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Nick Weil @nick_weil
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" entirely different kettle of fish."
2/ On election night 2016, Chuck Grassley must have looked back at the previous year and considered how wild it was just up to that point. A surprise opening on the supreme court put Grassley and Mitch McConnell in the position where they refused to take up the Garland nomination
3/ That decision led to much heartache among the democrats and castigation aimed directly @ Grassley

Not to mention the Clinton email saga which he played an oversight role in and all against the backdrop of a nasty presidential campaign season. Nevertheless, Iowa re-elected him
4/ Little did he know that the next two years would far eclipse any reasonable expectation of eventfulness and strife. The Grassinator happened to be in a very powerful position at a very critical time and we're better off for it (h/t @almostjingo and @jarradkushner for pic)
5/ The thrill of victory must have mixed with the surprise we all felt when the results came in showing that Trump won. Grassley was no Trump fanboy during the campaign but he wasn't opposing Trump either. Grassley was pragmatic in his comments, Iowa focused
6/ Trump's victory also meant there were many action items now on Grassley's plate as Senate Judiciary Cmte Chairman, such as confirming a freaking supreme court judge plus confirming executive nominations such as Attorney General

A lot up in the air at that point
7/ There is also a change in his "opponent" across the aisle on the committee.

Patrick Leahy steps aside to let Dianne Feinstein become Ranking Member. Feinstein is viewed as more of a fighter and better suited to #resist
8/ The work on confirming Sessions starts right away. Hearings start on Jan 10. Grassley's opening statement praises Sessions and expresses his support.

There is a moment where Sessions says he would recuse himself from any investigation of Clinton email or Clinton Foundation
9/ But quickly the call from democrats became that Sessions must also recuse from any FBI or Justice Department investigation into "Russia" matters. Grassley pushes ahead anyway, advances Sessions to floor vote by Feb 1st. He is confirmed WITHOUT a promise to recuse. Grassley win
10/ In the meantime, Sally Yates gets herself fired.

So now there is a new vacancy where the committee needs to confirm someone (Deputy Attorney General position). As if they didn't already have enough to do
11/ The next task is clear: confirming a supreme court justice. Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch and the confirmation machinery starts to whirl in February.

But concerning revelations keep popping regarding the Steele dossier and about the Flynn leaks
12/ This article apparently pushes Grassley over the edge and he sends a letter requesting info from the FBI about Steele…
13/ This is a common theme by the way, Grassley is a prolific letter-sender and has a long-standing policy of publicly posting all his letters for transparency's sake. Which is amazing for us who hate backroom deals and shady business
14/ Grassley's March 6 letter to Comey is pretty straightforward. It asks 12 questions and gives a two week deadline for answers

Problem. Answers to those questions are extremely bad for swamp

i.e. "Has the FBI verified or corroborated any of the allegations made in the memos?"
15/ The very next day after that letter is sent you see the ripple effects like a pebble dropped in a pond.

Steele tells his pen pal Bruce Ohr "We're very concerned by the Grassley letter"

Who told him about the letter? Was it on the congressional side or the FBI side?
16/ The lack of response from his inquiries clues Grassley in that he's being kept in the dark about something big.

He demands a briefing and information from Comey.

In fact, he even threatens to blockade the nomination of Rosenstein until he gets cooperation from FBI & DOJ
17/ "'I ask them, ‘Are you going to answer phone calls and our letters, and are you going to give us the documents we want?’ And every time we get a real positive ‘yes’! And then they end up being liars!' Grassley said, screaming into the phone during an interview with [WaPo]"
18/ Comey does end up giving a briefing on March 15, per this tweet from @KatieBoWill sent at 3:55 EST. Schumer and Warner go too (?!). I'm sure part of that meeting is negotiations to actually see the Carter Page FISA warrant, which happens two days later
19/ Two days later DOJ sends a courier to a Capitol Hill SCIF and allows Grassley and Feinstein to view the FISA app on a read and return basis

The briefing satisfies Grassley enough to continue the confirmation of Rosenstein

Gorsuch stuff is happening at the same time
20/ With a small measure of cooperation from FBI, Grassley turns his sights to Fusion GPS. He again asks...difficult questions

"Who hired Fusion to conduct opposition research relating to Trump and his associates?"

"Has anyone from Fusion met with anyone from the FBI or DOJ?"
21/ It's actually incredible to read these questions (to FBI and to Fusion) now, two years after the fact. He was asking exactly the right questions. Immediately after that letter is sent, Judiciary committee staff get a call from Fusion's newly hired lawyers, led by Joshua Levy
22/ The lawyers say (paraphrased) "Your letter said you needed a response by April 7th, but unfortunately Mr. Simpson is out of town this week and we need to discuss it with him" Fortunately, cmte staff hold firm and basically say, "we need your responses, do what you need to do"
23/ Fusion's lawyers send a response

It says that the info and documentation requested are protected by First Amendment privilege and also by the work product doctrine, the attorney-client privilege and confidentiality agreements.

So no information can be produced to the cmte
24/ A bunch of baloney

But a lot of other things are going on. Gorsuch gets confirmed April 7th. Rosenstein hearings commence. He gets confirmed by 25th.

In the mean time, FBI sends a ridiculous letter saying it has responded to Grassley's original questions, when it hadn't
25/ Once Gorsuch and RR are done, the committee circles back and starts firing bullets. They have a phone call with Fusion's lawyers on April 27th and cmte staff try to clarify the privileges that Fusion is claiming.

Why they feel they don't have to hand over docs or testify.
26/ None of the arguments are very convincing, Congress has wide authority to conduct investigations and to issue and enforce subpoenas.

It's made clear that Fusion is in an extremely adversarial stance with the cmte. Solving that problem will take some time and resources
27/ The committee also sends a SPICY letter to the FBI saying:
"There appear to be material inconsistencies between the description of the FBI’s relationship with Steele that you did provide in your briefing and information contained in DOJ docs made available to the cmte..."
28/ "..only after the briefing. Whether those inconsistencies were honest mistakes or an attempt to downplay the extent of the FBI’s relationship with Steele, it is essential that the FBI fully answer all of the questions from the Mar 6 letter and provide all the requested docs''
29/ Comey gets scheduled to publicly testify in front of the committee but Grassley is still not done. He sends a letter to newly installed Rosenstein hammering McCabe. lso talks about the dossier and about FBI payments to Steele. See:
30/ At Comey's testimony, Grassley has a prepared statement and lays into him.

Grassley is trying to turn the momentum around and finally get answers after hitting roadblocks for the past couple months and having his attention diverted by confirmations
31/ But once again, Grassley is thrown a loop

Comey gets fired

So now,

1) Applying pressure to the FBI to get compliance needs to start from zero with a new point person, and

2) the committee needs to confirm a new FBI director
32/ Things are going in a whole lot of directions now as you can probably tell.

See the sloppy diagram below for an abbreviated list.

This doesn't even count the push for Healthcare reform which Grassley is involved in, nor the Tax cut legislation
33/ To keep the story moving, I'm going to focus on two threads.

1) The push to getting Glenn Simpson to testify and

2) The standoff over interviewing some important FBI employees

Then wrap up with the aftermath
34/ Back to Fusion GPS, there is a phone call between their lawyers and cmte staff asking to review these magic confidentiality agreements which are preventing testimony. Fusion says no because the agreements themselves are confidential!

This is May 11th
35/ June 7th, Grassley sends a lengthy letter to Fusion going point by point, explaining why the privileges they claim are not valid in this case, legally. June 14 deadline and threatens to use a subpoena to force testimony. Staff call to confirm receipt
36/ June 12th rolls around and Fusion asks for a deadline extension guessed it!...someone is out of town again. Shoot

But unfortunately, cmte staff doesn't push them on it. On the 19th there is a phone call, setting a new deadline of the 23rd
37/ Letter from Fusion's lawyers arrives on the 23rd. It's a long and twisted explanation but they come to the same result. They refuse to turn over any documents. Lawyer gobbledy gook
38/ July 12th a hearing with Glenn Simpson is scheduled (without consulting Simpson?)
40/ Undeterred, Grassley sets up another hearing and says it's voluntary but if Simpson says no they will subpoena him
41/ July 21st, Simpson letter to Grassley, says he's currently traveling and can't testify, so the hearing is off. Also says, to get me there, you need to subpoena me and if you subpoena me, I'll plead the 5th. Grassley subpoenas him immediately
42/ Apparently Grassley realizes exactly how much is on his plate right around here
43/ The subpoena works and the Fusion lawyers agree to come to the table. They end up agreeing to a set of guidelines for the testimony and Grassley retracts the subpoena
44/ Aug 22nd, Glenn Simpson finally testifies. A huge breakthrough
45/ OK back to the FBI obstructing the cmte.

On Jul 11th, Grassley sends two letters. One to Carl Ghattas and one to James Rybicki, asking them for a transcribed interview (both FBI). Requests Jul 24th as the date
46/ Both of these guys were hands on with the Russia investigation so talking to them was critical.

But the cmte gets a response back from Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Ramer:
47/ "Under these circumstances and consistent with the Department's long-standing policy regarding the confidentiality and sensitivity of information relating to pending matters, the Department cannot make Mr. Ghattas nor Mr. Rybicki avail for transcribed interviews at this time"
48/ Aug 25th, Grassley letter to Rosenstein saying they coordinated with the Special Counsel's office and have limited the interview scope to avoid any conflict.
49/ Sep 11th, another letter from Stephen Boyd. This time "As a threshold matter, the scope of the Committee's inquiry has not been de-conflicted with Special Counsel Mueller's investigation. Therefore, in order to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel's investigation..."
50/ " we have previously indicated, we will not be able to provide Mr. Ghattas or Mr. Rybicki for interviews at this time,"

Apparently right after this Grassley threatens a subpoena and then DOJ starts cooperating more. The DOJ letter:
51/ DOJ letter to cmte agrees to allow Ghattas and Rybicki to testify with four conditions. 1) interview happens in a classified setting 2) scope limitations 3) DOJ representative must come 4)transcripts must be made available to the witnesses and DOJ
52/ Very testy Grassley letter back to DOJ basically agreeing to the conditions and asking for the deal to be finalized
53/ The months long tug of war spills out into the open. Who leaked this? They met for nearly an hour and apparently come to a solution. Byline Manu Raju by the way…
54/ It's never confirmed that Grassley got what he wanted. But the standoff ends at this meeting. It's incredible the amount of back and forth there was though just to interview FBI employees in important cases. Sorry I know that got dry but you have all the links to read letters
55/ So after all that what happened. Lots of things. Grassley drops an atomic bomb with his Christopher Steele referral on January 5, 2018…
56/ He is integral in the effort to unlock the Strzok-Page texts
57/ He conducts interviews with all the participants with the Trump Tower meeting and publicly releases all the materials on May 16th 2018…
58/ He brings Michael Horowitz in to review the Clinton Emails IG report…
59/ Oh yeah, and he confirmed another freaking supreme court justice in what became one of the bloodiest political battles in recent memory
60/ Hats off to you, our cornfed hero
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