It’s been a bad week for the liberals who hoped the Steele dossier was going to bring down President Donald Trump.
The document — an opposition research piece paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele at the behest of the political intelligence firm Fusion GPS and used by the FBI as part of its request for a warrant to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page for potential ties to Russia — already took some lumps when several newly unredacted footnotes from an inspector general’s investigation revealed the FBI knew some key parts of it could be Russian disinformation even as the bureau was using it to obtain a surveillance warrant.
That was enough for one news cycle, but other information declassified Wednesday uncovered the fact that another source that was used in the document had Kremlin ties and had voiced “strong support” for Hillary Clinton.
According to The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, while the source wasn’t necessarily tied to Russia’s disinformation campaign, it was the first time that showed a source in the network the Steele dossier relied on might have acted out of animus toward the target of the document, Donald Trump.
The document eventually determined that Carter Page, who was an adviser to the Trump campaign for a few months and had left before the warrant was issued by the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was part of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the campaign and Russia.
Steele himself hadn’t contacted most of the sources he used for information in the document, but instead relied on a primary source — referred to as the “Primary Sub-Source” in the inspector general’s report — to contact the sources that were used.
There’s a whole controversy about that, too, given that the primary source says Steele had embellished or misrepresented many findings, but that’s secondary for the moment.
One of the primary source’s sub-sources had “personal and business ties” with the primary source, according to information received by the FBI in 2017. In a footnote that was declassified this week, it was discovered that there were “contacts between the sub-source and an individual in the Russian Presidential Administration in June/July 2016.”
There’s a further redaction, and then there’s this: “… and the sub-source voicing strong support for candidate Clinton in the 2016 U.S. elections.”
As for how the sub-source’s support for Clinton was discovered, while the newly redacted footnote doesn’t necessarily let on why this was, it’s mentioned “that the FBI did not have Section 702 coverage on any other Steele sub-source.”
“Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the government to collect communications from foreigners outside the United States,” Ross noted.
Thus, it seems reasonably certain that the information was gleaned from surveillance of Steele’s sources. What to make of it, then? In a media release that accompanied the unveiling of the new information, GOP Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said that it didn’t look good for either Steele or the Hillary campaign.
“For years, the public was fed a healthy diet of leaks, innuendo and false information to imply that President Trump and his campaign were part of a Russian conspiracy to spread disinformation,” the statement read.
“The FBI’s blind pursuit of the investigation, despite exculpatory and contradictory information, only legitimized the narrative. The mounting evidence undercutting this narrative should have stopped the investigation early in its tracks. Instead, it took several years and millions in taxpayer dollars to conclude that the allegations were baseless.
“It’s ironic that the Russian collusion narrative was fatally flawed because of Russian disinformation. 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 fact that there could have been Russian misinformation mixed up in all of this was the damning part of the document and also the most unequivocal. You didn’t have to reach very far to figure out what conclusions you could reach from it — that the only real “Russian collusion” in the election involved efforts to derail the Trump campaign, not advance it.
This is a bit more complex, inasmuch as we don’t know the exact reason why this was included in the inspector general’s report or why Sens. Grassley and Johnson had to fight to get it declassified.
Was it just because it established one of Steele’s sub-sources was acting out of a political motive? If so, that’s yet another problem to contend with if this document was being used to obtain a FISA warrant against Carter Page, particularly if that information was available to the FBI. Its investigators already knew that there were certain elements of partisanship involved in the document, what with Fusion GPS being hired by the DNC and the Clinton campaign, after all. This adds another layer to the partisan nature of the document.
Also, was this something Steele or his primary source knew? That could be in question if the information was obtained through surveillance Steele or his primary source were unaware of.
There’s also the question of how relevant this was. We don’t know, for instance, what information the sub-source provided. However, given that it wasn’t part of the unredacted document, one might guess it’s still sensitive enough that the Department of Justice chose to keep it concealed.
Whatever the case may be, it’s yet more evidence that after an investigative process that spanned nearly three years — from the start of the first investigation to the release of the Mueller Report — no evidence was found of Russian collusion on the Trump side.
Meanwhile, we’re still uncovering evidence of collusion on the Hillary side in unusual places.
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