Politics

Feds Release Notes Of Christopher Steele’s Interview In Mueller Probe, But There’s A Catch

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Federal agencies are withholding in full the notes from an FBI interview in 2017 with Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose dossier the FBI used as part of its investigation of the Trump campaign.

The Justice Department and FBI released an almost entirely redacted version of a memo from the Steele interview late last week along with dozens of other memos of interviews conducted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

BuzzFeed News and CNN have sued for memos of all of the interviews conducted in the investigation. BuzzFeed published the documents, as did the FBI.

The 26-page memo documenting the Steele interview is entirely blacked out, save for an introductory section that says that an FBI special agent and intelligence analyst interviewed Steele on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19, 2017.

The memo also says that a colleague of Steele’s at their firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was interviewed.

Steele was hired in June 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia.

The FBI relied heavily on information from a dossier that Steele compiled as part of his investigation. Many of Steele’s allegations have either been debunked outright or heavily disputed in the more than four years since the FBI first obtained the dossier.

The Justice Department and FBI justified redacting the Steele notes by citing exemptions that prohibit the release of classified information, or information related to confidential government sources. (RELATED: Trump Says He Has Ordered ‘Total’ Declassification Of Documents Related To ‘Russia Hoax’)

The blanket redactions would seem to conflict with the pledge by President Trump and administration officials to declassify and release documents related to the Steele dossier and the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: FBI director nominee Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed, Wray will fill the position that has been left behind by former director James Comey who was fired by President Donald Trump about two months ago. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

FBI director nominee Christopher Wray testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 12, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump has said multiple times during his presidency that he has authorized the declassification of all documents related to the probe. He granted declassification authority to Attorney General William Barr in 2018.

Barr has coordinated with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to declassify and release several documents related to the dossier.

In July, the agencies declassified a 59-page memo of FBI interviews in January 2017 with Igor Danchenko, the primary source for Christopher Steele.

In August, the Justice Department declassified an FBI memo that said that the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation against Danchenko in 2009, based on suspicions that he might have been a covert Russian agent.

ODNI has also declassified footnotes from a Justice Department inspector general’s report that said that the FBI received evidence in 2017 that Russian intelligence officers may have fed disinformation into Steele’s network of sources.

The federal agencies have withheld multiple documents related to Steele and his longstanding relationship with the FBI.

Steele began serving as a confidential source for the bureau in 2013. He provided information to the FBI regarding his investigation of Trump on July 5, 2016. FBI agents also interviewed Steele about his investigation on Oct. 3, 2016.

The FBI has not released documents related to those interviews.

The FBI and Justice Department have declined comment regarding the withheld Steele memos.

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