The House Select Committee on Intelligence has John Kerry in its crosshairs - as Congressional investigators explore what involvement, if any, the former Secretary of State had in the unverified "Steele dossier" which relied on intelligence from high level Kremlin officials at a time when US-Russia relations were deteriorating.
Assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele, the "dossier" is actually a collection of memos which contain both wildly salacious claims and loosely factual information - much of it based on hearsay or public knowledge.
Steele was paid $168,000 by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, while Fusion was funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. The FBI, however, had previously agreed to pay Steele $50,000 if he could verify the dossier's claims - which he was unable to do.
Still, the FBI used Steele's dossier - a collection of 17 memos, in their application for a FISA warrant to spy on Trump advisor Carter Page - and via "unmasking," his associates.
After the House Intel Committee majority released their four-page "FISA memo" detailing how senior officials at the FBI and DOJ used the unverified and highly biased Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warant, and the House Intel Committee minority released their own "counter memo," the investigation moved into Phase II.
House Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) gave us a peek behind the curtain in early February, telling Fox's Bret Baier "We are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in this."
#BREAKING: Devin Nunes says this is just the first memo to be released. He says there will be another one dealing specifically with the State Department’s role in everything that happened. pic.twitter.com/kpHVDQ44WX— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) February 3, 2018
While it is unclear what role the State Department may have in surveillance abuses, the Washington Examiner's Byron York noted last month that former MI6 spy, Christopher Steele, was "well-connected with the Obama State Department," according to the book Collusion: Secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win" written by The Guardian correspondent Luke Harding.
Harding notes that Steele's work during the World Cup soccer corruption investigation earned the trust of both the FBI and the State Department:
The [soccer] episode burnished Steele's reputation inside the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI. Here was a pro, a well-connected Brit, who understood Russian espionage and its subterranean tricks. Steele was regarded as credible. Between 2014 and 2016, Steele authored more than a hundred reports on Russia and Ukraine. These were written for a private client but shared widely within the State Department and sent up to Secretary of State John Kerry and to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who was in charge of the U.S. response to the Ukraine crisis.
Shedding more light on the subject is longtime Kerry colleague and Steele pal, Jonathan Winer - who penned a Feb. 8 op-ed in the Washington Post entitled "Devin Nunes is investigating me: Here's the Truth"
From Winer - along with a Senate Judiciary Committee criminal referral of Christopher Steele - we learned that several Clinton allies were also connected to both the dossier and the Kerry State Department.
Winer notes that “in late September , I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at The Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.”
Winer also describes a meeting with Christopher Steele during which he learned that Steele's sources were pointing to collusion between Trump associates and the Kremlin - which also allegedly hacked the DNC.
In September 2016, Steele and I met in Washington and discussed the information now known as the “dossier.” Steele’s sources suggested that the Kremlin not only had been behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign but also had compromised Trump and developed ties with his associates and campaign.
Winer's op-ed corroborates the series of events outlined in a criminal referral for Steele issued by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which asks the DOJ to investigate Steele for allegedly lying to the FBI about his contacts with the media.
Winer gives Blumenthal's memos to Steele...
While we've known for a while that Steele used Kremlin officials for information contained in the infamous "Steele dossier," Winer's op-ed reveals that he gave Steele memos from Clinton operative Sydney Blumenthal - which originalted with Clinton "hatchet man" Cody Shearer.
Winer claims he didn't think Steele would share the Clinton-sourced information with anyone else in the government.
“But I learned later that Steele did share them — with the FBI, after the FBI asked him to provide everything he had on allegations relating to Trump, his campaign and Russian interference in U.S. elections,” Winer writes.
Deeper Kerry Connections
As Journalist Sara Carter notes, "Also in September, 2016 Steele briefed Winer on the dossier at a Washington Hotel, according to an expose recently published in The New Yorker. Winer prepared his summary and shared it with former Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Jon Finer, who was then chief of staff Kerry. Kerry was then briefed by Finer several days later, according to the report.