- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2017

Two days before they meet in a public committee hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has ratcheted up the pressure on FBI Director James Comey to provide details on the bureau’s relationship with the former British MI6 intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, who authored the infamous dossier on President Trump.

Several congressional probes, including one by Mr. Grassley’s committee, are investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. One of the major subjects of scrutiny is a dossier compiled in 2015 and 2016 by Mr. Steele and his London-based Orbis Business Intelligence firm, who were hired by the Washington-based research firm Fusion GPS.

The 35-page dossier contains explosive claims the Russians had compromising information about Mr. Trump. It was ignored by major news organizations because the salacious charges were unsubstantiated until the website BuzzFeed published it in January.

A variety of reports have suggested the dossier was first funded by anti-Trump Republicans during the party primaries. Once Mr. Trump won the Republican nomination, Democrats allegedly kept it alive. At some point, according to unnamed intelligence and law enforcement sources, the FBI used to dossier to justify surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

According to correspondence between the two reported earlier this year, the FBI and Mr. Steele have a relationship going back to at least 2010 when Mr. Steele helped provide the bureau information about corruption at FIFA, which resulted in criminal charges against the world soccer governing body’s longtime president Sepp Blatter.

In a letter sent Friday, Mr. Grassley said explanations Mr. Comey has provided about the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele differ from information Mr. Grassley’s committee has recently received from the Justice Department. 

“There appear to be material inconsistencies between the description of the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele that you did provide in your briefing and information contained in Justice Department documents made available to the Committee,” Mr. Grassley wrote.

Mr. Comey shook Washington in late March during his first public testimony about Russian election meddling when he acknowledged that the bureau was conducting a live investigation into the issue.

On Wednesday, as part of the Senate Judiciary committee’s routine oversight of the FBI, Mr. Comey will testify before the committee which Mr. Grassley chairs. The Iowa Republican’s recent efforts to obtain more information from the bureau could take center stage.

In early March, Mr. Grassley sent another letter to Mr. Comey asking if the FBI had ever hired Mr. Steele — and never heard back. Mr. Grassley called this a “startling lack of responsiveness” in his latest letter.

“Whether those inconsistencies were honest mistakes or an attempt to downplay the actual extent of the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele, it is essential that the FBI fully answer all of the questions from the March 6 letter and provide all the requested documents in order to resolve these and related issues,” Mr. Grassley wrote on Friday.

Mr. Grassley has also focused on whether the FBI knew Fusion GPS had allegedly been an unregistered agent when it worked for Russian interests in 2015 — the same time frame that it was compiling the anti-Trump dossier.


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