Newly public footnotes from a Department of Justice inspector general’s report reveal the FBI had been advised some of the evidence it had used to justify a special intelligence court warrant against a Trump campaign adviser could have been part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
One of the footnotes acknowledged that Christopher Steele — the former British intelligence officer who compiled the now-debunked “Steele dossier” that was used, in large part, to obtain the warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — had “frequent contacts with Russian oligarchs in 2015” that “raised concerns in the FBI Transnational Organized Crime Intelligence Unit.”
Another footnote described a “key Steele sub-source” known as “Person 1″ as having “historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS,” or Russian Intelligence Services. In addition, Person 1 “was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.”
A third said another source said there was inaccurate information regarding Steele’s information on Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump. The source stated 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.”
The three footnotes relate to Crossfire Hurricane — the FBI’s code name for the investigation into alleged Trump-Russian ties under former FBI Director James Comey — and an FBI surveillance warrant for Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
They were originally blacked out in the inspector general’s report, and were unredacted after a request by GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was approved by Attorney General William Barr.
In an April 2 letter to Grassley, the Department of Justice said that unredacting a fourth note that was included in the request “presents unique and significant concerns.”
It did, however, reveal that “the redacted information refers to information received by a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team regarding possible previous attempts by a foreign government to penetrate and research a company or individuals associated with Christopher Steele.”
The Washington Examiner reported that that company was likely Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele’s research company.
These are even worse than they might appear with a cursory glance.
Take the first footnote, the one about Steele’s meetings with Russian oligarchs. It turns that investigators with Crossfire Hurricane were not terribly interested in looking at Steele’s background.
“The Supervisory Intel Analyst explained that he did not recall doing a ‘deep dive’ on Steele’s past history as a source and relied in part on Handling Agent 1 for information about Steele,” the footnote states. “The first access of Steele’s Delta file by a Crossfire Hurricane team member (the Supervisory Intel Analyst) occurred on November 18, 2016, after Steele had been closed as a CHS [confidential human source] and a month after submission of the first Page FISA application.”
The report found that an individual identified as “SSA 1” — widely believed to be FBI agent Joseph Pientka — told investigators he was unaware of contacts between Steele and Russian oligarchs, “but said he would have found this information useful and would have wanted to know about it while supervising the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Well, yes, it might have been helpful. More helpful information regarding SSA 1 was found in the third footnote, where it’s revealed that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr told him that he’d met with Glenn Simpson, the founder of opposition research firm responsible for commissioning the dossier. Simpson had told Ohr that Person 1 was from Russian intelligence, although Simpson still believed him crucial to connecting Trump to Russia.
The second footnote could also put to bed one of the more salacious rumors regarding Donald Trump — namely, an incident involving a trip to Russia, prostitutes and a certain waste product of the human body.
The footnote as a whole dealt with a redacted source that had “indicat[ed] the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting” in terms of certain Trump-adjacent claims.
One of these involved a 2017 report that “contained information about an individual with reported connections to Trump and Russia who claimed that the public reporting about the details of Trump’s [redacted] 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.'”
There aren’t many things this can refer to, so do the math.
According to CBS News, the FBI declined to comment on the investigation when reached last week.
In a statement released Friday, Grassley and Johnson noted the problematic nature of the revelations, especially given the fact Hillary Clinton’s campaign was one of the chief bankrollers of the Steele dossier.
“It’s ironic that the Russian collusion narrative was fatally flawed because of Russian disinformation,” the statement read.
“These footnotes confirm that there was a direct Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, and there were ties between Russian intelligence and a presidential campaign — the Clinton campaign, not Trump’s.”
“The footnotes reveal that, beginning early on and continuing throughout the FBI’s Russia investigation, FBI officials learned critical information streams that flowed to the dossier were likely tainted with Russian Intelligence disinformation,” the statement read.
“But the FBI aggressively advanced the probe anyway, ignoring internal oversight mechanisms and neglecting to flag the material credibility concerns for a secret court. Despite later intelligence reports that key elements of the FBI’s evidence were the result of Russian infiltration to undermine U.S. foreign relations, the FBI still pushed forward with its probe.
“It would eventually spill over into the years-long special counsel operation, costing taxpayers more than $30 million and increasing partisan divisions – all based on faulty evidence. In the end, the special counsel concluded that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia.”
The report by DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz, released in December, found 17 “significant errors and omissions” in the Justice Department’s FISA warrant that allowed the bureau to put Page under surveillance. To this we can add the fact that the FBI was well aware of the fact that it was eating from the fruit of a poisoned tree when it relied in part on the Steele dossier to get that warrant.
The problem was that we all got sick from that poisoned fruit.
We got a years-long investigation based on faulty evidence that ended up proving nothing but lent itself to all manner of conspiracy theories based around the idea that President Trump was the Muscovite candidate. That’s not a pursuit that’s looking so hot in retrospect.
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