- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

The House Intelligence Committee met behind closed doors Thursday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to address mounting frustration over the Justice Department’s handling of the infamous anti-Trump dossier that stunned America weeks after Mr. Trump’s election victory.

Congressional sources said Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee’s Republican chairman, called the meeting amid growing concerns that leadership at the highest levels of U.S. law enforcement has stonewalled congressional attempts to understand the relationship between the DOJ, FBI and the former British spy who compiled the dossier.

On Thursday, Mr. Nunes made no public comments on the hearing, however, he vented his frustrations earlier this month in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding a pair of subpoenas sent to the DOJ and FBI in August.

The subpoenas sought documents related to dossier author Christopher Steele, in addition to copies of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications that relied upon information he might have provided.

Because both the DOJ and FBI ignored the subpoenas, Mr. Nunes threatened to drag the Mr. Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray before the committee to testify.

Instead, Mr. Rosenstein gathered with the committee Thursday.

Fallout from the hearing — particularly what details he shared — could drive an even deeper wedge between Mr. Nunes and the committee’s lead Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff.

The Californian has repeatedly criticized the DOJ and FBI dossier subpoenas, stating they were issued over his objections and part of an effort to undermine the committee’s overall probe into possible Trump/Kremlin collusion.

Mr. Schiff has also said the rift within the committee could mean it won’t author a unified report on its Russia investigation — and instead issue two sets of findings. Congressional sources have said the committee is trending in this direction.

Because Mr. Nunes sought records about the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele, including any payments made to him or any efforts to corroborate information he provided the bureau, Thursday’s hearing could also intensify scrutiny of the overall validity of the dossier.

That debate has gripped Capitol Hill Russia probes for months, with GOP leaders repeatedly noting that Mr. Steele admitted in a London court earlier this year that major portions of the 35-page collection of opposition political research notes were unverified.

Mr. Rosentein’s Thursday meeting could also return the spotlight to FISA-related documents that relied upon information from Mr. Steele, his sources or Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that paid Mr. Steele to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

Last week, a spokesman for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was reportedly surveilled twice under FISA orders, questioned the evidence investigators used to justify the wiretap requests.

“It’s not clear what went into the petition. It’s not clear how strong the case was,” spokesman Jason Maloni told The Washington Times.

In addition to pursuing the dossier, Mr. Nunes has prominently pushed the angle that Obama-era officials, including former National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, inappropriately asked to identify, or “unmask,” American citizens caught up in U.S. intelligence intercepts of foreign figures — in a covert attempt to implicate a number of Trump campaign officials.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Ms. Rice acknowledged to congressional investigators that she sought classified information on senior Trump staffers during the presidential transition because of suspicions over a prominent Gulf sheikh’s secret visit to Manhattan.

• Andrea Noble contributed to this article.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide