WASHINGTON (CN) – The conservative-driven Cause of Action Institute has brought a federal complaint to access FBI records on the former British spy who prepared a salacious dossier on President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
Specifically, the institute seeks records under the Freedom of Information Act “evidencing … whether the FBI paid, or caused to be paid, money to Christopher Steele for any purpose.”
“If a former spy who was being paid to do opposition research on a U.S. presidential nominee was also on the FBI’s payroll, there are serious concerns about the agency’s independence,” Cause of Action President John Vecchione said in a statement.”We need to better understand this financial relationship to ensure the FBI was not misusing taxpayer money to interfere in a presidential election on behalf of one of the candidates.”
Cause of Action brought its federal complaint Monday in Washington, saying its March FOIA request has been gathering dust. The 4-page lawsuit says the FBI assigned a case number to its request, and granted it news-media status in March, but has said nothing else, blowing past FOIA deadlines.
“The FBI has not issued a final determination on or produced any records responsive to the FOIA request at issue within the applicable FOIA time limits,” the complaint reads. “The FBI therefore has failed to comply with the FOIA’s statutory deadline to issue a final determination.”
A former agent for British spy agency MI6, Steele put together the explosive 35-page document that allegedly details compromising information the Russian government holds on the president, as well dealings between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It specifically alleges that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government while the Kremlin hacked the Democratic National Committee.
The Washington Post reported in February that the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue looking into the allegations, many of which remain uncorroborated. Cause of Action filed its request with the FBI a week after that report.
“This relationship raises the possibility that the FBI was misusing taxpayer money to interfere in a presidential election on behalf of one of the candidates,” the complaint reads.
Steele originally prepared the dossier for a “Never Trump” Washington firm that sought opposition research to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican presidential nominee. When those efforts failed, a Democratic Washington-based research company picked up the tab for Steele to keep working during the general election, but its stream of cash was set to run dry before Election Day.
Though many in Washington knew about the dossier, it remained out of the public eye because many of its allegations cannot be independently verified. CNN broke the news about the dossier, reporting on Jan. 10 that Trump and then-President Barack Obama had been briefed on its details, with Buzzfeed publishing the full dossier shortly after.
The FBI has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.