- The State Department’s inspector general investigated an October 2016 meeting involving dossier author Christopher Steele, two Republican senators revealed
- But the inspector general failed to interview key participants in the meeting, the Republicans say
- Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley are also questioning why the State Department watchdog failed to release a report of its investigation
Two Republican senators are questioning the State Department inspector general’s handling of an investigation into an October 2016 meeting between department officials and dossier author Christopher Steele.
Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley reveal in a letter released Thursday that the office of the inspector general (OIG) conducted a review of the Oct. 11, 2016 meeting. The watchdog also looked at whether Jonathan Winer, the State Department official who arranged the meeting with Steele, violated the agency’s policies regarding intelligence gathering practices.
But the OIG failed to interview some of the key players involved in the meeting, the senators say.
“We write seeking to understand why the OIG did not issue a report on its investigation and did not interview employees who most likely have relevant information regarding the subject matter of the inquiry,” Johnson and Grassley wrote to Steve Linick, the inspector general.
The senators also said that staff from the OIG disclosed that a State Department employee was referred to the Office of Special Counsel for “anti-Trump political conduct” that may have violated the Hatch Act, the law that prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in political activity on the job.
“Despite this recommendation, however, the OIG did not publish a written report about its review,” the senators said.
The letter focuses mainly on the activities of Winer, a longtime aide to former Sec. of State John Kerry. Winer served in the State Department under Bill Clinton, but worked in private practice until Kerry took office in 2013. Winer’s official title was special envoy to Libya, but he moonlighted as Steele’s liaison to the State Department.
In 2014, Winer began sharing Steele’s private intelligence reports with other State Department officials, including Kavalec’s boss, Victoria Nuland. State Department emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation also show that Winer put Steele in contact with private consultants, seemingly to help the retired spy drum up business.
Winer arranged the October 2016 meeting between Steele and Kathleen Kavalec, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. Kavalec’s notes from the meeting show that Steele laid out many of the allegations from his dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Senate and House Republicans are interested in finding out about Kavalec’s actions after the meeting. Her notes show that Steele provided some unverified and inaccurate information. Ten days after the meeting, the FBI cited Steele’s dossier in an application to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The special counsel’s report all but debunked the dossier’s central claim: that the Trump campaign and Kremlin were involved in a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” to influence the 2016 election. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, found no evidence of a conspiracy.
Winer played a key role in spreading Steele’s unverified allegations about Donald Trump and Russia throughout the State Department.
Steele began sharing details of his Trump-Russia investigation with Winer in Summer 2016. Winer has acknowledged that he provided some of the information to his State Department superiors. He also arranged the Oct. 11, 2016 meeting between Steele and Kavalec.
One of Steele’s employees, Tatyana Duran, accompanied him at the meeting.
Winer also had contact with journalists and with Steele’s employer, Fusion GPS.
On Sept. 19, 2016, and Sept. 22, 2016, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson contacted Winer at his State Department email account asking to speak by phone.
A day after the last contact, Yahoo! News published an explosive report that was based on Steele’s investigation of Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The author of that article would later reveal that he met with Steele and Simpson in mid-September 2016, and that Winer was a background source for his article.
Johnson and Grassley, who chair the Senate Homeland Security and Senate Finance Committees, respectively, said that the OIG did not interview Winer, Kavalec or Nuland as part of its investigation.
It is not clear if the OIG investigated Winer’s contacts with the media or Fusion GPS. The OIG did not respond to a request for comment.
But the OIG review did look at whether Winer “complied with Department policy and regulation on intelligence gathering” and whether he “violated classification protocol,” according to the Johnson/Grassley letter.
The Republicans note that Winer sometimes used a personal email address when sharing Steele’s reports with others at the State Department.
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