Senate investigators expect Clinton campaign docs this week on Trump-Russia dossier
By the end of this week, investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee expect to have their first documents from the Hillary Clinton campaign that could verify recent reports that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid for the research behind the infamous Steele dossier.
Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told Sinclair Broadcast Group that investigators are now waiting for "a full document dump" from the Clinton campaign. They expect the same kinds of information they have requested from other entities of interest in the Russia investigation.
Recent reports have surfaced showing that the DNC and Clinton campaign funded the opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, which in turn hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to produce a damning 35-page dossier on Donald Trump.
The Steele dossier appeared to rely on numerous foreign sources to piece together what Steele deemed a "conspiracy of cooperation" between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It also included a number of salacious and unverified claims that the Russian government has compromising material on President Trump.
According to Burr, Senate investigators have been interested in the dossier as well as the foreign connections of its author Christopher Steele, a career MI6 agent who led the agency's Russia Station in London from 2004 to 2009. After retiring, Steele founded a strategic consultancy group, Orbis Business Intelligence.
Steele's foreign connections, Burr said, have shown up in "more than one place" in the investigation, a matter that points to "the breadth of the Russian effort."
"The question is," Burr continued, "is there a nexus between those [foreign connections] and any entity that paid for this?"
According to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), it's a possibility.
For months Grassley, who is leading the Senate Judiciary probe into Russia, has been pursuing Fusion GPS for failing to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for Russian interests and for possibly shopping the Steele dossier to foreign intelligence services.
One of Grassley's concerns about Fusion GPS is the company's lobbying activities for Russian interests in 2016, at the same time it was working with Democrats to produce Trump opposition research.
Fusion GPS was reportedly working on behalf of two Russian-connected entities, Prevezon Holdings Limited and the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, two organizations that were at the center of an effort to shop anti-Clinton information to Donald Trump Jr. The two groups were focused on repealing the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law used to sanction Russian individuals and entities.
Sen. Burr would not comment on whether the information about Fusion GPS points to possible collusion between the Clinton campaign and a foreign government. He merely noted that the committee is looking to "connect the dots" and determine whether there is a connection between a "known funder" of the Trump dossier and those responsible for election meddling.
"That's something we'll continue to dig on," Burr said.
Since before taking office, Donald Trump has been dogged by claims that his campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. Those claims that are now the subject of Senate and House Intelligence investigations, a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation, and a Special Counsel investigation, led by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
According to reports, Steele has been interviewed by Mueller's team of investigators in recent weeks.
Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt" and a "hoax." Since the reports emerged of DNC funding for a foreign intelligence product, the White House has seized on the opportunity to flip the Russia collusion narrative on its head.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted on Tuesday that the "real Russia scandal" was that the "Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier, then lied about it & covered it up."
President Trump spoke to reporters on Wednesday calling the revelations of Democratic funding for the dossier "a disgrace" and "a very sad commentary on politics in this country."
Trump added that the reports only emerged because of a looming Friday deadline for Fusion GPS to turn over its financial information to the House Intelligence Committee.
"Now, only because it's going to come out in a court case they said, yes, they did it. They admitted it and now they're embarrassed by it," the president said.
The acting chair of the House Russia investigation, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) confirmed that members of the Intelligence Committee should have Fusion GPS' financial records by Friday. He would not, however, address the veracity of reports about DNC funding.
Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who recused himself from the Russia investigation, has aggressively pursued the records, and subpoenaed the company on Monday. Fusion GPS fought the subpoena in court, but they were overruled and instructed to turn over the information by Friday.
A Democrat with knowledge of the investigation expressed deep skepticism about Nunes' role in uncovering the sources of funding for the Trump dossier, saying the content of the dossier is more important than who funded it.
"Devin Nunes is looking for any reason to push the president's agenda and protect the president. This is one more example of that," the Democrat said.
In a statement earlier this week, Joshua Levy, counsel for Fusion GPS, attacked the subpoena as "a blatant attempt to undermine the reporting of the so-called 'dossier.'"
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) is not convinced that the DNC funding for the Trump-Russia dossier is particularly significant
"Opposition research takes place in every major campaign," she noted. "No one knew what it was going to produce."
Other individuals working on the Russia probe are looking at the source of funding for the dossier as a missing piece of the puzzle and something that will help investigators better understand what happened between June 2016 and the election.
A source close to the investigation confirmed to Sinclair Broadcast Group that the Clinton campaign partnered with Fusion GPS in April 2016 after the company finished work for a Republican on anti-Trump research.
Shortly after contracting with the Democratic campaign, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele. According to the source, there was hardly any work done on the Trump dossier before July 1, a fact that suggests the bulk of the opposition research on Trump was sponsored by the Clinton campaign.
This contradicts earlier reports that the dossier was largely funded by a Republican client.
By the end of the week, it should become clear to both House and Senate investigators whether the Clinton campaign paid for Fusion GPS' services and exactly how much was paid.
Deeper questions about Fusion GPS ties to foreign intelligence will remain open and the subject of ongoing investigations.