Reports casting doubt on dossier arrived before FISA renewals & Mueller appointment
Russian intel was aware of Steele’s anti-Trump research in early July 2016, prior to the FBI opening its investigation
FBI had open counterintelligence case on Steele’s key source, but failed to apprise FISA Court
Steele’s sources connected to Russian presidential administration; supported Clinton
Despite repeated warnings of tainted evidence, FBI continuously sought FISA renewals
WASHINGTON — Despite multiple reports in 2017 warning that claims in an anti-Trump dossier were “false” and “part of a Russian disinformation campaign,” the FBI continued to rely on the Democrat-funded opposition research to spy on a Trump campaign aide. The once-classified details contained in footnotes of the Justice Department Inspector General’s postmortem of the FBI’s flawed spying operation were unmasked at the repeated urging of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Earlier this month, the Justice Department provided the senators with a partially-declassified version of three footnotes following their January request, but key information detailing exactly when the FBI became aware of exculpatory intelligence reports remained redacted. The new material, provided with the assistance of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, sheds new light on the remaining redactions as well as additional information that was previously classified in the IG report.
“As we can see from these now-declassified footnotes in the IG’s report, Russian intelligence was aware of the dossier before the FBI even began its investigation and the FBI had reports in hand that their central piece of evidence was most likely tainted with Russian disinformation,” Johnson and Grassley said.
“Thanks to Attorney General Barr’s and Acting Director Grenell’s declassification of the footnotes, we know the FBI’s justification to target an American Citizen was riddled with significant flaws. Inspector General Michael Horowitz and his team did what neither the FBI nor Special Counsel Mueller cared to do: examine and investigate corruption at the FBI, the sources of the Steele dossier, how it was disseminated, and reporting that it contained Russian disinformation.”
The dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele for political opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by the Clinton campaign and Democratic party, was “central and essential” to the FBI’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. However, the IG report noted that the application contained numerous errors and omission. The newly-declassified footnotes show that the FBI was aware of significant problems with dossier’s sources while seeking or renewing the spying authority, yet they continued to push forward, failing to update the FISA court with the critical exculpatory information.
For example, footnote 350 indicates that the FBI received a U.S. intelligence report on January 12, 2017, warning of an inaccuracy in the dossier related to Michael Cohen, and assessing that the material was “part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”
That same day, the FISA warrant against Page was renewed for the first time.
A similar U.S. intelligence report arrived on February 28, 2017, undercutting a key allegation against Trump, noting the claims “were false, and that they were the product of RIS “infiltrat[ing] a source into the network” of sources that contributed to the dossier.
Just over a month later, the FISA warrant was renewed a second time.
According to footnote 342, in early June of 2017, after Special Counsel Mueller had taken over the investigation, investigators learned that Russian intelligence was aware of Steele’s opposition research work in early July of 2016, before the FBI began its investigation.
On June 27, 2017, the FISA warrant was renewed a third time.
Below is text of the previously declassified footnotes with the newly unmasked material in bold.
[FN 302] (U) According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, Person 1 had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS. The document described reporting [REDACTED] that Person 1 “was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.” In addition, in late December 2016, Department Attorney Bruce Ohr told SSA 1 that he had met with Glenn Simpson and that Simpson had assessed that Person 1 was a RIS officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.
[FN 334] (U) When interviewed by the FBI, the Primary Sub-source stated that he/she did not view his/her contacts as a network of sources, but rather friends with whom he/she has conversations about current events and government relations. The Primary Sub-source [REDACTED].
[FN 342] (U) In late January 2017, a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team received information [REDACTED] that RIS may have targeted Orbis [REDACTED] and research all publicly available information about it. [REDACTED] However, an early June 2017 USIC report indicated that two persons affiliated with RIS were aware of Steele's election investigation in early July 2016. The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us he was aware of these reports, but that he had no information as of June 2017 that Steele's election reporting source network had been penetrated or compromised.
[FN 350] (U) In addition to the information in Steele's Delta file documenting Steele's frequent contacts with representatives for multiple Russian oligarchs, we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from [REDACTED] indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele's election reporting. A January 12, 2017, report relayed information from [REDACTED] outlining an inaccuracy in a limited subset of Steele's reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen. The [REDACTED] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele's reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations. A second report from the same [REDACTED] five days later stated that a person named in the limited subset of Steele's reporting had denied representations in the reporting and the [REDACTED] assessed that the person's denials were truthful. A USIC report dated February 27, 2017, contained information about an individual with reported connections to Trump and Russia who claimed that the public reporting about the details of Trump's sexual activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false, and that they were the product of RIS “infiltrat[ing) a source into the network” of a [REDACTED] who compiled a dossier of information on Trump's activities. The [REDACTED] noted that it had no information indicating that the individual had special access to RIS activities or information.
Other notable footnotes include:
[FN 303] (U) Although an email indicates that the OI Attorney learned in March 2017 that the FBI had an open case on Person 1, the subsequent renewal applications did not include this fact. According to the OI Attorney, and as reflected in Renewal Application Nos. 2 and 3, the FBI expressed uncertainty about whether this sub-source was Person 1. However, other FBI documents in the same time period reflect that the ongoing assumption by the Crossfire Hurricane team was that this sub-source was Person 1.
[FN 339] (U) The Primary Sub-Source also told the FBI at these interviews that the sub-source who provided the information about the Cater Page-Sechin meeting had connections to Russian Intelligence Services (RIS).
[FN 347] (U) The FBI [received information in early June 2017 which revealed that, among other things, there were] personal and business ties between the sub-source and Steele’s Primary Sub-source; contacts between the sub-source and an individual in the Russian Presidential Administration in June/July 2016; [REDACTED] and the sub-source voicing strong support for candidate Clinton in the 2016 U.S. elections. The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us that the FBI did not have Section 702 coverage on any other Steele sub-source.
The newly released footnotes, provided by the Office of the Director of National Security are available HERE.