by Chuck Ross
Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is weighing subpoenas for two longtime Hillary Clinton associates who peddled a dossier of allegations about Donald Trump that mirrored those in the infamous report compiled by Christopher Steele.
Johnson seeks documents and testimony from Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer, the two Clinton cronies, and 33 other witnesses as part of a sprawling probe of the FBI, State Department and other agencies.
Johnson is investigating whether State Department officials during the Obama administration engaged in “potential abuse” of the agency by using official resources to “collect and disseminate false information from Christopher Steele.”
He scheduled a vote for June 4 to consider issuing the subpoenas.
Blumenthal and Shearer are at the center of one of the more bizarre but unexplored aspects of Clinton-related opposition research efforts carried out against Trump in 2016.
Shearer compiled two memos during the 2016 campaign that alleged that the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, had blackmail material of a sexual nature on Trump. Blumenthal, a friend of Shearer’s and adviser to Hillary Clinton, distributed the reports to Jonathan Winer, who then served as a top State Department aide to then-Secretary of State John Kerry.
Winer provided Shearer’s reports to Steele, who then provided them to the FBI on Oct. 19, 2016. Steele, a former MI6 officer, provided his own dossier to the FBI. The bureau relied heavily on the unverified reports to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders against Trump aide Carter Page.
Steele, who dug up the Trump dirt on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC, told the FBI that the most explosive allegation in Shearer’s report is “remarkably similar”
Citing sources in the Russian government and an individual who claimed to have ties to Trump, Steele alleged that the Kremlin was blackmailing Trump with video of him with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel room in 2013.
Both the Steele and Shearer reports have come under intense scrutiny.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign said the FBI received evidence that Russian intelligence operatives might have fed disinformation to Steele for the salacious parts of his dossier. The IG report also said that Steele’s main source for information in the dossier said the sex tape allegation was based on “rumor” and had not been verified.
A source who was told about the Shearer memo in 2016, well before it became public, previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation that they believed Shearer was the target of a “rope-a-dope” game “where the FSB throws this stuff out there, sucks people in, tries to get money.”
A U.S. government official who was briefed on the Shearer memos in 2016 told the DCNF that the allegations were not taken seriously because Shearer was “not a guy with a whole lot of credibility.”
The official said that the Clinton loyalists were “doing their best to get this stuff out into the mainstream media before the election.”
Little is known about how Shearer compiled his dossier or disseminated it, or whether the Clinton campaign was aware of his work. Steele, on the other hand, is known to have disseminated his dossier to multiple journalists, the State Department, FBI, and a Justice Department official.
Steele also provided his dossier to Strobe Talbott, another longtime Clinton ally who was president of the Brookings Institution, a prominent foreign policy think tank.
Talbott also happens to be Shearer’s brother-in-law.
Johnson, the Republican senator, is also seeking documents and testimony from Winer.
The former State Department official had an expansive role in the effort to disseminate Trump-related dirt.
In addition to handling both the Steele and Shearer dossiers, Winer arranged a meeting for Steele at the State Department on Oct. 11, 2016. He also had contact with the founders of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Winer served as a background source for at least two reporters who published stories based on Steele’s now-debunked allegations about Trump and his associates.
It is unclear how seriously the FBI took Shearer’s reports. The IG report said that an FBI supervisory intelligence analyst characterized the report as “yet another report that would need to be evaluated.”
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.