SEN. GRASSLEY: Election interference hysteria came with serious consequences

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History has a way of repeating itself. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, we are bound to repeat them.

As the November election draws near, and as foreign adversaries again seek to meddle in our democracy, let’s review our history so we can better identify and prevent future threats.

In late July 2016, Obama’s FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign that ended up spiraling out of control for years. The investigation was ultimately based in large part on the Steele Dossier, which was a bunch of unverified claims from Russian government sources. That dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign.

We know that its author, Christopher Steele, simultaneously pitched those same unverified claims to U.S. media outlets, which reported on them without testing their veracity.

We know that members of this body publicly seized on those unverified media reports to attack their political rivals. They even made references to the secret FBI investigation to give the unverified, foreign-sourced claims a veneer of credibility.

We know that those unverified claims became part of the focus of a sweeping and unnecessary multi-year investigation by some of the Justice Department’s most aggressive prosecutors. In the end, they found no crime by the campaign or the president, despite the dossier’s allegations.

That shameful and damaging episode was propelled by selective leaks from government officials and breathless broadcasting by press and the opposing political view. It’s now undergoing a post-mortem, and what we’ve found isn’t pretty.

We’ve learned that some of those now-debunked claims of collusion with a foreign adversary were actually sourced to that same foreign adversary. Those claims were assessed to be Russian disinformation. Democrats got duped into falsely accusing their political rivals of doing the very thing they were actually complicit in.

We’ve learned that senior FBI officials had such disdain for Trump that they pushed the unverified information despite repeated warnings of its flaws. They wanted to believe so badly in the politically-convenient narrative that they failed to do their jobs. They lied to a court to spy on the campaign. They leaked memos to launch a special counsel investigation. They even doctored paperwork – all to advance an investigation rooted in lies, innuendo and foreign disinformation.

I could go on about the harmful consequence from the hysteria that consumed the last few years.

But the lesson from it all is simple: Our adversaries will do anything to hijack our own political differences to sow discord and distrust.

Our adversaries want us at each other’s throats. So long as we are fighting amongst ourselves, they win.

Why do I bring this up now?  Because exactly four years later, we are watching them run the same play today. And, if we aren’t careful, they’ll win again.

Just like in 2016, foreign sources are pushing unverified material about political candidates.

Just like in 2016, that material has reportedly found its way into U.S. intelligence reviews.

And just like in 2016, political rivals in Congress and the press are using the unverified foreign-sourced claims to suggest collusion between Republicans and foreign adversaries.

In the last few weeks, Democrats have falsely accused me and Senator Johnson of receiving packets of information, including tapes, from a Ukrainian. That’s false reporting based on leaks from a letter written by Senator Schumer, Senator Warner, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative Schiff, which is itself based on cherry picked innuendo from classified documents.

This Ukrainian claims he also sent the information to several Democrats. They’ve also denied receiving anything. Again, the goal is to sow as much confusion as possible.

The claims are baseless. Neither I nor anyone on my staff had anything to do with him. We never reached out to him or received anything from him. We never received or reviewed anything like what was described in the Democrats’ leaked documents.

But that didn’t stop the press from reporting the story anyway. And it didn’t stop the press from reaching out to this Ukrainian to present him with apparently leaked classified information from Senator Schumer’s letter.

Let me be clear, my investigation with Senator Johnson is based on how the Obama administration formulated its Ukraine policy, which then Vice President Biden oversaw while his son was on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian natural gas company that was under investigation.

Did the corrupt firm get special access or special treatment because of its ties to the Vice President’s son? Did the Obama administration appropriately address any conflicts of interest?

In pursuit of those facts, we’ve requested records from the State Department, National Archives, Department of Justice, other federal agencies, and the U.S. consulting firm Blue Star Strategies.

We’ve also talked with current and former U.S. government officials.

Apparently, Obama administration records and speaking with Obama administration officials is, to the Democrats, foreign or Russian disinformation.

As Senator Johnson and I noted to our Democratic colleagues – if it is, then that means the Obama administration routinely peddled in it.

Democrats have suggested that the cause of their concern is Andrii Telizhenko.

In March 2020 the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sought to subpoena him only for records from his year-long employment with Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm that lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of the Biden-connected Ukrainian energy firm. Blue Star also had contacts at the highest levels of President Obama’s administration.

Notably, Mr. Telizhenko had working relationships with Obama administration officials.

I don’t recall any Democrats raising concerns about him being a national security threat while he was meeting with the Obama administration. But apparently, he suddenly becomes one when Republicans ask for records involving his time at a Democrat lobby shop.

Truth be told, the Democrats should know a thing or two about Russian disinformation.

Investigative work by me and Senator Johnson has revealed now-declassified intelligence reporting that parts of the Steele dossier were part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

I’m not aware of the Democrats commenting publicly on this disturbing revelation.

Where is their outrage about concerns of actual Russian disinformation contained in the Steele Dossier and Russian disinformation paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign? 

The Steele Dossier is the very definition of election interference, yet we hear no objections from Democrats.

Did the Democrats and Clinton Campaign know that the dossier was filled with Russian disinformation and run with it anyway knowing that it would cause damage to Trump, his campaign, and administration?

Is Russian disinformation synonymous with Democratic National Committee disinformation?

Maybe the Democrats don’t want to look under the hood of the fake Russia investigation because they’d be front and center.

I’d like to remind my Democratic colleagues that I ordered my staff to interview Donald Trump Jr. and Republican officials during my time as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

And we did so.

Ask yourselves, if I requested to interview Hunter Biden, how would the Democrats react?

My fellow Americans, that’s where we’re at here. The Democrats live by the motto “Do as I say, not as I do” and yet they accuse me and my colleague, Senator Johnson, of playing politics and engaging in disinformation campaigns.

The hard truth is that it’s the Democrats who are engaged in a disinformation campaign, all because the facts don’t fit their political narrative.

Their silence regarding the Steele Dossier and fake Russia investigation yet public complaints about my legitimate oversight investigations is proof of that.

In conclusion, these recent media reports hinge on the leaks of Democrats’ classified documents, which they hadn’t shared with their Republican colleagues. Only after the stories were published were my staff able to review the Democrats’ documents. Their letter is full of cherry-picked lines designed to shoehorn Republicans into warnings of a very real threat that faces all of us.

Their letter attempts to cast Republicans as unwitting pawns in foreign disinformation. But it appears that the Democrats are playing the role as useful idiot for our foreign adversaries. The leaks only further distort the content of their letter. In no conceivable way do the facts support the Democrats’ and media’s preposterous narrative.

What bothers me most here is, my Democratic colleagues have known me a long time. They know who I am. They know where to find me. And they know that if they were so concerned about what I was allegedly up to, they should have just raised it with me. This nonsense of orchestrated leaks to plant stories falsely accusing me of dealing in disinformation based on actual disinformation that I wasn’t even privy to serves only the interest of our shared adversaries. This is the behavior of cowards. And it has to stop.

We’ve seen this movie before. It didn’t end well for those who relied on the disinformation dossier in 2016. The Truth is slowly starting to come out, and the FBI, media and members of Congress who touted the disinformation look pretty bad today.

Let’s not repeat this history. Let’s learn from it.