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Chuck Ross | Investigative Reporter
- Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have scheduled a hearing next Wednesday to explore the counterintelligence implications from the special counsel’s investigation.
- Democrats are likely to focus on whether contacts between Russians and Trump associates have made the Trump administration vulnerable to the Kremlin.
- Republicans will also have an opportunity to discuss the partially-debunked Steele dossier.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday about the “counterintelligence implications” of the special counsel’s investigation.
Two former FBI national security officials, Stephanie Douglas and Robert Anderson, will testify at the hearing, which is entitled “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Counterintelligence Implications of Volume 1.”
Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, who chairs the committee, will focus on dozens of contacts between Russian government officials and operatives discussed in the special counsel’s report.
Republicans could use the hearing to raise questions of their own about the partially-discredited Steele dossier, as well as about the role played by Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who had contact with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
Schiff, who was a leading proponent of the collusion conspiracy theory, has had to refocus his line of attack on Trump in the wake of the special counsel’s report.
The report said that prosecutors were unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. It also said that investigators did not establish that Trump associates acted as agents of the Russian government.
Schiff has said that the report does not shed light on what information the FBI gathered regarding any Russian attempts to gain leverage over Trump associates.
“The evidence has been both criminal and non-criminal, and implicated deep counterintelligence concerns over the potential compromise of U.S. persons,” he said in a statement announcing the hearing.
Schiff has argued that efforts by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to negotiate the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign could have allowed the Kremlin to gain leverage over Trump. Schiff has also focused on a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians who offered information about Hillary Clinton.
Republicans have not said what topics they will bring up in Wednesday’s hearing, but the Steele dossier is likely to be a focal point.
As intelligence experts have increasingly noted in the wake of the special counsel’s report, the numerous flaws in the dossier raise questions over whether the document is the product of Russian disinformation. (RELATED: Investigate Steele Dossier As Russian Disinformation, Intel Experts Say)
Attorney General William Barr testified on May 1 that he is “concerned” that Russians planted disinformation with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier.
“Can we state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of the Russian disinformation campaign?” Texas Sen. John Cornyn asked Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“No, I can’t state that with confidence and that is one of the areas that I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it, and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative,” said Barr.
The special counsel’s report all but debunked the dossier’s central claim that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
The report also disputed Steele’s claim that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin operatives.
GOP members of the committee may also focus on Mifsud, the professor who cozied up to Papadopoulos during the campaign.
Republican California Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the committee, asked U.S. intelligence agencies on May 3 for information about Mifsud to find out whether he is considered a Russian asset, or whether he is affiliated with Western intelligence agencies.
According to George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser, Mifsud told him on April 26, 2016 that he had heard that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands” of her emails.
The special counsel’s report refers to Mifsud as having Russian contacts, but Nunes noted in his letter that he has worked closely in the past with Western intelligence agencies. Mifsud has visited the State Department, and worked at LINK Campus, a university in Rome that has held seminars for the FBI and CIA.
Nunes said in his letter that if Mifsud is a Russian agent, “then an incredibly wide range of Western institutions and individuals may have been compromised by him, including our own State Department.” (RELATED: Nunes Raises Questions About Joseph Mifsud)
But if Mifsud was not working on behalf of Russia, it would “raise questions about the veracity” of the special counsel’s report, Nunes said.
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