Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that he hasn’t been able to gain access to interview FBI agents who met with a key source for the infamous Steele dossier who had disavowed the unsubstantiated document.
Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” on June 7 that he had made requests to interview an FBI case agent and supervisory intelligence analyst who met with the primary source of former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, but has so far been denied.
Steele’s dossier was central to the FBI’s decision to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page, and it fueled two years of speculation in the media about President Donald Trump, his campaign, and the Kremlin.
“I made a request to interview the case agent and the intel analyst and there were two other people who interviewed the subsource for three days in January, again in March, again in May, and they’re denying me the ability to do that,” Graham told the program.
He didn’t give details about when the requests were made and who had denied the access, but he added that he was “going to keep working the system.”
Graham also said during the interview that he didn’t believe that the case agent and intel analyst were the only few people who knew that the Steele dossier had been debunked before it was used to obtain new FISA warrants to monitor Page. He added that he’s determined to hold accountable any officials who had knowledge about the FBI’s interview with the subsource but continued to approve the FISA warrants.
“We’re not going to let the system blame some low-level intel analyst or case agent for defrauding the court,” he said. “I believe it goes up to the very top, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it, and that means [former Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates and [former Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe and [former FBI Director James] Comey are all going to come before the committee and they’re going to be asked, ‘What did you know and when did you know it?’”
The dossier contained a collection of unsubstantiated claims about collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It was paid, through intermediaries, by the campaign of Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in his report (pdf) on FISA abuse, released in December 2019, that FBI interviews with the primary subsource in January, March, and May 2017 “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting.”
During an interview with the FBI in January 2017, the primary subsource told “the FBI that he/she had not seen Steele’s reports until they became public that month, and that he/she made statements indicating that Steele misstated or exaggerated the Primary Sub-source’s statements in multiple sections of the reporting.”
Horowitz noted in his report that the FBI received this information about Steele’s source “shortly after the FBI filed the Carter Page FISA Renewal Application No. 1 and months prior to Renewal Application No. 2.”
The primary subsource was interviewed again in March 2017 by a Washington Field Office (WFO) agent who felt “the tenor of Steele’s reports was far more ‘conclusive’ than was justified.”
“The Primary Subsource also stated that he/she never expected Steele to put the Primary Subsource’s statements in reports or present them as facts. According to WFO Agent 1, the Primary Sub-source said he/she made it clear to Steele that he/she had no proof to support the statements from his/her sub-sources and that ‘it was just talk,'” Horowitz’s report found.
The FBI omitted this information and other material facts about Page to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the FISA applications to surveil Page.
“And at that point, it was clear that the dossier was a sham. So what happened? What happens at that point? They don’t tell the court and they continue to get FISA warrants based on that dossier. And more damning is that they actually filed with the court a statement saying, ‘We talked to the sub-source and we found him credible and cooperative.’ And they put that in to bolster the dossier,” Barr said.
“It’s hard to look at this stuff and not think it was a gross abuse,” he said.
Graham said in May that he was considering a subpoena authorization for 53 top Obama administration officials, as part of his committee’s FISA abuse investigation and oversight of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.