Grassley Demands Pentagon’s IG preform AGGRESSIVE overview of secret office connected to FBI’s Trump Russia probe

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday that he is demanding that the Pentagon’s inspector general answer questions and update Congress on its ongoing investigation into the highly secretive office that provided more than a million dollars in questionable contracts to an FBI informant critically involved in the now debunked probe into President Donald Trump’s alleged connections to Russia.

Grassley, now Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had sent a letter in January to the Department of Defense’s ONA director requesting detailed information on contracts provided to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who was spying on three of President Trump’s campaign aides during the 2016 election probe.

The expansive nature of Grassley’s investigation is significant and he is now asking ONA, which sources have told me is used as a cover for classified contracts and investigations, to “determine why it failed to perform a formal net assessment since 2007 and whether its purpose is still necessary in light of its wayward performance.”

“I appreciate your efforts; however, generalized evaluations such as the one you plan to perform will do no good for the taxpayer unless you perform an aggressive evaluation of ONA’s contract activities and compliance with both law and regulation,” said Grassley in a letter to the Pentagon’s Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell. “The failure to do so will result in work product less than what the taxpayer deserves.”

Grassley is demanding answers to the following questions:

1.Why has ONA failed to perform net assessments since 2007?

2.Are other offices within DoD performing net assessments separate from ONA?

3.If so, please provide a complete list of those offices and the total cost of those assessments for each office for each of the past five years.

4.Are other offices within DoD performing generic research as described in the new DoD Directive 5111.11?

5. If so, please provide a complete list of those offices and the total cost of that research for each office for each of the past five years.

6. Since ONA no longer performs net assessments, is ONA’s existence duplicative and wasteful in light of other DoD offices performing the same work? A description and assessment of the extent to which ONA has failed to comply with laws and regulations in contracting for research projects during the five-year period ending on September 30, 2020.

7. An assessment to determine whether all supporting documentation for ONA’s contracting comports with the Statement of Work agreed to between the contractors and DoD during the five-year period ending on September 30, 2020.

8. The steps ONA must take to ensure that all contract documents are collected and recorded as required by all relevant law and regulation.What is the total cost to perform an annual net assessment?

9. An analysis as to whether or not an annual net assessment can be performed by ONA at a cost less than $10,000,000.
From Grassely’s Letter to the Pentagon Inspector General

Moreover, ONA is an office that is originally “tasked with researching and comparing trends in military capabilities to identify future threats and opportunities.” However, its evaluations are long overdue and its opaque contracting practices raise questions about whether it is appropriately and efficiently using taxpayer dollars. In October, the DoD inspector general announced it would examine whether ONA had necessary procedures in place to conduct its mission.”

Grassley’s office told me in January that its investigation is focused on the ONA’s “contract compliance after reviewing troubling documents related to contracts awarded to Professor Stefan Halper.”

Grassely’s team of investigators were calling into question documents of ONA’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars, “as well as its contract management and internal controls,” the office stated.

This is where Halper’s role with ONA “becomes highly suspicious and his contracts coincide with his spying on the Trump campaign,” said one former government official in January, who was familiar with the matter.  

Halper was an integral part of the FBI’s investigation in 2016 into short-term Trump campaign volunteer, Carter Page and George Papadopolous. Halper’s Cambridge Intelligence Seminar was also connected to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, when in April, 2014 Flynn, who was then head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was invited as a guest to London, England. Flynn would later be at the center of false stories accusing him of being a Russian asset and wrapping Russian born British academic Svetlana Lokhova into the false stories.

In 2016, Bill Gertz, a Washington Times investigative Columnist, published the concern mounting regarding the DOD’s office and its failure to produce a Net Assessment as directed by its mandate.

“Instead, the office, whose director reports directly to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, has focused its $20 million annual budget mainly on producing outside research projects, some of them of questionable value, according to critics.

Net assessments are very secret, in-depth analyses that compare U.S. weapons, forces and policies with those of other countries. The assessments, usually running 100 pages or more, also seek to forecast military and strategic trends.”

Bill Gertz, The Washington Times

Grassley’s committee, as well as his former Senate Judiciary Committee, has been investigating Halper and the ONA since 2019. The main focus of those investigations are concerning the large sum of money the ONA paid to Halper for questionable contracts and reports.

“Halper has been identified as a confidential human source tasked by U.S. authorities to surreptitiously record members of President Trump’s 2016 election campaign for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” states Grassely’s press release.

Grassley’s letter follows exchanges with the Director of the Office of Net Assessment regarding its contracting practices and Halper’s questionable work for the office. In July, ONA Director James Baker provided responses to Grassley’s inquiries from June of this year. Text of Grassley’s letter to the DoD inspector general follows: 

Grassley’s press release

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Parler @SaraCarterOfficial or on Twitter @SaraCarterDC