Washington D.C. – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has declined to confirm the existence of records responsive to a lawsuit filed by Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) in April 2017 for records about the relationship between the agency and Christopher Steele, a former British spy who made headlines after he was identified as the lead author of the infamous Trump dossier.

According to a news report, Mr. Steele entered an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the November 2016 election to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump while, at the same time, he was employed by an opposition research firm to collect information for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In part, the FBI’s response states:

“The nature of your request implicates records the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its national security and foreign intelligence functions. Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any records responsive to your request, as the mere acknowledgment of the existence or nonexistence of such records would, in and of itself, harm national security interests and reveal intelligence sources and methods.”

This so-called Glomar response gained notoriety in the CIA’s use of the Glomar Explorer to recover a downed Soviet submarine.

CoA Institute President and CEO John Vecchione: “The FBI is circling the wagons by claiming potential harm to national security if it discloses its relationship with Christopher Steele. Regardless of whether a payment was ever made, the FBI’s affiliation with a political opposition researcher in the midst of a presidential election deserves scrutiny. The FBI should be forthcoming about whether and how the agency was relying upon a former foreign spy who, in the pay of private parties, compiled a report of salacious accusations intended to harm the reputation of then-candidate Donald Trump.”

On March 7, 2017, CoA Institute sent a FOIA request to the FBI seeking access to records into whether the FBI paid money, or had plans to pay, Mr. Steele for any purpose.

The FBI’s full response can be found here.

For information regarding this press release, please contact Zachary Kurz, Director of Communications: zachary.kurz@causeofaction.org