- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 4, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said his panel now has the access to documents and witnesses it needs from the FBI and Justice Department to pursue its inquiry into the role the notorious “Trump dossier” funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign played in sparking the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The California Republican said the panel could move ahead shortly after a closed-door meeting between GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray Wednesday evening broke a stalemate over the committee’s access to records surrounding the FBI’s handling of the suspect dossier, which claimed there were significant ties between the Kremlin and then-candidate Donald Trump and his aides.

The new agreement means the House panel will get “access to all the documents and witnesses we have requested,” Mr. Nunes said in statement, setting up a series of potentially high-drama hearings in the new year. Fox News said the deal requires the Justice Department to turn over many of the requested materials as early as Friday.

While special counsel Robert Mueller III is probing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mr. Nunes has spearheaded a separate line of inquiry into how the FBI first began probing the politically charged allegations, and what role the dossier of unverified opposition research played in that decision.

The standoff over access escalated last month when Mr. Nunes threatened to hold those agencies in contempt of Congress if they failed to turn over documents pertaining to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants used to monitor Trump campaign officials Carter Page and, reportedly, campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The California Republican had also demanded his committee have access to interview former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok, FBI general counsel James Baker, FBI lawyers Lisa Page and Sally Moyer, and the FBI’s congressional liaison, Greg Brower.

Several of those Mr. Nunes seeks to interview have connections to the funding and compilation of the 35-page dossier. Last year, Mr. Ohr met with its author, the former British spy Christopher Steele, in addition to Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm which commissioned the at-times salacious document. Mr. Ohr’s wife also worked for Fusion GPS.

Mr. Nunes also seeks complete access to text messages Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page exchanged. Mr. Strzok, considered one of the FBI’s most experienced counterintelligence agents, had been serving as an investigator on Mr. Mueller’s investigation but was removed from the probe after anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton emails were discovered between him and Ms. Page.

Committee Democrats, led by ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff of California, have ratcheted up their criticism of Mr. Nunes’ inquiry, calling it “a partisan distraction” which is really intended to allow the probe to conclude as quickly as possible. They also argue ending the House probe could put new pressure on Mr. Mueller to conclude his probe as well.

Some House Republicans counter that their Democratic colleagues seek an “endless” investigation into anything related to Russia and Mr. Trump, in an effort to weaken the president politically.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly called the dossier a “Crooked Hillary pile of garbage” that the FBI has used to attack his administration and campaign. Recent months have seen the document come under increasing scrutiny after news broke that it was partially funded by the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

• Dan Boylan can be reached at dboylan@washingtontimes.com.

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