The House Select Committee on Intelligence is now investigating former Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s possible role into the unverified dossier paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton Campaign, this reporter has learned. The dossier, assembled by a former British spy, laid the foundation for the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between President Trump and Russia and was the essential piece of evidence used by the FBI to get a warrant to spy on a former volunteer for the Trump campaign.
For more than a month, the committee has been in its second phase of investigations focused on former Obama State Department officials and their role in either transmitting information or using information provided by a former British spy and investigator Christopher Steele. Steele was hired by embattled research firm Fusion GPS, also under several congressional and Senate investigations.
But it was in February when questions surfaced regarding Kerry’s possible involvement or knowledge of the dossier.
Jonathan Winer, a long-time colleague of Kerry and who served as the former envoy for Libya during his tenure at the Department, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Feb. 8, defending his relationship with Steele and his role in the infamous dossier.
A close confidant of Hillary Clinton who went on to work for the Clintons, appeared to be feeding Steele information
Winer attempted to pre-empt questions that the committee would ask regarding his role by admitting in his article that he was a long-time friend of Steele. He also established his close working relationship with Kerry saying, “in 2013, I returned to the State Department at the request of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whom I had previously served as Senate counsel.”
But information uncovered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and revealed in its criminal referral of Steele to the Department of Justice that several Clinton allies were also connected to the State Department and the dossier. Sidney Blumenthal, a close confidant of Hillary Clinton, and Cody Shearer, a former journalist who went on to work for the Clintons, appeared to be feeding Steele information.
Winer said in his op-ed that “in late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at The Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.”
Also in September, 2016 Steele briefed Winer on the dossier at a Washington Hotel, according to an expose recently published in The New Yorker. Winer prepared his summary and shared it with former Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Jon Finer, who was then chief of staff Kerry. Kerry was then briefed by Finer several days later, according to the report.
In February, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent a dozen letters, containing ten questions, to former high-ranking Obama administration officials demanding full disclosure of their knowledge of the unverified dossier. Committee officials are in the process of determining how many senior officials within the Obama administration, like Kerry, were aware of the dossier.
At the time, the committee did not disclose what officials received the letters, so it is not clear if Kerry was among them. Last week, however, reports surfaced that former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey were among those Obama officials to receive a questionnaire.
On Monday, Nunes told Fox News that some of the former administration officials responded, others asked for extensions, and several have failed to respond. He also noted that another dozen letters will be sent to more former Obama officials in the upcoming weeks as the investigation expands. The letter contained ten questions but one is of specific importance, say congressional investigators and that is if President Obama was aware of the contents of the dossier prior to Jan. 5, 2017. Also, the committee is investigating whether or not any senior officials leaked the contents of the dossier to reporters or media, as reported earlier.
Nunes said Clapper, Comey and Brennan did respond to the committee’s letter.
“There are a few people though that are not responding – they seem to have gone dark,” Nunes told Martha McCallum. “However, if they don’t respond here shortly they will be getting subpoenaed to appear before Congress to be treated with a deposition.”
But Winer’s op-ed and statements made by Nuland to the media regarding her role in the dossier have raised more questions than answers among congressional investigators. Winer, who also worked as the special envoy to Libya, noted in his op-ed that he contacted Nuland about Steele’s reports while he was at the State Department.
In one instance, Winer states that “over the years, Steele and I had discussed many matters relating to Russia. He asked me whether the State Department would like copies of new information as he developed it.”
Winer also said that he and Steele “met and became friends” in 2009 and both were interested in Russia and the collection of “business intelligence.” Winer also admitted sharing Steele’s work with the State Department’s Russia desk. “Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful.”
Similar to Winer, Nuland has come forward to select media outlets regarding her relationship with Steele and the dossier. She told CBS’s Face the Nation, “[Steele] passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, ‘This is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”
This story has been updated