Criminal referral backs up Nunes on dossier claims, as Dems push rebuttal memo

A newly released version of GOP senators’ criminal referral for Trump dossier author Christopher Steele appears to support key claims from the controversial memo on alleged surveillance abuse released last week by House Republicans and the White House.

That memo, commissioned by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., continues to fuel a firestorm on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are pushing for the release of their own counter-memo. A central point of dispute is the Nunes document’s claim that the salacious, anti-Trump dossier was crucial to the FBI’s efforts to seek a surveillance warrant for a Trump associate and that the applications omitted the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign’s funding for the research via Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS firm – which hired Steele.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appeared to back up those claims, though, in a criminal referral sent in early January to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The surveillance applications, they said, “relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims.”

CLINTON ASSOCIATES FED INFO TO TRUMP DOSSIER AUTHOR, SENATORS SAY

Further, they said the application “failed to disclose that the identities of Mr. Simpson’s ultimate clients were the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham backed up Rep. Devin Nunes on some of his Trump dossier claims.

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham backed up Rep. Devin Nunes on some of his Trump dossier claims.

The referral also helps explain a point of contention in recent days, after Nunes seemed to admit on “Fox & Friends” after the release of his memo that the FBI application did include a “footnote” acknowledging some political origins of the dossier. This admission helped fueled Democratic claims, from ranking Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and others, that the dossier’s political connection was not concealed from the surveillance court as alleged.

According to Grassley and Graham’s referral, the FBI “noted to a vaguely limited extent the political origins of the dossier” in a footnote that said the information was compiled at the direction of a law firm “who had hired an ‘identified U.S. person’ – now known as Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS.” A subsequent passage in the letter is redacted. But they said the DNC and Clinton campaign were not mentioned.

Fox News first reported on the letter’s contents on Monday.

Following a request from Grassley, the FBI on Tuesday removed some redactions, and a cleaner version was posted online.

As Fox News previously reported, the referral also revealed that a Clinton contact was “feeding” allegations to Steele while he was working on the dossier.

While that portion is still partly redacted, the referral stated another Steele memo said his firm received a report from someone at the State Department – with information that came from "a foreign sub-source who 'is in touch with (redacted), a contact of (redacted), a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to (redacted).”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., strongly implied to Fox News on Tuesday night that Clinton family confidant Sidney Blumenthal was a key figure for Steele.

Gowdy told Fox News' "The Story" that "when you hear who ... one of the sources of that information is, you're going to think, 'Oh my gosh, I've heard that name somewhere before.'"

When host Martha MacCallum asked if he was referring to Blumenthal, Gowdy answered, "That'd be really warm. You're warm, yeah."

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Blumenthal indeed was involved.

According to the report, another document was written by Clinton friend Cody Shearer, who gave it to Blumenthal, who gave it to a State Department official.

Grassley and Graham originally asked the Justice Department in January to investigate Steele based on evidence they say suggests he lied to the FBI about his contacts with the media -- or the FBI misrepresented Steele’s statements.

The referral detailed Steele’s many contacts with the media, which ultimately led to him being cut off as an FBI source. But the referral said Steele’s known media contacts were at odds with the FBI’s initial application saying Steele told the bureau he had no unauthorized press contacts about the dossier before October 2016. The senators said the applications, then, either are “materially false” or Steele made false statements to the FBI.

“Mr. Steele’s apparent deception seems to have posed significant material consequences on the FBI’s investigation decisions and representations to the court,” they wrote.

Amid the ongoing debate over the Nunes memo, the White House is now reviewing the Democrats’ rebuttal memo for possible release.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged President Trump to make that memo public.

The president decided the public deserved to see the Nunes memo before he’d even read it, so he ought to be similarly eager for the American people to see this memo. Given the Schiff memo is based on the same underlying documents as the Republican’s partisan memo, there should be no question as to whether or not the president will approve the new memo’s release. If he refuses, the American people will be forced to wonder: what is the president trying to hide?” he said in a statement.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.