House Intelligence Committee Subpoenas Firm Behind "Trump Dossier"

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been repeatedly stymied in his efforts to compel the FBI to turn over documents that would help him ascertain how much of the Trump dossier has been verified by the intelligence community, and what role that information played in launching the DOJ’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.  

But the FBI has resisted Nunes’ subpoenas despite his threats to compel AG Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to deliver public testimony before the committee if the FBI continues to withhold the documents. So now, it appears he’s trying a different tack.

Devin Nunes

CNN reports that Nunes earlier this month issued subpoenas to the founders of Fusion GPS, the Washington opposition research firm that originally helped procure the dossier, demanding that they participate in public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, and turn over all pertinent documents.

Earlier this year, Nunes announced that he was stepping aside from directing the committee's Russia inquiry when he became the subject of an ethics investigation into his handling of classified information after he informed the White House about the possibility that members of the Trump campaign were legally surveilled during the race before informing his own committee.

But more recently, Nunes has made clear that he is still playing an influential role in the committee’s inquiry, despite announcing that he had delegated authority on the Russia matter to Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas.

Nunes’ Democratic colleagues have repeatedly accused Nunes of deliberately trying to undermine the FBI’s investigation by forcing the agency to reveal sensitive details about the dossier that the intelligence community previously decided to withhold from the January report on the intelligence community’s finding that Russia had interfered with the election. 

A Democratic committee source said "the subpoenas were issued unilaterally by the majority, without the minority's agreement and despite good faith engagement thus far by the witnesses on the potential terms for voluntary cooperation."

 

Indeed, the move blindsided some committee members, multiple sources told CNN. And it has angered some on the committee who say that Nunes is still seeking to direct an investigation he was supposed to have no involvement in leading.

 

"He's not in any way, shape or form working on the investigation," said one Democratic committee member. "He's sitting outside the investigation and pushing it in a political direction."

Nunes and Conway denied that they’d cut their Democratic colleagues out of the loop.

Conaway said the committee's procedures were to consult with the committee's Democratic leader, and that "the mechanics on that fit in with the chairman's responsibilities."

 

"I'm trying to maintain good relations, but at the end of the day we need to get those records that are subject to those subpoenas," Conaway said.

 

Asked by CNN Monday why he issued the subpoenas, Nunes declined to comment. "You can ask, but you're not going to get a response," Nunes said.

 

Indeed, the move blindsided some committee members, multiple sources told CNN. And it has angered some on the committee who say that Nunes is still seeking to direct an investigation he was supposed to have no involvement in leading.

Nunes said in June that “when I temporarily stepped aside from leading the investigation, that's exactly what it means: It doesn't mean I wasn't going to be involved, it doesn't mean I wasn't going to be fully read in."

Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson attended a closed-door briefing with the Senate Judiciary Committee in August that some lawmakers have said should be made public.

Joshua Levy, an attorney for Fusion GPS, said the firm's founder, Glenn Simpson, already provided a 10-hour interview to the Senate judiciary committee and Nunes could first seek to review that testimony.

 

"This is a blatant attempt to undermine the reporting of the so-called 'dossier,' even as its core conclusion of a broad campaign by the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election has been confirmed by the US intelligence community and is now widely accepted as fact," Levy said.

Nunes’ longtime committee nemesis Adam Schiff blasted him for purportedly trying to run a “parallel investigation.”

"Rep. Nunes recused himself, but now appears to be running a parallel investigation outside of the official (House intelligence) investigation run by Reps. Conaway and (California Rep. Adam) Schiff. His actions undermine the House, its investigation and the public's ability to learn the truth. As we evaluate these subpoenas, we have serious concerns about their legitimacy."

The Fusion GPS subpoenas mark at least the fourth time Nunes has inserted himself into the investigation since his April announcement that he was temporarily stepping aside, CNN reported. Nunes led an effort earlier this summer to subpoena the FBI, CIA and NSA about Trump associates whose identities were allegedly unmasked during the presidential transition by Obama administration officials.

A pair of GOP staffers on the panel flew to London to urge the British agent who wrote the dossier, Christopher Steele, to appear before the committee, an effort several committee members said was led by Nunes. About six weeks ago, Nunes signed off on subpoenas demanding Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray turn over records about the DOJ’s relationship with Steele and what role the Trump dossier played in prompting the FBI to launch its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In a letter, Nunes warned that he would compel them to testify in a public hearing if they didn’t comply. The FBI has maintained that the disclosures being sought by Nunes would undermine an active investigation.

Though Nunes has said publicly and privately that he never technically recused himself, he did stop attending intelligence briefings about potential witnesses in the investigation. However, he retains the sole power on the committee to sign off on subpoenas, meaning Democrats like Schiff who must play nice with the chairman.

Most notably, Nunes still has the power to issue subpoenas "in consultation" with Schiff, the committee's top Democrat.

 

But unlike other committee members, Nunes does not attend classified hearings of the key witnesses in the Russia probe, sources said, and instead appears to be making his push from the outside.

 

The committee's Democrats face a dilemma: They still need Nunes to sign off on subpoenas that Conaway and Schiff are seeking directly tied to the Russia investigation.

To be sure, Nunes has said he’s simply trying to ascertain what role the dossier played in the investigation. Many have speculated that the intelligence community has withheld this information not because it could compromise the investigation, but because it would reveal what Trump’s political opponents in Congress (not to mention the intelligence community) don’t want you to know. Exactly nine months after the first wide-ranging Congressional investigation was publicly announced, investigators are still struggling to find the “smoking gun” to substantiate the collusion allegations as they try to stretch the inquiry out for as long as possible, with an eye toward next year’s midterm vote.