So, remember that Russian dossier that was compiled by a former MI6 operative, which is unsubstantiated though Democrats take it as fact? Well, it could very well be a Russian-funded effort. What we do know so far, going by CNN, is that senior Russian officials talked to other Russians, but we don’t know what they talked about. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) took the dossier and its contents to the woodshed during yesterday’s hearing with FBI Director James Comey, who was testifying once again about the bureau’s email investigation into Hillary Clinton. More disconcerting is that the dossier was cited as a reason to obtain a FISA warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page. Christopher Steele, the former MI6 operative who compiled the dossier, now says the claims in the files, even the most salacious ones against Trump that I will not repeat, are unverifiable.
“Does that sound like a reliable basis for law enforcement or intelligence actions?” asked Grassley.
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway had a great breakdown of the dossier portion of the hearing, specifically that interests with ties to Russia could be behind its funding. Fusion GPS has refused to cooperate with the committee’s investigation, but Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wanted to know a) if Fusion GPS was part of the Russian intelligence network; and b) where did the money from that reportedly paid this source and its sub-sources during this. This won’t come anytime soon. As Hemingway noted in her post, Grassley has asked for more documents on this matter from the FBI and has not received much help (via The Federalist):
Multiple U.S. senators are now demanding that FBI Director James Comey disclose whether Fusion GPS, the Democratic opposition research firm that produced the debunked dossier on President Trump’s alleged Russia ties, was itself a Russian agent working on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s regime. In a letter sent to Comey in March, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) dropped a bombshell and disclosed that a complaint against Fusion GPS had been filed with the Department of Justice alleging that the oppo firm “violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by working on behalf of Russian principals to undermine U.S. sanctions against Russians.”
On Wednesday, another senator joined the mix with pointed questions for the embattled FBI head. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who has been a vocal critic of President Trump, peppered Comey with questions about ties between Fusion GPS and what Graham termed “the Russian intelligence apparatus”
It was a surprising question about information that has not been well reported in the media. Graham referenced an April 28 letter from Grassley to Comey. Grassley noted a pattern of FBI obstruction into the committee’s investigation of Russian interference, at least when that investigation touched on decisions made by the FBI.
Now Grassley is demanding documentation of all payments made to Steele, as well as disclosure about whether the FBI was aware that Fusion GPS was at the same time allegedly working as an unregistered agent for Russian interests, when the FBI became aware of this allegation, and whether this information was included in FISA warrant requests or any other related documents.
Here’s the Comey-Graham exchange that was included in the Federalist as well (via WaPo):
GRAHAM: OK. The Chairman mentioned that Fusion -- are you familiar with Fusion?
COMEY: I know the name.
GRAHAM: OK. Are they part of the Russian intelligence apparatus?
COMEY: I can't say.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with me that a Fusion was involved in preparing the dossier against Donald Trump? That would be interfering in our election by the Russians?
COMEY: I don't want to say.
Concerning the Russia-Trump links, it’s a dead end. Is it safe to say if there was anything substantive we would have found out about by now? All we have is a lot of conspiracy theories, a lot of allegations, an unverified dossier, and Democrats lusting to find something to justify their latest line in tin foil hats. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was no definitive proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. Senate Democrats in their intelligence committee have admitted that no smoking gun might be found. Every development about Russia and the Trump campaign always ends up being nothing. A sure sign that it’s going nowhere is when the reports say that authorities warn not to draw conclusions. Another one is when somewhere in the article there’s the dash of this development is not conclusive proof of collusion—or something to that effect. The New York Times reported that Trump officials had contact with Russian intelligence figures a year before the election. So what? The timeline is irrelevant, Trump officials did business in Russia (not a crime), and unknowingly coming into contact with Russian intelligence officials is not uncommon in these dealings. It’s all there in the article, buried under the lede.
Now, the dossier might have been a Russian project as well? This sort of throws a monkey wrench into the works of the massive Kremlin conspiracy to help get Trump elected, right? If anything, Trumps’ first 100 days has shown he’s not a puppet of Putin. Maybe there is no “there, there” on this front. Maybe Hillary Clinton just lost. After all, the Russians didn’t hack the election. They ran what appears to be an interference campaign through state-funded media and social media trolls, but it had no impact on the race. Even Facebook admitted that fake news didn’t sway the election and The Economist noted how such stories played no pivotal role. Clinton can blame Russia all she wants. The Kremlin didn’t tell her not to campaign in the Rust Belt, draft a coherent economic message, or act flippant about her Wall Street speeches or why she had a private email server. She blew it on her own. As for the dossier, which was published in full by Buzzfeed, despite the document being unverified, well—looks like we have more intrigue heading our way.