FBI Director James Comey insisted an anti-Trump dossier be included in a final intelligence community report that contained unproven claims of Trump’s sordid sexual acts and his collusion with Russia, though he refused to comment on the classified document during a Senate hearing earlier this week.
The controversial 35-page dossier was reportedly drafted by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was later discovered to work for a firm funded by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Trump.
At Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight, Comey repeatedly refused to answer questions pertaining to his agency’s ties to Steele and how his Britain-based company, Orbis, was affiliated with Washington D.C.-based Fusion GPS.
During a line of questioning about the dossier, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey: “Prior to the Bureau launching the investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, did anyone from the FBI have interactions with Mr. Steele regarding the issue?”
COMEY: “That’s not a question that I can answer in this forum. As you know, I briefed you privately on this and if there’s more that’s necessary then I’d be happy to do it privately.”
GRASSLEY: “Have you ever represented to a judge that the FBI had interaction with Mr. Steele whether by name or not regarding alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia prior to the Bureau launching its investigation of the matter?”
COMEY: “I have to give you the same answer Mr. Chairman.”
Fusion GPS is the subject of a formal complaint that it violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as well as the company’s founder and former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson.
Regarding the complaint’s allegation, attorney Joshua A. Levy told reporters that “Fusion GPS has complied with the law and was not required to register under FARA. Nor has Fusion GPS ever been a Russian agent. Allegations to the contrary are not true.” He added, “Fusion GPS’ only factual connection to anything in the complaint is the litigation support Fusion GPS provided to Baker Hostetler, a law firm mentioned in the complaint. Fusion GPS did no lobbying work for that law firm or its clients.”
Here is what Comey said at the hearing when Grassley probed him on Fusion GPS:
GRASSLEY: Question – next question, according to a complaint filed with the Justice Department, the company that oversaw dossiers creation was also working with the former Russian intelligence operate – operative on a pro-Russian lobbying project at the same time. The company Fusion GPS allegedly failed to register as a foreign agent for his work to undermine the Magnitsky Act, which is a law that lets the president punish Russian officials who violate human rights.
Before I sent you a letter about this, were you aware of the complaint against Fusion was acting as a registered agent for Russian interest?
COMEY: That’s not a question I can answer in this forum.
GRASSLEY: You can’t answer that?
COMEY: No. No I can’t.
Grassley was noticeably irritated by Comey’s lack of cooperation at the hearing, which comes after he recently sent letters to the FBI about its failure to meet deadlines and inconsistent responses to his questions, saying it is a “pattern of obstruction” on matters related to Steele.
GRASSLEY: The FBI and the Justice Department have provided me material inconsistent answers in closed setting about its reported relationship with Mr. Steele, will you commit to fully answering the questions from my March 6 and April 28 letter and providing all requested documents so that we can resolve those inconsistencies, even if in a closed session, being necessary?
COMEY: Because as I sit here I don’t know all the questions that are in the letters. I don’t want to answer that specifically. But I commit to you to giving you all the information you need to address just that challenge, because I don’t believe there’s any inconsistency. I think there’s a misunderstanding but in a classified setting I’ll give you what you need.
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