Federal investigators from the Justice Department’s watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), have interviewed Christopher Steele, the ex-British MI6 agent who authored the infamous dossier that alleged the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Reuters reported on July 9, citing two unnamed sources, that three attorneys from the OIG interviewed Steele in London in early June, while President Donald Trump was there for a formal state visit. Politico reported that the questioning lasted 16 hours over two days and that the investigators felt he had “offered new and important information.”
A letter sent to lawmakers (pdf) from Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the OIG team has conducted more than 100 interviews. Steele was among interviewees, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source.
The interviews are part of the OIG’s latest efforts to investigate whether the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) had violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) while spying on Trump 2016 presidential campaign associate Carter Page. Horowitz had announced the investigation into potential FISA abuse on March 28, 2018.
Attorney General William Barr, who now heads the DOJ, told a congressional committee in April that the Horowitz probe was expected to be completed by May or June. However, following the recent interview of Steele, investigators have decided to extend the probe, making the completion date unclear, Reuters reported.
The latest news appears to contradict what House Judiciary Committee member John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said July 1 in an interview with Fox News—that Horowitz had told him in late June that the investigation had concluded, and that a report was being drafted.
Steele had agreed to speak to the inspector general after learning that the then-soon-to-be-released OIG report was critical of him and his credibility.
Former House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said during a Fox & Friends interview on July 10 that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the news that Steele had been interviewed.
“The only way Michael Horowitz can issue the kind of report that he wants to issue, that we would benefit from, is to interview every single witness. I cannot imagine a more seminal witness than Christopher Steele.
“So, kudos to them for going to Europe and interviewing him because they certainly couldn’t make him come here.”
The FBI officially started its investigation of the Trump campaign in late July 2016. Then-special counsel Robert Mueller took over the FBI’s investigation in May 2017 and released the final report on April 18. Mueller found no evidence for any of the main 103 claims contained in the dossier—most notably, that though Russia did attempt to interfere in the election, there is no evidence to establish that either Trump or any U.S. citizen knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government ahead of the election.
Prior to Mueller taking over the investigation, on Oct. 21, 2016, the FBI successfully obtained a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The core of the application for the warrant consisted of evidence from the dossier that Steele had prepared.
Steele compiled the dossier by paying second- and third-hand sources with ties to the Kremlin for information. According to a report by the House Intelligence Committee, Steele was biased against Trump and didn’t want Trump to be elected president, a fact the FBI failed to disclose in the FISA application, despite being aware of it.
In their application to a secret surveillance court, senior FBI and DOJ officials—then under the Obama administration—also failed to disclose that the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had paid for the dossier.
Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele to run the Clinton-funded project, peddled the dossier to the media while Steele funneled it to the FBI. The FBI eventually terminated Steele for talking to the media in violation of its policies for confidential human sources.
More than two years ago, Trump made the initial claim on Twitter that his campaign was spied on by the Obama administration. Trump later said that following the conclusion of the Mueller probe, it is “now time to look at the other side.”
On May 23, Trump authorized Attorney General Barr to declassify information related to surveillance activities surrounding the campaigns in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump had earlier signaled on March 27 in an exclusive interview with Fox News that he would declassify all documents related to the surveillance of his presidential election campaign by the Obama administration.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov and Reuters contributed to this report.
From NTD News