WASHINGTON – Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence say they are not satisfied that dossier author Christopher Steele has provided only written responses to the committee.
“As we’ve made clear to Mr. Steele and his attorney, there is no substitute for a face-to-face interview when it comes to answering some of the Committee’s most pressing questions,” a Republicans spokesperson for the committee told ABC News. “We wouldn’t be satisfied with written responses from any other key witness, and we are not here, either.”
North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate panel, and other committee members have “sought an in-person interview with Mr. Steele for 25 months,” the spokesperson said.
A rift between the committee and Steele became apparent earlier in February when Burr said in an interview that “multiple attempts” have been made to interview the former British spy in person as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
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Burr also said in that same interview that his committee had not found evidence of collusion, even after two years of investigation and interviews with more than 200 witnesses.
As a contractor for the Democratic-funded opposition research firm Fusion GPS, Steele compiled 17 separate memos alleging a massive conspiracy between the campaign and Kremlin. The campaign-related allegations in the report remain unverified, and Burr has said in the past that the committee had hit a roadblock on investigating its allegations because Steele had not been interviewed.
Steele, a former British spy who operates a private intelligence firm in London, submitted written responses to questions from the Senate committee in August 2018. His attorneys claim the committee agreed that written responses would be sufficient.
“It’s not true that Chris did not engage with the committee,” Steele’s lawyer said. “The committee pronounced itself satisfied with Chris’s engagement … by way of written answers and [they] committed to not seek any further information from Chris.”
It is unclear why Steele opposes an in-person interview with Congress, especially given that he met with numerous reporters to discuss his unverified allegations that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government. He also met with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr before and after the election.
It is also unclear whether committee Republicans are interested in interviewing Steele specifically about allegations in his dossier or about other topics. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have investigated whether Steele lied to the FBI about his interactions with the press while working on the dossier.