GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger and a longtime aide to Speaker Paul D. Ryan each were given an early look at the final report added to the infamous “Steele dossier,” court documents in a lawsuit against BuzzFeed News show.
Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who compiled the unsubstantiated research booklet in 2016 about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia before he became president, gave the report to Kinzinger and Jonathan Burks, Ryan’s longtime chief of staff, after he completed it on Dec. 13, 2016, according to the court memo.
In addition to Kinzinger and Burks, Steele also handed off the 17th and final report of his dossier, Report 166, to a longtime associate of Sen. John McCain and the top Russia expert on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council.
The judge in the BuzzFeed case, Ursula Ungaro, ruled in favor of the online publication on Wednesday. Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev sued BuzzFeed for publishing its story without first investigating the dossier’s claim that Gubarev’s companies hacked Democratic computer systems ahead of the 2016 election. Gubarev has strongly denied the claim.
Among other potentially explosive claims, the dossier contains salacious, unsubstantiated reports of Trump having sex with prostitutes in Moscow, an encounter that it says might have been recorded on video by the Russian government.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Ryan said: “Burks has never met Christopher Steele nor received any document directly from him. However, he was aware of and had read the dossier prior to its publication.” She did not say from whom Burks received Steele’s report.
Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and Foreign Affairs Committee member, could not be reached for comment through his office Thursday.
The dossier has remained in the news as congressional Republicans continue to probe its role in four FISA applications in 2016 submitted by the Justice Department and approved by federal judges to surveil former Trump campaign official Carter Page.
As recently as Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows claimed that Republicans did not initially bankroll Steele’s research into Trump’s ties to Russia in a tweet about House Republicans’ conversation last week with former FBI Director James B. Comey.
But in fact, Steele’s efforts were initially funded through the opposition research firm Fusion GPS by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website backed by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who supported Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential bid. After Rubio dropped from the race, the Democratic National Committee’s law firm, Perkins Coie, hired Fusion GPS to renew its research into Trump’s business ties.
Justice Department officials have flatly denied that the dossier was the primary basis for its FISA applications in 2016, and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam B. Schiff of California, released a memo in February that showed the FBI had initiated its investigation into Page two months before the bureau had its hands on the Steele dossier.
Page was no longer with the Trump campaign by the time the FBI began listening to his conversations with foreign nationals, Schiff’s memo revealed. And Page had long been on the bureau’s radar for his overseas connections, The Washington Post reported in February.
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