House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff refused to commit Sunday to investigating whether the Steele dossier is the product of Russian disinformation, a theory that has gained traction in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.
In an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace, Schiff largely refused to discuss the dossier, a remarkable shift for the Democrat, who endorsed Steele’s unverified allegations about Trump associates during a public House Intelligence Committee hearing just over two years ago.
Schiff favorably cited dossier author Christopher Steele by name six times during his opening remarks at an Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, 2017.
In Sunday’s interview, Wallace noted the Mueller report established that much of the Steele dossier was either false or impossible to verify. Wallace asked Schiff whether it was appropriate to investigate whether the dossier was the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.
U.S. intelligence officials are considering whether Russian operatives planted disinformation with Steele, a former MI6 officer who has worked in Moscow, The New York Times reported Friday. Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA chief of station in Moscow, also recently told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he believes the dossier is the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.
“Don’t you think the question of exactly how this investigation began, was it a Russian disinformation campaign to try to get, since they were trying to set Americans against each other, not only to tarnish Hillary Clinton, but also to tarnish Donald Trump, isn’t that a legitimate source of an investigation?” Wallace asked Schiff.
The lawmaker dodged the question.
“Chris, you know, the reality is that the Republicans on our committee spent two years investigating exactly that because, frankly, they weren’t that interested in what Russia had done, the systemic attack on our democracy. They spent the focus of their two years investigating the investigators and investigating exactly that question,” Schiff said.
Wallace jumped in to point out that the Mueller report has raised new questions about the dossier, which was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign.
“We do have new information, the Mueller report discredits a lot of that, says there was no indication that Carter Page did anything wrong. Shouldn’t you be looking at that just to find the truth?” asked Wallace.
Schiff again refused to commit to investigating Steele’s report, which the FBI used to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.
“Well, what we are going to be looking at is we’re going to be looking at all the counterintelligence findings that were the genesis of this investigation,” the California representative said. “Let me be very clear about this, the Mueller report makes it absolutely crystal clear that the initiation of this investigation was not only warranted, but absolutely necessary because it revealed a widespread, systemic effort by the Russians to help the Trump campaign.”
In his report, Mueller said that Russian operatives disseminated emails stolen from the DNC and Clinton campaign. But Mueller also failed to establish that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to steal the emails or release them. Mueller also did not find evidence that members of the Trump campaign, including Page, acted as foreign agents of Russia.
Mueller’s report specifically undercut one of the strongest allegations of collusion in the dossier. Mueller said that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen did not visit Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin insiders, as the dossier alleges.
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