Congressional investigations into the Trump dossier have so far been focused on the FBI and Justice Department. They still are, but now investigators are also looking into a possible Obama State Department role in the collection and dissemination of sensational and still-unverified allegations against candidate Donald Trump gathered by a former British spy working for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
In addition to having contacts in the Obama Justice Department and FBI, that former spy, Christopher Steele, was also well-connected with the Obama State Department. A book published in November by a correspondent at the Guardian, "Collusion: Secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win," noted that Steele's 2010 work on the World Cup soccer corruption investigation won him the trust not only of the FBI, but the State Department as well. From author Luke Harding:
The [soccer] episode burnished Steele's reputation inside the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI. Here was a pro, a well-connected Brit, who understood Russian espionage and its subterranean tricks. Steele was regarded as credible. Between 2014 and 2016, Steele authored more than a hundred reports on Russia and Ukraine. These were written for a private client but shared widely within the State Department and sent up to Secretary of State John Kerry and to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who was in charge of the U.S. response to the Ukraine crisis. Many of Steele's secret sources were the same sources who would supply information on Trump. One former State Department envoy during the Obama administration said he read dozens of Steele's reports on Russia. The envoy said that on Russia, Steele was "as good as the CIA or anyone." Steele's professional reputation inside U.S. agencies would prove important the next time he discovered alarming material, and lit the fuse again.
That fuse, of course, was the Trump dossier.
It is hard for an outsider to discern clearly what is going on inside the dossier investigations on Capitol Hill. But it appears some investigators are looking beyond the 35 pages of reports done by Steele for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm working for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, that were published in January 2017 by BuzzFeed. They're looking into whether Steele did other reports about Trump, perhaps similar but not identical to what was in the dossier published by BuzzFeed. And they are looking into whether those reports made their way to the State Department. They're also seeking to learn what individual State Department officials did in relation to Steele, and whether there were any contacts between the State Department and the FBI or Justice Department concerning the anti-Trump material.
It's not clear whether State Department activity related to Steele's Russia project took place in the months leading up to the 2016 election, during the transition, or both.
Hillary Clinton was, of course, secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
People who know Steele have described him as deeply concerned by what he discovered, or perhaps thought he discovered, about Trump. The recently-released testimony of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson suggested that Steele was motivated to act in large part by Trump's alleged sexual escapades in a Moscow hotel room, alleged activities that were described in the first installment of the published dossier.
"After the first memo, you know, Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said he wanted — he said he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information," Simpson told Senate Judiciary Committee investigators. "He thought from his perspective there was an issue — a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed." Simpson testified that Steele proposed telling the FBI, but investigators now believe Steele ultimately ended up in contact with the State Department, too.
The coming weeks could bring more such revelations in the dossier matter. It took investigators a long time — and often with real resistance from the executive branch departments involved — but information appears to be on the way.