Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a prepared Floor Statement on “Oversight of the Justice Department and the Need for Transparency”.
You can find the full transcript here.
He didn’t mince words. Although I urge you to watch the whole video, I have prompted it to start at the 2:52 mark when his remarks become…direct:
From Grassley’s speech:
Mr. Steele was hired by Fusion GPS to research Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. His work was funded by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Remember, it took a subpoena and a court battle with the House Intelligence committee to force that fact out into the open.
Lawyers for the DNC and Clinton Campaign officials denied it to the press for months. They lied. The founder of Fusion GPS denied that his firm was “Democrat-linked.” That was untrue. When the news finally broke, New York Times reporters actually complained that people who knew better had flat out lied to them about who funded Mr. Steele’s dossier.
I covered this, along with the reporters’ complaints, in the Clinton Dossier Disclosures. The reporters included Ken Vogel and Maggie Haberman.
Back before the 2016 election, it is unclear who knew that Steele was gathering dirt on Trump for the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Many of his sources for claims about the Trump campaign are Russian government officials. So, Steele, who was working for Fusion GPS, who was working for the DNC and the Clinton campaign, was working with the Russians.
So, who was actually colluding with Russians? It’s becoming more clear.
Grassley hints at what’s to come:
In the course of our review, Senator Graham and I came across some information that just does not add up. We saw Mr. Steele swearing one thing in a public libel suit against him in London. Then we saw contradictory things in documents that I am not going to talk about in an open setting. And from everything we’ve learned so far, we believe these discrepancies are significant. So, we sent a referral of Christopher Steele to the Justice Department and the FBI for potential violations of 18 USC 1001.
Steele’s referral covered here.
Public reports about the way the FBI may have used the dossier should give everyone in this chamber pause. Director Comey testified in 2017 that it was “salacious and unverified.” If it was unverified in 2017, then it had to be unverified in 2016, too.
Comey made these claims in his opening statement before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
So, it was a collection of unverified opposition research funded by a political opponent in an election year. Would it be proper for the Obama administration—or any administration—to use something like that to authorize further investigation that intrudes on the privacy of people associated with its political opponents?
That should bother civil libertarians of any political stripe.
Grassley highlights the obstruction – and cause:
I wish I could talk more openly about the basis for our referral and other concerns, but right now that information is largely classified. It is controlled by the Justice Department. As I said, the Department has permitted only the Chair and Ranking of the full Committee and the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, and limited numbers of their cleared staff, to see the underlying documents.
I have been pushing for the Department to provide the same access to other Judiciary Committee Members and their appropriately cleared staffs. But the Department refuses to provide that access or even to brief the other Members on the underlying information.
Grassley indicates where he is headed. Pay attention to what is really being said here:
Fortunately, the [Justice] Department has agreed that it has no business objecting to our Members reviewing our own work. So I have encouraged our Committee members and their appropriately cleared staff to do that. Look at the memo that Senator Graham and I sent to the Deputy Attorney General and the FBI Director. Members can then make up their own minds about it. I have also encouraged them to review the Committee’s transcripts and other unclassified materials that have been available to them and their staffs for many months.
Grassley is urging Senate colleagues to review not only his Senate Judiciary Memo – but the underlying, classified documents. From earlier:
we saw contradictory things in documents that I am not going to talk about in an open setting.
we believe these discrepancies are significant.
The actual statement and memo can be found here. The classified, underlying documents Grassley is urging Senators to review are obviously not included.
I have already been pushing the Department to review the classified referral memorandum to confirm the memo’s classification markings so that we can release the unclassified portions as soon as possible. But now the Department has deferred to the FBI, and the FBI is falsely claiming that three of our unclassified paragraphs each contain the same, single classified fact.
Grassley is publicly and specifically calling the FBI out.
Now, that surprised me, because those particular paragraphs are based on non-government sources and do not claim to repeat or confirm any information from any government document. Even if those portions of our referral did reference the allegedly classified fact at issue, it is hard to understand why that fact should be classified.
The Deputy Attorney General has discussed the fact at issue with me more than once in unsecure space and on an unsecure phone line. Second, the FBI is not acting as if this information would harm national security if released.
I could be wrong, but I don’t see this as Grassley casting aspersions on Rosenstein. Grassley’s comments are directed at the FBI.
If FBI really believed this fact was classified, then the FBI and the Department should take better care to act consistent with that belief. Unfortunately, I suspect something else is really going on here… I am pressing this issue with Director Wray, and I hope that we can provide this information to the public as soon as possible.
Grassley begins his crucial shift:
The Department should carefully review the entire memorandum and begin an orderly process to declassify as much of that information as possible. The Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives recently voted to allow all House Members to review a short memo summarizing what it has learned. Senators are not allowed to see it. However, House Members who have seen it have been calling for a vote to release the memo.
Here in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has access to the same information that the House Intelligence Committee saw before drafting its summary memo. Our committee does not have the same authority to release classified information. We have to rely on the agency to review and potentially declassify our memo.
“Our memo”. The Senate Judiciary Memo – also known as the Christopher Steele Referral.
Grassley has the same underlying information that went into creating the House Intelligence Memo – perhaps more. While his committee cannot directly release classified information, Grassley can ask for declassification of his full Senate Judiciary Memo.
Grassley decided to go one step further:
I agree that as much of this information should made be public as soon as possible, through the appropriate process. And, I don’t just mean the summary memos. The government should release the underlying documents referenced in those memos, after deleting any national security information that truly needs to be protected. But most of this story can be told, and should be told. The American people deserve the truth.
This is the same outcome predicted in an earlier piece.
As I was finishing up this post the Conservative Treehouse highlighted the unfolding strategy taking place between the House and Senate:
— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) January 24, 2018
The calls are only going to get louder.