For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others.
With Foster in charge of his oversight work, Grassley has openly speculated about whether former FBI director James Comey leaked classified information as Comey raised alarms about President Donald Trump’s possible interference in the Russia probe. Grassley and the other Republicans on the committee have questioned the impartiality of a former member of Mueller’s team, cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI’s secret court application for permission to surveil a Trump campaign associate and called for a second special counsel to investigate matters related to Hillary Clinton. A firm that conducted opposition research on Trump has made clear in court it believes Grassley’s committee, with Foster as its lead investigator, had leaked sensitive information about its business.
Most recently, many of those interviewed by ProPublica said, Foster engineered Grassley’s highly unusual public announcement asking federal authorities to consider criminal charges against Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the dossier warning of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
For Foster’s critics, and they include Republicans as well as Democrats, his provocative work on the Trump-Russia investigation is just the latest chapter in the career of a partisan combatant willing to discard norms and indulge in conspiratorial thinking as he pursues investigations favorable to Republicans.
Foster — who cut his teeth on Capitol Hill working on the staff of former Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who fueled the theory of foul play in a Clinton aide’s suicide and called for required AIDS testing for all Americans — drew the ire of many for his role in various Judiciary Committee investigations of the Obama administration.
“That’s the way it seemed to go every time with Jason, conspiracy to the point it was ridiculous,” said one Democratic aide who had dealt with Foster. The aide was one of several interviewed by ProPublica, Democrat and Republican, who would not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the inner workings of Congress.
Foster’s career, including his work on the committee’s Russia investigation, has caught the attention of the Trump administration. Foster has twice been approached about a possible job, an inspector general role, with the administration, a situation that some say should have required his recusal from work on the collusion inquiry.
It gets far worse than a simple case of Trump wanting to reward one of his champions in the investigation of the White House. Foster is a dangerous ideologue and partisan bomb-thrower.
In examining Foster’s role in the committee’s Trump-Russia investigation, ProPublica discovered that a decade ago he had written an anonymous blog, using the handle “extremist.” The posts by Foster, who was then working for Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee, made clear he was some sort of D.C. insider, and he came across as a knowing observer as the country navigated the thorny political fights of the Bush and Obama eras.
But there were also plenty of times “extremist” lived up to his chosen name.
He warned of an Islamic takeover. He wrote that homosexuality was akin to incest. He questioned whether waterboarding really amounted to torture. He derided Obama’s proposal to negotiate with the Taliban, and was particularly galled that the president doing so had the middle name Hussein. Liberals? They were anti-American.
He even mused about whether Sen. Joseph McCarthy, condemned as a demagogue for his 1950s anti-Communist crusade, should be remembered more kindly.
And this guy is the chief investigative counsel on the committee, meaning he's running the fieldwork for the Senate Judiciary on this. If you want to know why the Senate Judiciary hasn't done anything but attack the FBI and Mueller for the last year, now you know why.