In dramatic expansion of Russia probe, Senate investigators target CIA, State records

Sens. Johnson and Grassley make sweeping documents requests of CIA, DNI and State in Russia probe.

Updated: July 30, 2020 - 11:41am

Two powerful Senate committee chairman are expanding their hunt for documents that might shine light on abuses during the bungled Russia collusion probe, demanding new evidence be turned over by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent letters this week to the CIA, State Department, Office of Director of National Intelligence and the FBI that signal the scope of their probes has expanded with recent new revelations.

Many of the new requests appear to focus on people who are suspected to have contributed materials to Christopher Steele's discredited anti-Trump dossier or who trafficked information from the opposition research memo to government officials.

For instance, the chairmen demanded records from Pompeo's department concerning:

  • Clinton acolyte and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who has admitted he received and provided copies of the Steele dossier
  • former Clinton associates Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal. Shearer, a relative of Talbott, wrote a dossier similar to Steele's that was provided to the former MI-6 agent.
  • former State officials Victoria Nuland, Jonathan Winer and Kathleen Kavalec, all of whom had contact with Steele as he was developing his dossier.

The senators also made their most sweeping demands for records from CIA, including any information the spy agency provided the FBI concerning the credibility of Steele as a human source. Recently declassified footnotes from Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz's report on Russia probe abuses revealed that the CIA had raised red flags about Steele's reporting, including that he had been targeted with Russian intelligence agency disinformation about Donald Trump while writing the dossier.

The lawmakers also pressed CIA for any records of requests for assistance from foreign allies in the Russia collusion probe.

Specifically, they requested "all records related to assistance requests about the persons or conduct at issue in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, whether before or after the opening of the investigation, to the following foreign governments: a. Australia; b. Israel; and c. the United Kingdom," their letter to Haspel stated.

CIA also was pressed for records concerning the conduct of former Obama-era director John Brennan, including his contact about the Russia probe with fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid as well as any travel he took to Ukraine, Russia's neighbor.

One of the most highly anticipated requests in the letters involved DNI John Ratcliffe, who was asked to declassify a lengthy report written by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' staff highlighting major failures in the intelligence community's assessment about Russia's intentions in the 2016 election.

The report is believed to highlight both spy tradecraft mistakes and dissension among CIA analysts over the Obama administration's conclusion that Russia's intention was to help Trump win and Hillary Clinton lose. Evidence has emerged since that conclusion was reached in January 2017 — before Trump took office — conflicting with the analysis. For instance, the CIA's warning to the FBI that Russians were feeding bogus dirt on Trump to Clinton's chief researcher cut against the conclusion.   

You can read the senators' letters here:

 

 

 

 

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