Chuck Grassley Finally Shows Concern about Parallel Construction — Affecting Trump

As I’ve said repeatedly, I think Chuck Grassley’s concerns about the Steele dossier — and FBI’s refusal to answer questions about it — generally have merit. That continues with his latest letter to FBI.

Effectively, he’s worried that because Steele shared the dossier with MI6, the FBI might effectively be parallel constructing intelligence that ultimately came from Steele, and so from a oppo research dossier.

There is another concern about Mr. Steele’s and Fusion GPS’s work that the FBI needs to address.  Public reports indicate that the FBI received the dossier and has used it in the Russia investigation.  However, it appears that the FBI, the media, and various Congressional offices were not the only recipients of the dossier prior to its publication.  In court filings by Mr. Steele’s attorneys in London, he admitted that he had passed at least some contents of the dossier to at least one foreign government – the United Kingdom.[1]

Media reports have also claimed that foreign governments passed along information to the United States about purported contacts between Trump associates and Russians.  Given that Mr. Steele also distributed the dossier’s contents to at least one foreign government, it is possible that this political dossier’s collusion allegations, or related allegations originating via Mr. Steele, may have also been surreptitiously funneled into U.S. intelligence streams through foreign intelligence sharing.  If so, that foreign information would likely have ended up within the FBI’s investigation of allegations of collusion between Trump associates and Russia.  However, given that foreign intelligence agencies carefully guard their sources and methods, it may not have been clear to the FBI that the foreign reporting was actually based on the work of Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS.

If this in fact happened, it would be alarming.  Mr. Steele’s dossier allegations might appear to be “confirmed” by foreign intelligence, rather than just an echo of the same “research” that Fusion bought from Steele and that the FBI reportedly also attempted to buy from Steele.  It is even more alarming in light of what we are learning about the allegedly unregistered Russian foreign agents who Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson were working with to undermine the Magnitsky Act and who met with Trump family and campaign officials last summer.

The Committee must understand what steps the FBI has taken to ensure that any foreign information it received and used in the Russia investigation, beyond the dossier itself, was not ultimately sourced to Mr. Steele, his associates such as Fusion GPS, or his sub-sources.

It’s a fair point — as mentioned, he’s effectively describing parallel construction, which the FBI uses all the time to hide the ultimate source for its evidence on defendants (though usually, that process involves obtaining subpoenas to hide what kind of foreign intelligence it relies on).

So I’m grateful the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has finally decided to turn his focus on a process that is badly abused, to the detriment of due process in this country.

I just wish he expressed the same concern for less famous targets, rather than just the President.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
    • bmaz says:

      Screw your “OT”. This blog’s comment section is NOT your own personal gripe broad based playground. Every now  and then is fine. We afford that to people that earn and respect it, you are neither.  You seem to think we are an open forum for you, because you don’t have one of your own. That is NOT how this works.

      Get your own damn blog. Keep this crap up here though, and you will be gone. That is not a threat, it is a promise.

  1. orionATL says:

    1. sen charles(snake) grassley is a republican political operative first, second, and third. fourth he is a u. s. senator partly responsible for sensible public policy. it was this scalely old character with the yellow teeth who said of the most recent republican effort to destroy the affordable care act: “i can think of 10 reasons not to vote for that bill”, then he went and voted for it any way.

    2. nonetheless, even the devil can be for a good cause, though out of the wrong motives. thus, it is possible sen. grassley’s concerns about the steele dossier have merit despite malmotives (protect a republican president no matter what he may have done), but only under one scenario.

    3. three scenarios:
    – the trump campaign colluded with the russians.
    – the trump campaign did not collude with the russians.
    – the trump campaign did not directly collude with the russians, but republican operatives favorable to trump, e. g., stone, smith, did collude.

    4. if the trump campaign colluded, then”parallel construction”, so long as it reflects reality, is not a problem. the steele dossier turns out to be a useful, if somewhat inaccurate, map.
    if it did not collude, then using the steele dossier as a template for asserting collusion could lead to injustice done to the trump campaign.
    if there was 3rd party republican collusion working with 3rd party russians (the typical russian m. o.) then there may be some fairness and some unfairness to parallel construction.

    5. it is very important to recognize that any concerns grassley (and ew) has about misuse of the dossier due to feedback into the american counterintelligence machine depends on assumptions he makes that that analytical machinery would be:
    – open to inaccurate persuasion from a foreign (however friendly) source
    – incompetent to recognize bad chains of reasoning on their part thus leading falsely to the conclusion the trump campaign colluded
    – operating with malevolent intent with the motive to frame the trump campaign.

    i will add that personally i think it reasonable to assume that american counterintelligence may have been responsible for the choice of steele in the first place. if so, i have no problem with that. i cannot for the life of me see why a squirrelly, dangerous group like the trump campaign is getting such kid gloves, lean-over-backwards, how-can-we-be-sure treatment from liberals.

    in general, all the fuss about the steele dossier seems largely dependent upon republican noise and political/media pressure. this current situation involving trump is identical in structure to the 2015-16 situation involving clinton which was also created by republican noise and political/media pressure first about benghazi and then about the private e-mail server. the only difference is that some liberal groups were happy to join the jump on clinton movement but reluctant to jump on trump.

    • orionATL says:

      i can’t quit thinking about this matter of parsllel construction as it may apply to trump and steele dossier.

      if i understand it :), parallel construction involves hiding the actual sources of suspicion and confirmation from a target of law enforcement and prosecution. in their place, plausible substitutes are developed and used publicly to justify detention and prosecution. the real reasons/facts are hidden from the defense. this clearly is not fair. but how can it apply to the possible trump collusion if everything is now out in the open? what is in the shadows? certainly not the dossier. certainly not some behaviors like the june 2016 meeting in trump castle.

      what is grassley’s gripe? that the dossier set the tone and was the cause of suspicion being cast on trump? maybe so. but how could any reasonable counterintelligence official just ignore that info especially with trump publicly, effusively praising the russian leader putin throughout his campaign? and, i would add, given that trump had a well-earned reputation as exceptionally devious throughout his career?

      there are principles here to defend, but they sit in a swamp flooded with crocadile tears.

      • greengiant says:

        To me this is a public relations battle at the POTUS45 level,  blurring with Pence and Sessions into a head off Mueller at the pass criminal level for the rest.  Anything they can do to declare the wiretaps and warranted evidence forbidden fruit at the investigation and court level.  Even EW is in the loop noting  Rinat Akhmetshin, ( never say anything bad about Putin),  had worked for Fusion GPS as well as attending the Trump Tower meeting.  Grassely is carrying water for Trump.  The Feds and ratfuckers are free to imprison Sterling, and others with total BS and child porn malware.

        The simplest story is that both the dossier and the trump tower gambit were Putin honey pots to disrupt the election.  If the GOP was not so totally amoral one might suspect them to be victims.  How could Putin have “helped” Trump.   How much support did Putin give to hackers and leakers.  What did they give to a 16 a year old to help him hack Brennan and Clapper? How much of the anonymous and hacker mind set is driven by Putin propaganda actors?  How did Putin help trap Weiner?  Just look at how the GOP and Putin Seth Rich was murdered media fest round two occurred in May and June 2017.  Some operatives are deleting their twitter and reddit accounts. What’s up with that? Connect the Kaspersky propo with the Kaspersky-FSB purge in January.  Don’t need a dossier to investigate.

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