Threat Management, Threat Intelligence

House intel staff director signed off on staffers’ U.K. quest to find Steele

An unannounced visit by two House Intelligence Committee staffers to the London offices of the attorneys for former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who compiled the infamous – and potentially embarrassing – dossier on President Donald Trump, was reportedly sanctioned by committee Staff Director Damon Nelson and made without informing either the Republican in charge of the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election or its ranking Democrat.

“I wasn't aware of it, and I don't think Mr. Conaway was either,” ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN, referring to Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who took the lead in the committee's probe after Chairman Devon Nunes, R-Calif., was forced to recuse himself following a mysterious late-night trip to the White House to view classified information and then report back House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Trump. Nunes stepped down after an ethics complaint was lodged against him.

The Guardian cited a congressional official as saying such a trip would not be unusual for staffers, though another Adam Blickstein, who previously was a Democratic spokesman for the committee, claimed otherwise.

“In this specific scenario, I can't imagine a staff director sending two staffers on this trip without the chairman knowing about it,” Blickstein was quoted as saying. “That wouldn't pass the smell test.”

Nelson is a former long-time deputy chief of staff for Nunes, raising concern that the California lawmaker continues to try to rule from the sidelines.

Still, the committee would like to have a chance to question Steele. “The reality is we do want to meet with Mr. Steele, would like him to come before the committee,” Schiff told CNN. “If he's not willing to do that, we'd be happy – Mr. Conaway and myself – to go to London to sit down with him. He does have, certainly, very relevant information that would assist our investigation.”

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