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Chuck Grassley asks Pentagon official if he leaked Michael Flynn information to press

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley is pressing a Pentagon official to disclose more about his source relationship with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, whose January 2017 column triggered the FBI to target retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, made the request Friday in a letter to James H. Baker,…

Chuck Grassley asks Pentagon official if he leaked Michael Flynn information to press

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley is pressing a Pentagon official to disclose more about his source relationship with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, whose January 2017 column triggered the FBI to target retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, made the request Friday in a letter to James H. Baker, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA).

The letter contained a list of broad inquiries, including a question about one of Mr. Baker’s contract researchers, FBI informant Stefan Halper. Mr. Grassley, citing a Washington Times report, noted that Mr. Halper claimed in one study that he had consulted with various foreign policy experts. But those experts told The Times they never contributed to his work.

In the Flynn matter, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch gained copies of emails between Mr. Baker and Mr. Ignatius in 2016-17 via the Freedom of Information Act. They confirmed that the two maintained a close source-reporter relationship.

Mr. Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, alleged in a court filing that it was Mr. Baker who told Mr. Ignatius about phone calls between her client and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition. The subsequent Ignatius column proved crucial to igniting the Trump-Russia investigation.

The column said Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kislyak spoke about economic sanctions. Trump aides denied it. That provided a reason for then-FBI Agent Peter Strzok to interview Mr. Flynn, President Trump’s national security adviser, since an intercepted call transcript said he had in fact discussed sanctions.

Mr. Grassley is asking Mr. Baker to remove all redactions in 143 pages of emails and turn them over to this staff. The senator cited “the overlap in time between the majority of the emails and the leak of the call” and “your apparent close relationship with Mr. Ignatius.”

Mr. Grassley also is asking Mr. Baker questions about whether he might have been the source for the Ignatius column:

• “Did you provide any information relating to any Flynn-Kislyak call to the media? If so, what information?”

• “Did you provide any information relating to any Flynn-Kislyak call to an individual with the knowledge that it would be shared by that individual to the media? If so, what information?

• “In your communications with Mr. Ignatius, did you ever provide Mr. Ignatius any information related to Lt. Gen. Flynn? If so, what information?”

Since Ms. Powell’s court filing, there has been no independent evidence that Mr. Baker was the leaker. The Times asked Mr. Baker to respond at the time. He declined through a spokesman, citing unspecified pending administrative matters.

Mr. Grassley also zeroed-in on Mr. Halper’s lucrative contractor status with ONA.

A long -time national security figure in Washington and a professor at England’s Cambridge University, Mr. Halper also served undercover as a confidential FBI informant.

The FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” Trump-Russia agents tapped him to spy on two campaign volunteers — Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Mr. Halper wore a wire in conversations with both, but neither ever admitted to or said they knew of any campaign role in an election conspiracy

The Washington Times reported in October 2018 that Mr. Halper received a $244,000 ONA contract to write a Russia-China study in 2015-16. His study boasted a list of 43 “advisors and consultants,” such as former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden.

The Times asked Mr. Hayden about the Halper study. “No memory of project or person,” he said.

The newspaper reached out to 12 listed contributors. Ten said they played no role in Mr. Halper’s work.

In August 2019, the Defense Department inspector general issued a report saying Mr. Halper failed to document the research he said he had conducted for four ONA studies worth more than $1 million.

For example, for the Russia-China study cited by The Times, Mr. Halper submitted a “statement of work” promising to plumb the minds of top foreign policy experts and visit major defense institutions.

“None of the 851 footnotes in the deliverables attributed source material to an interview conducted by Professor Halper,” the inspector general said. “ONA personnel could not provide us any evidence that Professor Halper visited any of these locations, established an advisory group, or met with any of the specific people listed in the statement of work.”

For another China study, the IG said: “According to the statement of work, Professor Halper proposed travel to London, England and Tokyo, Japan. The contract was fixed price based on the acceptance of the deliverables and did not require Professor Halper to submit travel receipts. ONA personnel could not provide documentation that Professor Halper traveled for this contract.”

In light of the findings, Mr. Grassley wrote to Mr. Baker: “It is also perplexing that ONA continues to assert that Halper fulfilled the obligations set forth in his contracts . when citations in his work appear to give contribution to individuals who had no involvement in the work.”

“Can you state with certainty that Halper interviewed the individuals that he claimed to interview for his research papers?” the senator asked. “If not, how can you claim that Halper’s work was of high quality?’

Mr. Grassley told Mr. Baker that his office has stonewalled efforts to obtain all Halper records.

“It appears that either ONA has refused to comply with my requests, or that ONA simply does not maintain full records of Halper’s work,” the Republican senator said.

Mr. Grassley also released a February letter from Mr. Baker responding to the senator’s earlier inquiry.

“We reviewed all of Dr. Halper’s completed work for maturity of analysis, comprehensiveness of research, and clarity in writing,” said Mr. Baker, who was appointed during the Obama administration.

Mr. Baker said that once Mr. Grassley inquired about Mr. Halper last January, ONA asked an unnamed security office to vet the researcher. “That security agency found no derogatory information on Professor Halper,” Mr. Baker said.

“The ONA team is a very small and capable organization busy doing what it is chartered to do,” Mr. Baker said. “It remains widely respected by its customers, including the senior-most policy makers and military leaders in the country.”

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Chuck Schumer calls on GOP to pressure Trump for a peaceful transition of power

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called for Republicans to stand up against President Trump, saying he should not resist a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election in November. “The gravest threat to American democracy right now is Donald Trump,” Mr. Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “This…

Chuck Schumer calls on GOP to pressure Trump for a peaceful transition of power

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called for Republicans to stand up against President Trump, saying he should not resist a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election in November.

“The gravest threat to American democracy right now is Donald Trump,” Mr. Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “This is not a partisan issue. Democracy is at stake.”

The New York Democrat was referring to a comment from the president during a news conference on Wednesday when he was asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

The president said he was concerned about mail-in ballots, and didn’t think there would be a transition — but rather a continuation, suggesting he will win.

Mr. Trump and GOP lawmakers have alleged large-scale mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic will lead to increased voter fraud.

Mr. Schumer said the president’s response is an attempt to discourage people from voting.

“The president doesn’t care. It’s his own ego and nothing else. The president says it if he thinks it will help him win,” Mr. Schumer said.

He also said Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans want to rush through the president’s Supreme Court nominee, which is set to be announced Saturday, through confirmation so the high court can rule in his favor if the election is contested in court.

“Some Republicans are actually considering a scheme to override the will of the voters in certain states,” Mr. Schumer said, referring to a news article.

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Chuck Grassley says time is running out on John Durham probe

Sen. Charles E. Grassley on Monday called for U.S. Attorney John Durham to speed up any planned prosecutions stemming out of his investigation into the Russian collusion probe, warning it’ll be too late if he waits until after the presidential election. The Iowa Republican said in a tweet that he is growing impatient for the…

Chuck Grassley says time is running out on John Durham probe

Sen. Charles E. Grassley on Monday called for U.S. Attorney John Durham to speed up any planned prosecutions stemming out of his investigation into the Russian collusion probe, warning it’ll be too late if he waits until after the presidential election.

The Iowa Republican said in a tweet that he is growing impatient for the results of Mr. Durham’s probe which began over one year ago.

“#CommonSense. IF NO PROSECUTIONS TIL AFTER ELECTIONS SAD SAD,” Mr. Grassley tweeted. “The deep state is so deep that people get away with political crimes. Durham [should] be producing some fruit of his labor.”

Mr. Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, tagged President Trump in the tweet.

Attorney General William P. Barr said earlier this year that Mr. Durham’s probe would be completed by the spring. Last month, Mr. Barr told Fox News he expects there to be “developments” this summer, but he also suggested the probe may drag through the November election.

Mr. Barr blamed the coronavirus pandemic for slowing Mr. Durham’s ability to interview witnesses.

Mr. Durham is probing the actions of the intelligence community, FBI and Justice Department as they investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Chuck Grassley: DoD office that paid FBI spy Halper ‘has lost its way’

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley is seeking to cut in half the budget for an in-house Pentagon think tank, citing in part dubious contracts awarded to Stefan Halper, the FBI’s main spy in its Trump-Russia probe. Mr. Grassley’s target is the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), which gauges foreign threats and the U.S.…

Chuck Grassley: DoD office that paid FBI spy Halper ‘has lost its way’

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley is seeking to cut in half the budget for an in-house Pentagon think tank, citing in part dubious contracts awarded to Stefan Halper, the FBI’s main spy in its Trump-Russia probe.

Mr. Grassley’s target is the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), which gauges foreign threats and the U.S. military’s ability to defeat them.

Mr. Halper, whom the FBI wired and deployed to try to persuade Trump associates to implicate themselves in a Russia conspiracy, has received over $1 million in ONA contracts for various studies on China and Russia.

“That office has lost its way,” Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said in a Thursday floor speech.

The Washington Times reported in 2018 that a number of national security experts Mr. Halper cited as sources for one study said they never contributed and never heard of the study.

“It’s been reported that some of the individuals that Halper cited as sources in his research have denied contributing to his work,” Mr. Grassley said.

“Oddly, ONA Director James Baker has repeatedly told me that Halper’s deliverables were ‘high-quality’ and ‘conformed to the requirements set forth in the contract,’” he said. “What planet does ONA live on?”

Mr. Grassley said, “When I began to review Stefan Halper’s contracting work for ONA, something didn’t look right. So, I asked the inspector general to look into it.”

The Pentagon inspector general in 2019 found that Mr. Halper failed to document that he had spoken to the experts he had proposed in his statement of work before winning the contracts.

“ONA didn’t require Halper to submit evidence that he actually talked to the people he cited in his work, which included Russian intelligence officers,” Mr. Grassley said.

Mr. Grassley cited Mr. Baker’s testimony at an administrative hearing where he said ONA had not done a net assessment since 2007.

He said that in April, the Pentagon changed a Pentagon directive, striking the word “shall” from its requirement to produce net assessments.

As a result, Mr. Grassley has proposed an amendment to the fiscal 2021 defense budget striking $10 million from ONA’s $20 million budget.

Mr. Baker defended his stewardship in a February letter to Mr. Grassley.

“The ONA team is a very small and capable organization busy doing what it is chartered to do,” he said. “It remains widely respected by its customers, including the senior-most policy makers and military leaders in the country.”

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