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How the Criminal Referral on Christopher Steele Corroborates the Nunes FISA Memo

A criminal referral on Christopher Steele by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), sent on Jan. 4 to the Justice Department and the FBI, is now declassified -- and it helps corroborate the claims in the Nunes FISA memo.

Grassley and Graham want Steele investigated for providing “false information” to the FBI, which would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1001 -- the same statute that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was charged under. But they also want DOJ and the FBI to investigate whether the representations the FBI made to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to obtain a warrant that started the surveillance of the Trump transition team “were in error.”

That is a polite way of saying that the FBI may have misled the court -- a very serious charge.

The Nunes memo said that the Steele dossier -- the opposition research prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC through Fusion GPS -- was an “essential” part of the FISA application. This has been disputed by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, led by Adam Schiff.

But the Grassley-Graham criminal referral says that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review of the FISA application also shows the “bulk of the application consists of allegations” that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and “are also outlined in the Steele dossier.” The application “appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations.”

This is an important point, since the dossier was, according to James Comey, “salacious” and “unverified.” In other words, the FBI did not check the veracity of its claims.

According to the referral, when James Comey was asked why the “FBI relied on the dossier in the FISA applications absent meaningful corroboration -- and in light of the highly political motives surrounding its creation,” Comey said the FBI was relying on Steele because of his “past work” for the FBI.

The problem, according to Grassley and Graham, is that while the FBI told the FISA court that the dossier had been compiled by a law firm, it failed to tell the court that the “ultimate clients” who paid for it were the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

The bottom line, according to the referral:

[The] FBI relied on admittedly uncorroborated information, funded by and obtained for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in order to conduct surveillance of an associate of the opposing presidential candidate. It did so based on Mr. Steele’s personal credibility and presumably having faith in his process of obtaining the information.

Yet, they write:

[T]here is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one of which bears on his credibility.