I'll repeat: There are so many moving parts to this story, so it's all quite difficult to keep track of. My Friday analysis urged caution on the implications and the Nunes memo, noting that we don't actually know precisely how the anti-Trump Steele dossier was used in the procurement of a FISA warrant against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. We still don't. But this exchange between Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum and House Intelligence Committee Republican Trey Gowdy -- whom I trust and find credible -- caught my eye last evening:
Trey Gowdy just heavily implied that Sydney Blumenthal was a source for Christopher Steele's oppo dossier on Fox News: pic.twitter.com/cp1ztcEsB6— DJ Judd (@juddzeez) February 7, 2018
Well. That might explain why GOP members of the committee say they are planning to release additional memos, including one about the Obama-era State Department's potential role in all of this. In case you'd forgotten, Sid Blumenthal is a notoriously unethical and untrustworthy Clintonite hatchet man whose reputation for mud is essentially universally recognized -- but also a qualification for him to work for the Clintons in various capacities. Here's how I described his role in Hillary's email scandal:
Blumenthal was Hillary's off-the-books intel-gatherer who was paid by the Clinton Foundation. The Obama administration had barred him from official work due to his notoriously checkered ethics. He fed Hillary all sorts of information, including intelligence from Libya -- some of which was clearly designed to enhance his personal financial interests. Hillary encouraged and solicited his emails (something she later denied), and occasionally kicked his information up the chain...after scrubbing his name from the missives. It was through Blumenthal'shacked personal emails that we discovered that Hillary had unilaterally deleted work-related content from her private email server, which she swore she hadn't done.
We already know that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for the dossier, which was kept a secret until a few months ago. It would add another layer of shadiness if the product Hillary funded also had the fingerprints of an infamously dodgy Clinton smear merchant all over its contents (particularly since the FBI decided that Steele himself was unreliable). All my caveats from this piece still apply, but the extent to which the FBI/DOJ did or did not disclose the exact partisan roots of the dossier would become even more consequential if unverified elements of that file presented to the judge as crucial pieces of 'evidence.' (I'll just add here that the wider Russia probe started prior to, and independent from, the Page affair). But wait, was Gowdy necessarily referring to Blumenthal on Fox? Quite possibly not, but rather a Blumenhtal associate who worked on a second dossier. Mark Hemingway at the Weekly Standard:
State Dept. Official Reportedly Passed On Second Trump ‘Dossier’ Written by One of Clinton’s Most Discreditable Supporters...The second dossier is allegedly compiled by Cody Shearer. “One source with knowledge of the inquiry said the fact the FBI was still working on [the ‘Shearer dossier’] suggested investigators had taken an aspect of it seriously,” notes the Guardian. “It raises the possibility that parts of the Steele dossier, which has been derided by Trump’s supporters, may have been corroborated by Shearer’s research, or could still be.”...Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley released a heavily redacted version of the letter making a criminal referral against the author of the original dossier, Christopher Steele.
The letter references a “contact” and “friend of the Clintons . . . contemporaneously feeding Steele allegations” about Trump. It is widely assumed that the contact in question is Cody Shearer...Shearer was last in the news in 2015, when a bombshell ProPublica report on hacked emails from longtime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal revealed that the longtime Clinton confidant and aide was running a “secret spy network” network feeding Clinton information...Even John Podesta says Blumenthal is “lost in his own web of conspiracies.”...[The third] member of the “secret spy network,” was Cody Shearer.
The piece cites, chapter and verse, the myriad Clinton scandals through the years in which Shearer had some hand. He's the opposite of a credible figure. Hemingway concludes: "If the Guardian report is accurate, the FBI had better have a very good answer for why it’s looking at information compiled by the likes of Cody Shearer. And if Steele otherwise incorporated Shearer’s information into his own dossier, it raises even more serious questions about what the FBI knew about the reliability and provenance of Steele’s information." Two significant "ifs" there, of course. More than ever, it would be nice to have access to more of the direct intelligence that undergirded the dueling memos, as well as the FISA warrant application. But speaking of those two partisan memos, what to make of this?
Sources tell @foxnews that the @AdamSchiffCA memo contains information pertaining to "sources and methods" that will likely require redaction. One source says this was done tactically to force the @realDonaldTrump into making changes - setting up a contrast with GOP memo— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) February 6, 2018
First off, considering Schiff's loudly-professed horror at the (apparently groundless) possibility that releasing the GOP memo would put national security at risk, it's pretty special that Schiff's version would reportedly require natsec redactions. I'll hold off on calling this a partisan ploy or stunt for the moment, but if the Trump administration (especially the DOJ) decides that some scrubbing and redactions are necessary, Schiff's reaction will tell the story. If he feigns outrage over credibly-disputed "censorship," he'll reveal his hackery. If he takes the changes in stride, it won't look like the cynical PR trapsome people are now alleging. Regardless, the Trump administration should use the lightest touch possible here; the Democrats' memo ought to provide as much additional context as possible without legitimately endangering any "sources and methods." Yet another round of partisan claims, finger-pointing and he said/he said assertions over redactions would be obnoxious and frustrating -- which means it's...probably pretty likely, doesn't it?