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30 Jan, 2018 19:39

Russiagate escalates: As Republicans vote to release the memo, Democrats bring up ‘2nd dossier’

Russiagate escalates: As Republicans vote to release the memo, Democrats bring up ‘2nd dossier’

After Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publish a memo reportedly revealing FBI abuses of spying powers based on the controversial “Steele dossier,” a report has emerged of a second dossier’s existence.

On Monday, the committee voted along party lines to make public the four-page, classified memo commissioned by Chair Devin Nunes (R-California), which is currently available only to members of the House of Representatives. A counter-memo prepared by the Democrats, which was not shown to anyone, was approved for reading by Congress but not for the general public just yet.

Within minutes, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking member, was in front of the cameras, denouncing the Republicans as unfair and not interested in transparency. Schiff’s claims confused even some news agencies, which initially reported the committee had voted not to release the Nunes memo, rather than to keep Schiff’s classified until it can be read by members.

Earlier in the day, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe suddenly stepped down from his post, though he’d previously announced he would stay with the bureau until March. McCabe’s departure came after reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray had read the Nunes memo.

The memo’s contents are unknown. According to media reports, it shows the FBI sought a warrant  from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, without disclosing that its evidence was based on the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, also known as the “Steele dossier,” which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign as opposition research against President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the Guardian published an exclusive report claiming that the FBI is in possession of a second dossier that it says corroborates Steele’s claims. Citing anonymous sources, the UK-based paper reported that the dossier was handed over to the FBI in October 2016 by Steele, who reportedly received it from “an American contact,” following the bureau’s request for corroborating information.

This “second dossier” was authored by Cody Shearer, a former journalist and political operative for the Clinton White House in the 1990s. According to the Guardian, it confirms Steele’s claim that Trump was “compromised” by the Russian intelligence in 2013, during a trip to Moscow that involved “lewd acts” at a five-star hotel.

Shearer’s dossier cites an unnamed source from the Russian state security service, the FSB. The Guardian noted it “cannot verify any of the claims,” and it was unclear whether the paper was actually given access to the dossier.

Citing a “source with knowledge of the inquiry,” the Guardian reported that the FBI was “still working on” the Shearer dossier, suggesting the bureau was taking at least some of it seriously.

“It raises the possibility that parts of the Steele dossier, which has been derided by Trump’s supporters, may have been corroborated by Shearer’s research, or could still be,” Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Nick Hopkins wrote in the Guardian article.

Some Clinton supporters were exuberant at the news of the second dossier’s existence.

Conservatives were more skeptical of the dossier’s provenance, given Shearer’s past. His brother served as an ambassador during the Clinton administration, and his late sister was married to Strobe Talbott, the chief authority on Russia in President Bill Clinton’s State Department, according to ProPublica.

During the Benghazi investigation of Hillary Clinton in 2015, the National Review called Shearer “someone with a history of misleading foreign sources, misrepresenting himself as an agent of the US government, and creating trouble for both himself and the United States abroad.” NR cited the story about Shearer’s secret trip to Bosnia in the 1990s, where he extorted money from the Bosnian Serbs, claiming he was a secret envoy of the Clinton administration and could negotiate a reduction of war crimes charges.

The Guardian notes that Shearer had shared his dossier “with select media organisations before the election,” without naming the outlets. The Daily Caller reporter Chuck Ross cites a passage from a recent book by the Guardian’s former correspondent in Moscow, Luke Harding, about how he received an email from the “Clinton camp” that contained the same accusations as in the Steele dossier, but was not Steele’s work.

That at least suggests that Shearer’s document didn’t just appear out of thin air to conveniently back up Steele’s claims just as the original dossier is about to be challenged by a congressional memo. However, it also suggests that both dossiers claiming Trump’s ties to Russian intelligence came from sources either close to, or paid for by, Hillary Clinton.

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