The release of the House Democratic memo on British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier opens a new partisan front in a battle that has consumed the House Intelligence Committee and has all but derailed its efforts to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The FBI team investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians had already opened inquiries into many people connected to the campaign when it received a controversial dossier alleging illicit ties between then-candidate Trump and the Kremlin, says a Democratic memo released by the House Intelligence Committee, Politico reports. The dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, wasn’t provided to the FBI’s counterintelligence team until mid-September 2016, according to the memo. By then, the counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign was seven weeks old. The committee posted the heavily redacted 10-page document Saturday after weeks of wrangling between the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Justice Department officials.
The memo’s release opens a new partisan front in a battle that has consumed the House Intelligence Committee and has all but derailed its efforts to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. That probe has stalled even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into the Russian scheme has gained momentum, most starkly with the indictment of 13 Russians for mounting a complex operation to steal Americans’ identities, stage campaign rallies in the U.S. and run a social media campaign that primarily supported Trump and opposed Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton. Trump on Saturday called the memo a “bust,” tweeting: “The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!” (Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleaded guilty on Friday, as predicted, but it was not immediately clear if the plea would have an important impact on the Russia investigation.)