One of the most vexing problems of the Trump dossier probe has been that much of the evidence involved is classified and thus hidden from public view. House and Senate investigators are tightly constrained from revealing key aspects of the dossier affair. There is, for example, the question of whether the FBI and Justice Department used the unverified allegations in the dossier as evidence to win a secret court warrant to spy on Americans. Members and staff in both House and Senate know the answer. But it is classified, and they can't talk.
Now, the House Intelligence Committee has taken a first step toward what might become public disclosure of key facts in the dossier investigation. It is a halfway step, and will not immediately reveal anything to the public, but it is a beginning.
At the committee's meeting Thursday morning, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., offered a motion to allow all House members to review a brief report prepared by the Republican majority summarizing the panel's investigation into what GOP members call "FISA abuse." (That is a reference to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.) The motion passed the committee on a party-line vote.
The report answers the question of whether the FBI and Justice used the dossier for one or more surveillance warrants, plus other issues. But the answer, of course, is classified. (Just for the record, I have not seen the report and don't know its contents.)
There will be no copies of the report handed out to House members. Instead, a copy will be made available for them to read in a secure room in the Capitol. They won't be able to take the report out of the room. But they will know the answers to the questions.
Which raises another question: When will the public know? Obviously, the more House members know about the dossier investigation, the more likely its classified results are to leak. That might happen at any time.
But Republicans can pursue another strategy, as well. The House itself can declassify documents under certain conditions. If enough members support declassifying the House Intel report, then the House as a body could move to declassify the information in it. And then the public would know.
It's unclear whether that will happen. Much depends on lawmakers' reaction to the report. But after months of delays and frustration, things appear to be moving quickly on the dossier front. They'll likely move faster in coming days, after more lawmakers have taken a look at the new report.