Margot Cleveland over at The Federalist has some interesting news on what we thought was an ongoing investigation into the criminal referral of Christopher Steele.
This all stems from the fact that Steele pretty clearly lied to Federal investigators about the distribution of the Trump dossier to the media. When that information came to light, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley referred Steele to the DOJ for prosecution.
Here’s their original statement.
“I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review,” Grassley said. “Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI. If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up. Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.”“After reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter. The rule of Law depends on the government and all who work on its behalf playing by the rules themselves. I hope the Department of Justice will carefully review our letter and take appropriate action,” Graham said.
The most recent development’s come from a reading of documents released to CNN via FOIA requests.
The details of this are really in the weeds and I’d highly suggest reading the full article Margot wrote. They center around the release of some of the Comey memos and the declarations that accompanied them.
CNN filed its FOIA lawsuit against the FBI in May 2017, seeking “copies of all records of notes taken by or communications sent from FBI Director James Comey regarding or documenting interactions (including interviews and other conversations) with President Donald Trump.”
The FBI initially denied that request but after the Comey memos went public, they no longer had a reason to keep the declarations secret.
However, after the memos were released, the FBI agreed there was no reason to keep portions of the declarations secret. Then, upon completion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation two weeks ago, the court ordered the FBI to determine whether additional details could be released. That question remains unresolved.
Yet the portions of the declarations already made public reveal several significant details, the most startling being the strong likelihood that the FBI has ended an investigation into former MI6 spy Steele. This conclusion flows from the fifth declaration filed by FBI Section Chief David Hardy in the CNN case.
I’m not going to post the declarations here as I really believe Margot deserves the traffic on her article. She did a lot of work on this and to properly understand it, you need to read the full explanation.
In summary, though, the FBI had originally redacted information under this basis.
The key here is understanding what Exemption (b)(7)(A) protects: “Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes [which if released] could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” As Hardy explained, for this exemption to apply, there must be “a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding.”
In other words, there was an investigation going on into Steele at the time so the FBI had to redact anything dealing with that. But in December of last year, those exemptions went away and all the former redactions dealt with Steele and his dossier.
The removal of that exemption points to the investigation into Steele being closed.
This all took place before William Barr become the Attorney General, so this does not mean that Steele is off the hook. Barr has apparently started a major inquiry into the origins of the Trump investigation and Steele will be right in the center of that storm. What this does show is the willingness by the pre-Barr DOJ/FBI to essentially look the other way on crimes committed by Steele while Mueller was simultaneously prosecuting Trump associates for same things, i.e. lying to the FBI.
The first step in all this will be the release of the coming IG report. After that, Barr needs to go full bore at rooting out those who perpetrated this. Christopher Steele’s garbage dossier (and those who paid him to do so) did more to interfere in American politics than Russia could have ever hoped to do. Those in the FBI who entertained him, even when it was clear nothing he was presenting was verified, have to be held accountable. We also can not look the other way at a foreign spy being paid by a political campaign to interfere in an election, nor should his crimes committed in the process be ignored.