The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he will seek testimony from the ex-British spy who compiled the unsubstantiated 35-page dossier about Donald Trump’s alleged ties to the Russian government.
“I’ll certainly be requesting his testimony,” California Rep. Adam Schiff said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday.
“If there’s an issue about whether he is willing to come before the committee, I can say I am more than willing to go to him, and I know there are other members of the committee would join me in that,” the Democrat added.
Steele, 52, made his first public appearance Tuesday after going into hiding following the release of the dossier in January. A former spy for MI6, Steele was hired by an opposition research firm to dig up dirt on Trump. The firm, Fusion GPS, had been hired by an ally of Hillary Clinton. (RELATED: Dossier Author Comes Out Of Hiding)
The House Intelligence Committee is probing several angles in a sprawling investigation that has Russia’s meddling in the election as its central focus. The committee, which is chaired by California Rep. Devin Nunes, is investigating hacking that took place during the presidential campaign, any Trump campaign links to Russia, and leaks of classified information about the federal probe into the matter.
Republicans on the committee have still not decided whether to ask Steele to testify.
A spokesman for Nunes told The Daily Caller is has not been decided but “it’s possible.”
Last week it was reported, but not confirmed, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is also seeking Steele’s testimony. The office of North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of that committee, told TheDC that it could not confirm the reports.
Schiff told Maddow that if Steele is not comfortable testifying on Capitol Hill, he would make other accommodations to speak to the retired spook.
“So, if it’s an issue of his not wanting to appear or to come here and face questions from the whole committee, we more than welcome his cooperation in any manner that he is comfortable,” he said.
Schiff added that committee members “certainly want to get to the bottom of the details of that dossier and report what has been substantiated, what hasn’t, and find out just how he based those conclusions, also whatever degree he is willing to share with us any sources of his information.”
U.S. officials told CNN last month that they have some degree of confidence in some parts of the dossier, which was published by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10. But the most salacious parts of the document — passages which allege that the Kremlin is blackmailing Trump and that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials in email hacks — have not been verified. One of the alleged sources of those claims also has a questionable background. (RELATED: The Source Of Salacious Claims In Dossier Has Been Identified)
It’s too early to know what questions would be asked of Steele, who founded Orbis Business Intelligence in London in 2009.
He does have one reason to avoid making any public comments on the matter. Steele was sued last month Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive. The dossier named Gubarev as a Kremlin operative whose company had planted computer viruses to help the hacking effort. Gubarev, who denies the allegation, has also sued BuzzFeed.
If Steele does appear in front of Congress, he will likely be asked about his interactions with the FBI. The Washington Post reported last week that Steele struck an informal deal with the FBI to continue his research on Trump. The deal fell through and Steele was never paid, though it is unclear why. (RELATED: FBI Pressed On Agreement With Trump Dossier Author)
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked the FBI why it made the agreement with Steele given that he was also working indirectly for Clinton allies.