Steele Dossier Wasn’t Basis for Russia Investigation, Senate Committee Says

The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released an “unclassified summary of its initial findings” on its investigation into the American intelligence community’s handling of claims that Russian government operatives interfered with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The committee is reviewing a so-called “Intelligence Committee Assessment,” or ICA, which was produced by the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI in January 2017. In other words, this is a summary of an investigation into an investigation. It was released by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

The summary appears to conclude that the so-called “Steele Dossier” did not influence the ICA. The Steele Dossier, named after former British spy Christopher Steele, alleged that the Russian government had “been cultivating, supporting, and assisting” President Donald Trump “for at least five years” leading up to the election. The dossier also alleged that the Kremlin had offered Trump a series of “sweetener real estate business deals” in its attempts to cultivate him. The dossier concluded that Trump declined the real estate deals but accepted intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.

The Senate Intelligence Committee summary, released Tuesday, did not directly name Christopher Steele, but it is virtually impossible to suggest the summary was referring to someone other than Christopher Steele:

The FBI had a collection of reports a former foreign intelligence officer was hired to compile as opposition research for the U.S. election, referred to as the “dossier,” when the ICA was drafted. However, those reports remained separate from the conclusions of the ICA. All individuals the Committee interviewed verified that the dossier did not in any way inform the analysis in the ICA – including the key findings – because it was unverified information and had not been disseminated as serialized intelligence reporting.

The summary said that the Senate Intelligence Committee would “address the contents of the reports and their handling by the United States Government” separately.

Generally, the summary states that the Senate Intelligence Committee agrees with the findings of the ICA insomuch that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. election, support Trump, and denigrate Clinton.

Sen. Burr, the Intelligence Committee chair, said his committee “spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions” of the ICA. He also said his own committee’s work continues and that, hopefully, the senate committee will “provid[e] the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”

Sen. Warner, the vice chair, said that the “ICA . . . assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to target our presidential election and to destabilize our democratic institutions . . . [a]s numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on point.  The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.”

[Image via screen capture from CBS News.]

Aaron Keller is an attorney licensed in two states. He holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. During law school, he completed legal residencies in the Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General and in a local prosecutor’s office. He was employed as a summer associate in the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which manages the state police, and further served as a summer law clerk for a New York trial judge. Before law school, Keller worked for television stations in New York and in the Midwest, mostly as an evening news anchor and investigative reporter. His original reporting on the Wisconsin murder of Teresa Halbach was years later featured in the Netflix film "Making A Murderer."

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