WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed records from the Justice Department and the FBI pertaining to a salacious but unverified dossier over objections from the committee’s minority members, the panel’s ranking Democrat said Tuesday.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, confirmed the details of the subpoenas, initially reported in the Washington Examiner, during an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday evening. But he also complained that the subpoenas were “uncalled for,” accusing Republicans of attempting to “discredit” the author of the dossier “rather than looking into how many of the allegations he wrote about were true.”
“What we should be most concerned about is whether those sources of the information in the report are true, not in discrediting the author of that report,” Schiff argued.
The author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, is a respected former MI-6 agent whom at one point, the FBI considered paying to continue his work collecting information about Trump’s alleged personal and financial exploits in, and connections to, Russia. Steele had been compiling such information for Washington research firm Fusion GPS, which had been contracted to conduct that research by an individual opposed to Trump’s candidacy.
Republicans around Congress have approached the report, its author and his backers with a healthy degree of suspicion and skepticism ever since it came into the public eye, released in its entirety by BuzzFeed after a CNN report that President-elect Donald Trump had been briefed about the existence of the dossier by intelligence officials.
In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has focused considerable attention on Fusion GPS in particular, in an effort to figure out whether it was in fact Russian money that went to fund Steele’s project.
In its piece about the subpoenas, the Examiner quoted House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, who is helping to run the panel’s Russia probe, as saying “we got nothing” in response to multiple letters the committee had sent to the DOJ and FBI requesting information.
But appearing on MSNBC, Schiff seemed to reject that argument, saying that the “requests [to DOJ and the FBI] for documents were never made in a letter form or a written request to the Department.”
“Instead, the first the department got was a subpoena,” Schiff said. “That is just not good practice.”
Schiff added that if there’s any part of the administration the committee should be subpoenaing, it’s the White House — from which the committee has requested information “on multiple occasions, and still have not gotten the majority’s approval for a subpoena,”
“This kind of disparate treatment concerns us greatly,” Schiff said.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is running the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday night. A spokesman for committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California — who is no longer running the committee’s Russia investigation but retains the right to sign off on subpoenas — also did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.