Right asks: Why no probe for Steele ties?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Pres­i­dent Trump’s frus­tra­tion last week over spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller not in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Democrats’ links to Rus­sia elec­tion med­dling is aimed at Christo­pher Steele, the Bri­tish ex-spy who com­piled and im­ported the un­ver­i­fied dossier.

“The only ‘Col­lu­sion’ is that of the Democrats with Rus­sia and many oth­ers,” he tweeted Nov. 15. Mr. Steele is a paid Demo­cratic Party op­er­a­tive who spread among Wash­ing­ton power elites pre-Elec­tion Day Trump gos­sip orig­i­nat­ing from Mos­cow.

Mr. Mueller has made a theme of en­forc­ing the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA), which re­quires peo­ple work­ing on be­half of for­eign­ers to reg­is­ter with the Jus­tice Depart­ment or face crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity. He also has charged Rus­sian na­tion­als with fraud against the U.S. by in­ter­fer­ing in the 2016 elec­tion.

The Steele is­sue has reached Mr. Mueller. An at­tor­ney for one in­dicted Rus­sian firm, Con­cord Man­age­ment and Con­sult­ing LLC, ac­cused Mr. Mueller of se­lec­tive prose­cu­tion.

Why is Con­cord charged with elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, but Mr. Steele is not? asked Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney Eric Dube­lier.

Mr. Mueller re­sponded by say­ing Mr. Steele’s ac­tions are not on a par with elab­o­rate Rus­sian so­cial me­dia trolling and com­puter hack­ing. But his court ar­gu­ment didn’t ex­plic­itly say Mr. Steele is in­no­cent of in­ter­fer­ence.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Dab­ney L. Friedrich re­jected the Con­cord ar­gu­ment. She up­held the Mueller in­dict­ment in a rul­ing last week, say­ing it is in­deed a crime for for­eign­ers — in this case troll farm­ing Con­cord — to med­dle in U.S. elec­tions. For­eign­ers face re­stric­tions on what roles they can play in U.S. elec­tions.

Some con­ser­va­tives dis­agree with Mr. Mueller brush­ing aside Mr. Steele’s ac­tions. They make the case that Mr. Steele not only in­flu­enced the 2016 elec­tion but also in­fected the en­tire po­lit­i­cal sys­tem with un­sub­stan­ti­ated felony charges against Trump peo­ple that re­main pub­licly un­ver­i­fied to­day.

Mr. Steele was paid by the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Party via its law firm and the in­ves­tiga­tive firm Fu­sion GPS. An FBI doc­u­ment says he con­tin­ued to in­ves­ti­gate Mr. Trump well af­ter the elec­tion, fi­nanced by rich Demo­cratic donors.

“In the­ory, every­thing Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Rus­sians for could be ap­plied to the whole Fu­sion GPS/Clin­ton cam­paign/DNC op­er­a­tion,” said Tom Fit­ton, who di­rects Ju­di­cial Watch, a con­ser­va­tive watch­dog that spe­cial­izes in su­ing for gov­ern­ment records.

“The dossier was in­tended to im­pact the elec­tion. That is why Clin­ton op­er­a­tives, Fu­sion GPS and Steele leaked info about it be­fore the elec­tion,” Mr. Fit­ton said. “And, iron­i­cally, as Steele sup­pos­edly used Rus­sia in­tel sources for the dossier, it ar­guably is an­other way in which the Rus­sians sought to in­ter­fere with our elec­tions.”

To con­ser­va­tives like Mr. Fit­ton, the Mueller nar­ra­tive against Con­cord is sim­i­lar to ac­tions of Mr. Steele and his Or­bis Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence firm in Lon­don.

The Mueller in­dict­ment against Con­cord Man­age­ment and Con­sult­ing states that the U.S. “reg­u­lates the ac­tiv­i­ties of for­eign in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties in and af­fect­ing the United States in or­der to pre­vent, dis­close, and coun­ter­act im­proper for­eign in­flu­ence on U.S. elec­tions and on the U.S. po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.”

The in­dict­ment also says “U.S. law also bars agents of any for­eign en­tity from en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties within the United States with­out first reg­is­ter­ing with the At­tor­ney Gen­eral.” This is a ref­er­ence to FARA.

And then there is the FARA lan­guage it­self. It de­fines a per­son re­quired to reg­is­ter as one “act­ing as agents of for­eign prin­ci­pals in a po­lit­i­cal or quasi-po­lit­i­cal ca­pac­ity.” A prin­ci­pal can be a coun­try, com­pany or merely other for­eign­ers.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment says FARA’s pur­pose is to en­sure that U.S. res­i­dents “are in­formed of the source of in­for­ma­tion (pro­pa­ganda) and the iden­tity of per­sons at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence U.S. pub­lic opin­ion, pol­icy, and laws.” “Pro­pa­ganda” is FARA’s de­scrip­tion in paren­the­ses.

What did Mr. Steele, as a for­eigner, do to in­flu­ence the elec­tion?

For one, his stated pur­pose was to de­stroy Mr. Trump. He told that to then-As­so­ciate Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bruce Ohr, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Ohr’s brief­ing to the FBI.

Se­cond, he com­piled charges against Trump as­so­ci­ates based on in­for­ma­tion from Krem­lin fig­ures. They were var­i­ous un­named in­tel­li­gence and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who could qual­ify as “prin­ci­pals” un­der FARA.

Third, Mr. Steele brought his con­spir­acy the­o­ries to the U.S. in the fall of 2016 with the ex­press in­tent to in­flu­ence the elec­tion. Un­der Fu­sion GPS’ guid­ance, he pro­vided his al­le­ga­tions to a who’s who of Wash­ing­ton news bu­reaus.

Two of them, Ya­hoo News and Mother Jones mag­a­zine, pub­lished be­fore Elec­tion Day his charges of a vast Rus­si­aTrump con­spir­acy. The Clin­ton cam­paign, which was be­ing briefed on the dossier, used the al­le­ga­tion to at­tack Mr. Trump. Then-Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid also cited dossier charges in a let­ter to the FBI that was pub­lished in The New York Times.

All the while, Mr. Steele re­mained anony­mous.

Why not Clin­ton?

The Mueller in­dict­ment against Con­cord says the U.S. reg­u­lates “for­eign in­di­vid­u­als” to pre­vent “im­proper for­eign in­flu­ence on U.S. elec­tions and on the U.S. po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.”

Mr. Steele’ dossier had broad im­pact on the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, con­ser­va­tives say.

For ex­am­ple, the ac­cu­sa­tions against Mr. Trump dis­rupted his tran­si­tion. ThenFBI di­rec­tor James B. Comey, with­out telling the pres­i­dent-elect the dossier was Demo­cratic Party op­po­si­tion re­search, briefed him on some of its most sala­cious charges. The story then was leaked by Obama ap­pointees to CNN and be­came a dom­i­nant tran­si­tion news story.

The dossier also has greatly in­flu­enced Congress. For ex­am­ple, Democrats on the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence re­peat­edly cited its charges in ques­tion­ing top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. Democrats have praised the dossier in mul­ti­ple TV ap­pear­ances.

If the U.S. “po­lit­i­cal sys­tem,” in­cludes the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the dossier dic­tated steps taken by the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate Mr. Trump. In se­cret, the FBI used it to ob­tain a year’s worth of wire­taps on a Trump cam­paign vol­un­teer as well as to pur­sue other cam­paign as­so­ci­ates. The full story of how the dossier per­me­ated the thoughts of Obama ap­pointees at Jus­tice and the FBI has yet to be told.

In U.S. Dis­trict Court, Mr. Dube­lier, Con­cord’s lawyer, cited Mr. Steele’s an­tiTrump op­er­a­tion.

“Steele al­legedly used the me­dia to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion while con­ceal­ing his iden­tity and for­eign na­tion­al­ity,” Mr. Dube­lier said in an Oct. 5 fil­ing.

“More­over, Steele’s ul­ti­mate goal was to pub­licly leak the in­for­ma­tion while re­main­ing anony­mous, which is far more egre­gious than pri­vate Rus­sian in­di­vid­u­als post­ing opin­ions on so­cial me­dia,” he said.

A check of the FARA reg­is­tra­tion database does not show Mr. Steele or his com­pany.

In re­but­ting Mr. Dube­lier’s ar­gu­ment, Mr. Mueller said Mr. Steele’s op­er­a­tion didn’t come close to Con­cord’s de­cep­tion and in­flu­ence, with its mul­ti­ple fake so­cial me­dia posts and staged po­lit­i­cal ral­lies.

“None of Con­cord’s ex­am­ples re­motely com­pares to this sys­tem­atic, de­cep­tive ef­fort to in­ter­fere in our democ­racy,” the Mueller brief said.

Not ad­dressed by Mr. Mueller is whether Mr. Steele was in fact a for­eign agent who in­flu­enced the U.S. po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Mr. Dube­lier ar­gues that far from be­ing a mi­nor in­volve­ment, Mr. Steele’s dossier had far reach­ing ef­fects.

“Steele was work­ing on-and-off as a con­fi­den­tial hu­man source for the FBI, and in­ter­acted with other U.S. fed­eral of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from the DOJ, FBI, State Depart­ment, Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency, and staff of mem­bers of Congress — in an ef­fort to dis­sem­i­nate his un­ver­i­fied dossier of al­le­ga­tions against Trump, Rus­sian of­fi­cials, and oth­ers,” he said.

The May 2017 Jus­tice Depart­ment ap­point­ment or­der tells Mr. Mueller to in­ves­ti­gate “any links and/or co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with the cam­paign of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.”

Con­ser­va­tives and the pres­i­dent ask why was the Clin­ton cam­paign has been excluded. It paid money to a for­eign agent, Mr. Steele, who had nu­mer­ous links to Rus­sian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and used their in­for­ma­tion to in­flu­ence the elec­tion and the U.S. po­lit­i­cal process.

Mr. Trump has crit­i­cized Mr. Mueller for com­pil­ing a staff of mostly lawyers who do­nated to the Demo­cratic Party. One ex­am­ple is An­drew Weiss­mann, a top Mueller prose­cu­tor who at­tended what was sup­posed to be a Clin­ton vic­tory party in New York and cheer-led a Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment ap­pointee who de­fied Mr. Trump.

Mr. Steele, be­fore the elec­tion, had been an on-again, off-again paid FBI source.

If the Jus­tice Depart­ment were to in­ves­ti­ga­tion Mr. Steele, it would be prob­ing a dossier on which it de­pended ex­ten­sively to hunt Trump as­so­ci­ates.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Con­ser­va­tives and Pres­i­dent Trump ask why the Clin­ton cam­paign has been excluded from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Steele

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