FBI May Have Used 'Russian Disinformation' To Get Warrants To Spy on Trump Campaign
Newly released material raises the possibility that Russian disinformation made its way into a dossier of opposition research that the FBI relied on when obtaining warrants to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign adviser.
The new material, contained in footnotes to a Justice Department watchdog report that were recently declassified by the Trump administration, indicates the FBI was warned about the credibility of certain information and sources cited in the dossier even as it sought the warrants.
It may add to accusations that the FBI did not scrutinize seriously enough concerns about the reliability of information from the dossier as it investigated ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Justice Department inspector general report from December that included the blacked-out footnotes said the FBI had omitted from its surveillance applications some information that went against the premise that a former Trump adviser, Carter Page, was a Russian agent.
The FBI says it did not rely on the dossier when it opened the Russia investigation in July 2016, but the fact that the dossier was used at all is one of the main points cited by Trump supporters in challenging the legitimacy of the probe.
The footnotes were released by two Republican senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who said in a joint statement they make clear that the FBI’s justification in targeting Page “was riddled with significant flaws.”
One of the footnotes says the FBI was alerted in 2017 that a particular allegation included in the dossier was “part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”
It also cites a February 2017 U.S. intelligence report that quotes an individual warning that certain allegations related to Trump’s behavior in Moscow four years earlier were false and the product of Russian intelligence “infiltrate(ing) a source into the network.”
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday. The FBI has acknowledged problems during the Russia investigation and has instituted a series of changes designed to make its surveillance applications more accurate and thorough.
The dossier of information was compiled in 2015 and 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British spy whose research into ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was financed by Democrats.
The FBI relied in part on information from the dossier during multiple applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2016 and 2017 to monitor the communications of Page, who was suspected of being a possible agent of a foreign power because of his connections to Russia. He has denied any wrongdoing and was never charged.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his report that, though there was no evidence that the FBI was motivated by political bias during the investigation, the bureau made serious errors during the application process, including by omitting information that called into question the reliability of certain reporting in the dossier.
The inspector general report said the FBI could not corroborate certain allegations from the Steele dossier and did consider the possibility “that Russia was funneling disinformation to Steele, and the possibility that disinformation was included in his election reports.”
Horowitz said more should have been done by the FBI to determine if that was the case.
One of the footnotes says a January 2017 report to the FBI identified an inaccuracy about Steele’s reporting on Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer. It does not detail the inaccuracy, but it could be a reference to a claim in the dossier that Cohen met with Kremlin officials in Prague in the summer of 2016. Cohen has long denied that.
The footnotes also say that a June 2017 intelligence report indicated that two people involved with a Russian intelligence service “were aware of Steele’s election investigation in early 2016.” That assertion raises the prospect that Steele’s reporting could have been influenced by disinformation.
“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,” the footnote states.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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