Attorney General William Barr said in an interview that aired Friday that he is investigating what role the Steele dossier played in the Russia probe, and that the salacious document had “a number of clear mistakes.”
“It’s a very unusual situation to have opposition research like that, especially one that on its face had a number of clear mistakes and a somewhat jejune analysis,” Barr told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer.
“And to use that to conduct counterintelligence against an American political campaign is a strange — would be strange development.”
In the interview, Barr spoke at length about an inquiry he launched at the Justice Department into the origins of the Russia investigation. He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that the investigation is also focusing on what information U.S. intelligence agencies gathered on Trump campaign associates before the FBI formally opened its investigation in July 2016.
The FBI relied heavily on the Steele dossier, which was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign, to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. But Republicans have accused the FBI of misleading the surveillance court by relying on the dossier given that its allegations were unverified.
Christopher Steele, a former British spy, claimed in the dossier that the Trump campaign was involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. He alleged that Page and other Trump associates, like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, were at the center of the scheme.
But the special counsel’s report all but debunked the dossier’s central thesis, while dismissing one specific allegation about Cohen. The report said that prosecutors were unable to establish a conspiracy between the Trump team and Russia. It also said that Cohen did not visit Prague in August 2016, which is where the dossier claimed the former Trump lawyer went to pay off Russian hackers.
Steele and his client, Fusion GPS, shopped the dossier around to numerous journalists. Steele also provided memos from his dossier to the FBI and State Department.
Barr told Hemmer that the answers he has received so far about the origins of the investigations “aren’t sufficient.” He is reportedly working with the directors of the CIA, FBI and Office of National Intelligence on the inquiry.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is also investigating the dossier’s role in the Russia investigation, as well as the FBI’s surveillance efforts against the Trump campaign.
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