the election.
“Well, what we are going to be looking at is we’re going to be looking at all the counterintelligence findings that were the genesis of this investigation,” Schiff said. “Let me be very clear about this, the Mueller report makes it absolutely crystal clear that the initiation of this investigation was not only warranted, but absolutely necessary because it revealed a widespread, systemic effort by the Russians to help the Trump campaign.”
Along with the Carter Page charge, the dossier also was the source of the debunked allegation that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met Russian officials in Prague to arrange secret payments to Russian hackers who attacked the Clinton campaign. And the dossier falsely alleged one-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort managed a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the campaign] and the Russian leadership.”
Schiff quoted extensively from the dossier in a March 20, 2017, House Intelligence Committee hearing titled “Russian Active Measures Investigation,” which included testimony from FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers.
Republicans on Schiff’s committee later discovered that the dossier was used by the Obama Justice Department and FBI to obtain a warrant from a secret FISA court to surveill Carter Page, even though the document was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Now, President Trump and White House aides are considering declassifying documents relevant to the Page surveillance warrant, which was renewed three times, according to Sinclair Broadcasting investigative reporter James Rosen.
Rosen said Trump plans to declassify the documents in conjunction with the release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on FISA abuses in about six weeks.
Mueller concluded in his report: “The investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
Russian disinformation campaign?
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the FBI had “misgivings” about the Steele dossier months before the Mueller investigation began in May 2017.
The paper, citing people familiar with Steele’s work, said the FBI’s “scramble to vet its claims suggest that misgivings about its reliability arose not long after the document became public — and a preoccupation of Trump opponents — in early 2017.”
“Steele has made clear to associates,” the Times reported, “that he always considered the dossier to be raw intelligence — not established facts, but a starting point for further investigation.”
U.S. intelligence officials now are considering whether Russian operatives planted disinformation with Steele.
Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA chief of station in Moscow, recently told the Daily Caller News Foundation he believes the dossier is the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.