It took less than 24 hours for republicans to strike back at James Comey's unexpected revolt against Donald Trump on Sunday afternoon, when as the NYT first reported the FBI director had demanded that the DOJ reject Trump's accusations it was wiretapping the Trump Tower (the DOJ has still not done so, and questions are still being asked why Comey himself did not do as he requested especially since any FISA court order would have come from the FBI).
Senator Chuck Grassley, the republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has opened a probe into allegations the FBI worked with the British spy who authored the controversial opposition research dossier - which at various points was funded by both an unnamed democrat and republican - on President Trump during the 2016 election. In a letter to Comey, Grassley asked for records pertaining to any agreements the agency may have had with Christopher Steele. As a reminder, the former MI6 agent wrote an explosive memo on behalf of Trump’s political enemies alleging that the Russians had compromising information on the president.
Comey briefed Trump on the existence of the memo in a private meeting in January. Shortly after, several news organizations published the unverified allegations, which the White House denied; BuzzFeed controversially posted the whole memo, for which it has since been taken to court.
In late February, The Washington Post reported that the FBI reached an agreement with Steele whereby the British spy would continue his investigation on behalf of the bureau.
“While Trump has derided the dossier as 'fake news' compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation,” the Post, which has been spoon-fed every piece of leaked wiretapped information involving the Trump administration, reported at the time.
However, today Grassley pushed back and demand the FBI provide information relevant to its relationship with and use of the British spy, whose salacious allegations - among which an infamous golden shower scene involving hookers - have infuriated Trump and his allies.
“The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” Grassley wrote.
“It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that ‘the [intelligence community] has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.’”
In his letter, Grassley asks for all records regarding Steele’s investigation, details of the agreement between the FBI and Steele, the FBI’s policies for using outside investigators, and whether the bureau has relied on any of the information Steele has provided in seeking warrants.
Grasley also wants to know how the FBI obtained a copy of Steele’s documents, whether it has additional documents that were not published by Buzzfeed, and whether any FBI activity was influenced by the Steele memo.
Among Grassley's list of questions comes what could be the most devastating of his inquiries, considering President Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wiretapped his 2016 presidential campaign:
Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process? Did the FBI rely on or otherwise reference the memos in relation to any National Security Letters? If so, please include copies of all relevant applications and other documents.
“National Security Letters” are one of the FBI’s most secretive instruments for obtaining information. They are frequently accompanied by powerful gag orders which forbid the recipient of the letter from discussing it.
We look forward to the FBI's response in the matter, as the law enforcement organization, and its boss, scramble to prove to both republicans and democrats that it is not - as many allege - politically tainted beyond salvage.