Attorney General Bill Barr approved the release of originally redacted details about former British spy Christopher Steele as part of the highly anticipated Justice Department inspector general’s report on the launch of the Russia probe, the New York Times reported.
According to two people briefed on the situation who spoke to the Times, Steele was informed by an official in the DOJ IG’s office on Sunday evening that some of the report’s details about him would be made public. It is unclear what the information is, but the report is expected to be critical of Steele, whose mostly unverified dossier has fueled Republican conspiracy theories about the launch of the Russia probe for years now.
It was already known that Barr would refute some aspects of the IG report, namely the DOJ IG’s claim that the FBI had enough information to investigate Trump campaign official Carter Page. But this revelation shows Barr may further use his authority as head of the DOJ to perpetuate Trump’s conspiracies.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report is expected to quash the conspiracy that Steele’s dossier was used as the basis to open the Russia probe, but it was used as part of a file of evidence to apply for an application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. It is not yet clear how much of the warrant application relied on the dossier allegations. Horowitz is also expected to be critical of the DOJ for not clarifying what group funded the compilation of the dossier in subsequent surveillance renewal applications after Steele’s patrons — Fusion GPS — became known.
As the Times notes, it’s unusual for a witness to be informed last minute of additional information that will be included in a public report, especially one as sprawling as this. It’s unclear why information about Steele was redacted in the report in the first place. Barr — who’s firmly latched onto Trump’s “spying” conspiracy — has been pushing for the entire report to be declassified for months. Senior officials are often given the opportunity to reveal reports that are about to be made public to redact any classified information or anything associated with an ongoing investigation.