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Alleged ‘Whistleblower’ Eric Ciaramella Worked Closely with Anti-Trump Dossier Hoaxer


Reported by Aaron Klein | 

URL of the original posting site: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/11/06/alleged-whistleblower-eric-ciaramella-worked-closely-with-anti-trump-dossier-hoaxers/

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 20: Former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland testifies during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee June 20, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on “Policy Response to Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. … Alex Wong/Getty Images

Eric Ciaramella, whom Real Clear Investigations suggests is the likely so-called whistleblower, was part of an Obama administration email chain celebrating the eventual signing of a $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee to Ukraine.

That and other emails show Ciaramella interfaced about Ukraine with individuals who played key roles in facilitating the infamous anti-Trump dossier produced by Fusion GPS and reportedly financed by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. One of those individuals, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (pictured), received updates on Ukraine issues from dossier author Christopher Steele in addition to Nuland’s direct role in the dossier controversy.

Also part of the email chains was Christopher J. Anderson, who was a special adviser to former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Anderson testified to the Democrat-led House committees running the impeachment inquiry.

Ciaramella’s name comes up in six Obama-era government emails that were released by the State Department as part of two previous Freedom of Information Act requests.  At the time of the exchanges, Ciaramella served as the Director for Baltic and Eastern European Affairs for the Obama-era National Security Council, where he worked on Ukraine policy.  He is now an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

One email, titled, “Loan Guarantee,” involved Nuland, who was reportedly a key champion of the Ukraine loan guarantee policy.

“Hurray,” a celebratory Nuland wrote in response to a translated Ukrainian government announcement about the signing of the $1 billion loan guarantee.  The announcement singles out Joe Biden as being present for the conclusion of an agreement leading to the loan guarantee.

Ciaramella was one of several people CC’d in the email, which was sent from the U.S. ambassador at the time, Geoffrey Pyatt, who was another key champion of the loan guarantee to Ukraine along with Nuland.

The email is one of several that shows Ciaramella in the loop with top officials such as Nuland working on Ukraine policy under the Obama administration.

The loan guarantee was pushed through after Ukraine agreed to several reforms, especially the firing of the nation’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. This at a time that Shokin was reportedly investigating Burisma, the Ukranian natural gas company paying Hunter Biden.  Joe Biden infamously boasted on video about personally threatening to withhold loan guarantees from Ukraine unless Shokin was removed.

Another released email shows Ciaramella himself sending a message to Nuland and others. Most of the contents are blocked out, including the email’s subject line. One non-classified section of that email shows a reply stating, “Embassy Kyiv — coordinated with our USAID mission folks — will have detailed input tomorrow.”

One email involving Nuland was sent two days before the loan guarantee was signed on June 3, 2016. “Can you confirm who will be doing the actual signing for each side?” the exchange asked.

Nuland has come under repeated fire for her various roles in the anti-Trump dossier controversy.

FBI notes also cite career Justice Department official Bruce Ohr as saying that Nuland was in touch with Fusion GPS co-founder and dossier producer Glenn Simpson.

Sen. John McCain, who infamously delivered the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey, reportedly first dispatched an aide, David J. Kramer, to inquire with Nuland about the dossier claims.

In their book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, authors and reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn write that Nuland gave the green light for the FBI to first meet with Steele regarding his dossier’s claims. It was at that meeting that Steele initially reported his dossier charges to the FBI, the book relates.

Meanwhile, looped into email chains with Ciaramella was then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff at the State Department, John Finer.

An extensive New Yorker profile of Steele named Finer as obtaining the contents of a two-page summary of the dossier and eventually deciding to share the questionable document with Kerry.

Finer reportedly received the dossier summary from Jonathan M. Winer, the Obama State Department official who acknowledged regularly interfacing and exchanging information with Steele, according to the report. Winer previously conceded that he shared the dossier summary with Nuland.

After his name surfaced in news media reports related to probes by House Republicans into the dossier, Winer authored a Washington Post oped in which he conceded that while he was working at the State Department he exchanged documents and information with Steele.

Winer further acknowledged that while at the State Department, he shared anti-Trump material with Steele passed to him by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, whom Winer described as an “old friend.” Winer wrote that the material from Blumenthal – which Winer in turn gave to Steele – originated with Cody Shearer, who is a controversial figure long tied to various Clinton scandals.

In testimony last year, Nuland made statements about a meeting at the State Department in October 2016 between State officials and Steele, but said that she didn’t participate.

At a June 2018 hearing, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) revealed contents of the State Department’s visitor logs while he was grilling Nuland.

At the hearing, Burr asked: “I know you talked extensively with our staff relative to Mr. Steele. Based upon our review of the visitor logs of the State Department, Mr. Steele visited the State Department briefing officials on the dossier in October of 2016. Did you have any role in that briefing?”

“I did not,” Nuland replied. “I actively chose not to be part of that briefing.”

“But were you aware of that briefing?” Burr asked.

“I was not aware of it until afterwards,” Nuland retorted.

Nuland did not explain how she can actively chose not to be part of Steele’s briefing, as she claimed, yet say she was unaware of the briefing until after it occurred. Nuland was not asked about the discrepancy during the public section of the testimony, which was reviewed in full by Breitbart News.

Nuland previously served as chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott under Bill Clinton’s administration, and then served as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.

Nuland faced confirmation questions prior to her most recent appointment as assistant secretary of state over her reported role in revising controversial Obama administration talking points about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks. Her reported changes sought to protect Hillary Clinton’s State Department from accusations that it failed to adequately secure the woefully unprotected U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi.

Likely ‘whistleblower’

A RealClearInvestigations report by investigative journalist and author Paul Sperry named Ciaramella as best fitting the description of the so-called whistleblower. Officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings say Ciaramella’s name has been raised in private in impeachment depositions and during at least one House open hearing that was not part of the formal impeachment proceedings.

Federal documents show Ciaramella also worked closely with Joe Biden and worked under Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser. He also worked with former CIA Director John Brennan, an anti-Trump advocate who has faced controversy for his role in fueling the questionable Russia collusion investigation.  Rice participated in Russia collusion probe meetings and reportedly unmasked senior members of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Sperry cites former White House officials saying Ciaramella worked for Biden on Ukrainian policy issues in 2015 and 2016, encompassing the time period for which Biden has been facing possible conflict questions for leading Ukraine policy in light of Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma.

Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, the activist attorneys representing the so-called whistleblower, refused to confirm on deny that their secretive client is indeed Ciaramella.

“We neither confirm nor deny the identity of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower,” the lawyers told the Washington Examiner in response to an inquiry about Ciaramella.

Zaid and Bakaj added, “Our client is legally entitled to anonymity. Disclosure of the name of any person who may be suspected to be the whistleblower places that individual and their family in great physical danger. Any physical harm the individual and/or their family suffers as a result of disclosure means that the individuals and publications reporting such names will be personally liable for that harm. Such behavior is at the pinnacle of irresponsibility and is intentionally reckless.”

On Sunday, Trump responded to press reports naming Ciaramella, calling him a “radical” known for his close ties to Brennan and Rice.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. There have been stories written about a certain individual, a male, and they say he’s the whistleblower,” Trump told reporters. “If he’s the whistleblower, he has no credibility because he’s a Brennan guy, he’s a Susan Rice guy, he’s an Obama guy.”

Trump added, “And he hates Trump. And he’s a radical. Now, maybe it’s not him. But if it’s him, you guys ought to release the information.”

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.

Christopher Steele won’t cooperate with John Durham review of Russia investigation


Reported by Jerry Dunleavy | May 28, 2019 05:13 PM

URL of the original posting site: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/christopher-steele-wont-cooperate-with-john-durham-review-of-russia-investigation

Christopher Steele, author of the dossier that played a key role in the Trump-Russia inquiry, will not assist Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of the investigators, according to a new report.

A source close to Orbis Business Intelligence, which is Steele’s investigative firm, told Reuters that the British ex-spy “would not cooperate” with nor answer questions from U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr has tasked with reviewing the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s presidential campaign and the way that the Justice Department and FBI conducted the inquiry.

This revelation comes days after Trump’s order stating Barr was given “full and complete authority to declassify information” and ordering the intelligence community “to quickly and fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 presidential election.” Barr said he picked Durham because he “was looking for someone who is tenacious, who is used to looking at sensitive material involving government activities, who has a reputation for being fair and evenhanded.”

Neither the Justice Department nor Steele’s business immediately responded to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment. Durham’s office said they had no comment at this time.

The report said Steele “might cooperate” with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s independent investigation, signaling a shift in Steele’s thinking. In April, Politico reported that Steele “declined to be interviewed by the inspector general, citing, among other things, the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal Justice Department investigation as a foreign national and former British intelligence agent.” That report said Steele might even “rebut the Inspector General’s characterizations” with a public statement.

Horowitz has been looking into potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse since early 2018 and is “homing in” on the potential misuse of Steele’s unverified dossier by the DOJ and FBI. Barr has said Horowitz’s probe should be done by May or June.

Steele did cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and submitted written testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to a New York Times report from April, the FBI reached out to some of Steele’s foreign sources in an attempt to determine their credibility, and as early as January 2017 agents had concluded that some of the dossier’s contents may have been based on “rumors and hearsay” which were “passed from source to source.” The agents believed that some of Steele’s information may have even been based on “Russian disinformation.”

Steele’s dossier, which was packed with unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia, formed a key part of the FISA applications that were used to justify surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Steele was working for Fusion GPS, which received funding through the Perkins Coie law firm from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Steele’s Democratic benefactors were not revealed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Barr said this month that “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’s pointed critiques of the Steele dossier’s flaws comes after former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI General Counsel James Baker defended their handling of the dossier in recent weeks.

Book Provides New Details About Major Steele Dossier Source


Reported by Chuck Ross | Reporter | 12:11 PM 03/13/2018

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the founder of the opposition research firm behind the Steele dossier tipped a major news network off to Sergei Millian, a Belarus-born businessman who has been identified as a source for the salacious claims made in the dossier. Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, provided the tip to ABC News despite having doubts about the veracity of Millian’s claims about President Donald Trump.

That’s according to “Russian Roullette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” a book written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn that hit shelves on Tuesday. The two veteran journalists report that Simpson told ABC News about Millian, the chairman of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, during the heart of the 2016 campaign.

ABC News reporter Brian Ross dutifully followed up on the lead, grilling Millian during the 2016 campaign about supposed contacts with Trump as well as to the Kremlin.  According to Isikoff and Corn, former British spy Christopher Steele revealed to Simpson that Millian was “Source D” for the dossier, which was funded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

“Simpson would later learn from Steele the identity of Source D, the main source for the ‘golden showers’ allegation: It was Sergei Millian,” the book reads. 

“Source D” is described in a June 20, 2016, memo written by Steele as “a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow.” The dossier claims that the source — now known as Millian — confirmed that the Kremlin had been feeding the Trump team intelligence on Clinton. 

The information had been “very helpful” to the campaign, Millian said.

He also provided shocking allegations about Trump’s activities in Moscow during a November 2013 trip to the Miss Universe pageant. Source D, aka Millian, was present in Moscow where Trump engaged in “perverted” conduct, according to the dossier. This conduct allegedly included employing prostitutes to perform a “golden showers” show in front of him in his hotel room. Trump wanted to defile the room because it was where former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle had stayed years before, according to the dossier.

Isikoff and Corn report that Millian was not aware his comments were being used to spy on Trump. “Like all of those who had spoken to Steele’s collector, Millian was an unwitting source; he had no idea his conversation with the collector would be passed along to Trump’s political foes,” they wrote.

Reached by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Millian disputed Steele’s claims and the new book.

“It’s all garbage news,” he told TheDCNF.

“Never happened,” he added, saying that he “was not in Moscow on that night.”

Millian’s involvement in the dossier was of apparent concern to Simpson, according to “Russian Roulette.”

“The memo had described Millian as a Trump intimate, but there was no public evidence he was close to the mogul at that time or was in Moscow during the Miss Universe event,” the book reads. “Had Millian made something up or repeated rumors he had heard from others to impress Steele’s collector? Simpson had his doubts. He considered Millian a big talker.”

Those doubts did not stop Simpson from telling ABC News about Millian, whose real name is Siarhei Kukuts.

“For Simpson, Millian was now an investigative target. He tipped off ABC News, which conducted an on-air interview with Millian,” the book reads. It is unclear whether Simpson told ABC that Millian was a source for the dossier.

Ross, the investigative reporter at ABC, conducted the interview with Millian in July 2016. The interview largely flew under the radar, though it was cited in a few articles published before the election about Trump’s supposed ties to mysterious Russians. Though Millian is not Russian, he runs a trade group that caters to Russian businesses.

He was one of “very few people who have insider knowledge of Kremlin politics…who has been able to successfully integrate in American society,” Millian claimed.

Millian met Trump in Florida in 2008 and was an official broker for Trump Hollywood, he said. Trump has done “hundreds of millions of dollars” of business with Russians, he also claimed.

“Trump team, they realized that we have a lot of connections with Russian investors. And they noticed we bring a lot of investors from Russia,” Millian said.

Asked why Trump likes Russia, Millian responded with an answer that slightly mirrors the allegations in the dossier.

“He likes Russia because he likes beautiful Russian ladies,” Millian said in the awkward interview with Ross. “He likes talking to them, of course. And he likes to be able to make lot of money with Russians, yes, correct.”

Ross then quizzed Millian about any links he had to the Kremlin or to Russian spy services.

“Are you involved in any way with Russian intelligence agencies?” Ross asked.

“Absolutely, no,” said Millian.

Unknown at the time was Millian’s friendship with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos has since pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian nationals. He was also told by a Russian-linked professor about emails that had been stolen from Democrats.

In his ABC interview, Millian denied sharing information with Russian government officials but acknowledged having friends in the Kremlin and discussing American politics with them.

“Usually if I meet top people in the Russian government, they invite me to the Kremlin for the reception, so of course I have a chance to talk to some presidential advisers and some of the top people,” said Millian.

The ABC News interview with Millian resurfaced shortly after Trump’s inauguration when the network — along with The Wall Street Journal — broke the story that Millian was “Source D” for the dossier.  Simpson was tight-lipped about Millian during his testimony in November before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Asked by California Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, whether Millian was a source, Simpson said: “I’m not in a position to get into the identity of the sources for the dossier for security reasons, primarily.”

Simpson also described research that Fusion GPS had done on Millian, though without noting he had provided some of the information to the media. Millian has kept a low profile since the release of the dossier, issuing vague denials about being a source for the dirty document. Congressional committees investing Russian interference have tried but failed to contact Millian for interviews.

Simpson, Steele and Steele’s business partner, Christopher Burrows, have all expressed reservations about the “golden showers” incident, according to Isikoff and Corn. Steele has lowered his degree of certainty that the incident happened. “It’s fifty-fifty,” he has told associates.

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Today’s Ann Coulter Letter: “Anatomy of a Coup”


Commentary by Ann Coulter  

Every place you look in Robert Mueller’s investigation, the same names keep popping up: FBI agent Peter Strzok and sleazy, foreign private eye — or “British intelligence agent” — Christopher Steele.

So it’s rather important that they both are Trump-hating fanatics, and one was being paid by Trump’s political opponent in a presidential campaign. 

Steele is the author of the preposterous dossier that sparked the special counsel investigation, and Strzok is the FBI agent involved at every crucial turn of both the Trump and Hillary investigations.

As we found out from the House Intelligence memo, Steele told Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” (Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS, and, like Steele, was being paid by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.)

In the hands of Trump-obsessive Peter Strzok — he of the estrogen-dripping texts to his Trump-hating FBI lawyer mistress — the dossier was used to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act against Trump’s alleged “foreign policy adviser,” Carter Page. The FISA warrant against Page constitutes the last crumbling piece of the “Russia collusion” story.

Strzok was the person who instigated the Russia investigation against Trump back in July 2016. He was the lead agent on the investigation into whether Hillary, as secretary of state, sent classified information on her private email account. (Conclusion: She had — but it wasn’t any of the FBI’s business!) He volunteered for the Mueller investigation and remained there, right up until his Trump-hating texts were discovered by the inspector general of the FBI. (He was also, one surmises, the authority for many of the media’s lurid, anonymously sourced claims about how the investigation was proceeding.)

Most strangely, Strzok was the FBI agent who asked Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, about his phone call with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

There was nothing wrong with Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak, but Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent about it, based on a secretly recorded intercept of the phone call. The question remains: Why was any FBI agent even asking about a perfectly legitimate conversation? No one seems to know. But we do know the name of the FBI agent who asked: Peter Strzok.

Aside from Strzok’s girl-power text to his mistress upon Hillary becoming the first female presidential nominee — “About damn time!” — his most embarrassing message to her was about the Russia investigation:

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office (FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) — that there’s no way (Trump) gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40 …”

The media have tied themselves in knots trying to explain this text as meaning anything other than its obvious, natural meaning. To wit: “Although the worst is unlikely (Trump wins/you die before age 40), you still prepare by taking out ‘insurance’ (we take Trump down with the Russia investigation/your family gets a payout).”

I keep looking for a plausible alternative interpretation, but they’re all absurd; e.g., The Washington Post points out that even with an insurance policy, YOU STILL DIE! (Yes, and even with the Russian investigation, TRUMP IS STILL PRESIDENT.) Everyone except American journalists understands that Strzok’s “insurance” was their plan to tie Trump up with an endless investigation. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what they’ve done.

Contrary to every single person talking on MSNBC, the issue is not whether FBI agents are allowed to have political opinions. In a probe of the president, FBI agents shouldn’t be dying to take him down for political reasons.

You want drug enforcement agents to be hungry to shut down drug cartels. You want organized crime prosecutors to be hungry to dismantle the mob. You want your maid to be hungry to clean your house. But the staff on a special counsel’s open-ended investigation of the president aren’t supposed to be hungry. They’re supposed to be fair.

This is an investigation with no evidence of a crime, apart from politically motivated, anti-Trump investigators relying on a Hillary-funded dossier.

Also contrary to every single person talking on MSNBC, Steele’s dossier is not like a neighbor who hates you telling the police you’re cooking meth in your basement. The police still have to investigate, don’t they?

First of all, if after 18 months of police work, the only evidence that you’re cooking meth in your basement is STILL your neighbor’s bald accusation, reasonable people will conclude that your neighbor is a liar. That’s what the Steele dossier is. It was the only evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia 18 months ago, and it’s the only evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia today.

Moreover, it’s not just the informant who hates the target. The investigators do, too. This is more like a police officer calling the police on his wife, sending himself on the call, shooting her, then writing up the police report concluding it was a justified shooting.

When your entire investigation turns on a handful of people with corrupt motives, maybe it’s time to call off the investigation.

Trey Gowdy Gives Clues To What’s In FISA Abuse Memo [VIDEO]


Reported by Chuck Ross | Reporter | 12:16 PM 01/28/2018

Lawmakers have been reluctant to discuss a classified four-page memo alleging that the FBI and Justice Department abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to spy on Trump campaign associates, but South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy provided several clues on Sunday to what’s in the controversial document.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Gowdy posed several questions to host Chris Wallace and his viewers that hinted at the allegations in the memo, which could be released by the House Intelligence Committee as early as this week.

“If you think your viewers want to know whether or not the dossier was used in court proceedings, whether or not it was vetted before it was used, whether or not it’s ever been vetted — if you are interested in who paid for the dossier, if you are interested in Christopher Steele’s relationship with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, then, yes, you will want the memo to come out,” Gowdy told Wallace.

Do you want to know that the Democratic National Committee paid for material that was never vetted, that was included in a court proceeding?” he asked rhetorically. 

Do you want to know whether or not the primary source in these court proceedings had a bias against one candidate? Do you want to know whether or not he said he’d do anything to keep that candidate from becoming president?”

Gowdy’s reference to a source who said they opposed Donald Trump is unclear, though he would seem to be talking about Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier. Steele had been hired by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was paid $1 million by the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump. Steele met with FBI agents in July 2016 and several months later to discuss his investigation of Trump. The bureau and DOJ reportedly used Steele’s work in an application for a surveillance warrant taken out against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Republican lawmakers have pressed the FBI and DOJ over how heavily they relied on the dossier for the warrant and for the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Republicans also want to know whether the agencies vetted the dossier prior to using it in any FISA application.

In a Senate hearing last June, former FBI Director James Comey called the dossier “salacious and unverified.” Gowdy declined to confirm reports that the dossier was used to obtain the FISA warrant. He said that that information is classified at this point and he’s not allowed to discuss it. But Republicans will be able to get around that restriction if the Intelligence Committee votes to release the memo, which Gowdy helped write.

Democratic lawmakers have called the memo a set of talking points aimed at helping Trump, and the Justice Department sent a letter to committee chairman Devin Nunes calling the release “extremely reckless.

In his interview, Gowdy said that he has suggested that Nunes allow the FBI and Justice Department to view the memo prior to its release. But he says that the information contained in the document is based on information already provided by those agencies.

“There’s nothing in this memo the Department is not already aware of,” Gowdy said on Sunday.

WATCH:

Federal Judge Deals HUGE Blow To Fusion GPS In Bank Records Battle


Reported by Chuck Ross | Reporter | 9:27 PM 01/04/2018

A federal judge has ruled against Fusion GPS in the Trump dossier firm’s quest to block the release of its bank records to the House Intelligence Committee. Judge Richard Leon shot down all four of Fusion’s arguments against the release of 70 records of transactions involving some of its clients as well as journalists and researchers it has paid since Sept. 2015.

Fusion sued its bank, TD Bank, in October, to prevent it from complying with a subpoena issued by the House Intelligence Committee, which has been looking into Fusion’s role in putting together the dossier. That subpoena, issued by committee chairman Devin Nunes on Oct. 5, prompted Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC, to reveal that it had hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to investigate Trump. Fusion, which was founded by three former Wall Street Journal reporters, later hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy with experience in Moscow.

Fusion argued that the court should quash the committee’s subpoena on four separate grounds. The company argued that the subpoena for bank records lacked a valid legislative purpose, that it was too broad and the records being sought were not relevant to the committee’s Russia probe, that it violated Fusion’s First Amendment rights, and that it violated statutes prohibiting the release of bank records to government authorities.

Leon shot down all of the arguments, including Fusion’s assertion that Nunes had no grounds to issue a subpoena because he had recused himself back in April from the Russia probe.

“Unfortunately for plaintiff, the record contradicts its claims,” wrote Leon, a George W. Bush appointee.

Leon rebutted the claim — pushed by Fusion and Democrats alike — that Nunes had actually recused himself from the investigation. He pointed to Nunes’ oft-cited press release in which he ceded control of the committee’s day-to-day operations to Texas Rep. Conaway. But “nowhere in this press release did Chairman Nunes ‘recuse’ himself from the Russia investigation,” Leon notes. “He retained the power to issue the Subpoena at issue in this case.”

Leon also said that the committee’s subpoena is not overly broad. He noted that it has already been revealed that Fusion ordered Steele to brief several news outlets on the dossier. Therefore, the subpoena may reveal “relevant information” about payments to reporters.

The Intelligence committee has stated in past court filings that Fusion’s bank records shows that it has made nine separate payments to three unidentified journalists who wrote about or commented on Russia-related issues during the presidential campaign and into 2017. Fusion also did work for a Russian businessman with links to the Kremlin. The oppo firm was paid by the businessman’s law firm, BakerHostetler.

Leon also dismissed the idea that the bank subpoena violates Fusion’s First Amendment right to free association.

“Plaintiff points to no authority to support its theory that the freedom of association protects financial records,” says Leon.

Leon did not set a date for when TD Bank must release the Fusion bank records.

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