Federal lawyers probing the origins of the investigation of ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign have interviewed the author of a “dossier” that alleged misconduct between Trump and Moscow, prompting the lawyers to extend their inquiry.
Three attorneys from the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Department of Justice met in person in early June with dossier author Christopher Steele in Britain, said two sources with direct knowledge of the lawyers’ travels.
The interview with Steele, a former top spy on Russia for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, took place while Trump was in London for a formal state visit with Queen Elizabeth and a meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Steele’s dossier, made public in 2017, alleged that Moscow attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and that there was potential collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, along with other unverified and salacious claims about the president.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has been examining the earliest stages of an FBI investigation of Trump, his former 2016 presidential campaign rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Russia and former Trump adviser Carter Page.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz, whose office is an internal Justice Department watchdog, launched his probe in March 2018 amid allegations by Republican lawmakers that the FBI erred in seeking a warrant to monitor Page.
Trump has described the Steele dossier as “bogus” and Republicans have long sought to discredit the FBI’s investigation, which was later taken over by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His final report on Russia and the Trump campaign was released in redacted form in mid-April.
In that same month, Attorney General William Barr, who now heads the Justice Department, told a congressional committee that the Horowitz probe would be completed by May or June.
One of the two sources said Horowitz’s investigators appear to have found Steele’s information sufficiently credible to have to extend the investigation. Its completion date is now unclear.
Huh. Politico adds some more:
The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016. Steele’s American lawyer was present for the conversation.
… the extensive interview with Steele, and the investigators’ sense that he offered new and important information, may dampen expectations among the president’s allies who’ve claimed that Steele’s sensational dossier was used improperly by the bureau to “spy” on the campaign.
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