“The FBI relied more extensively on Christopher Steele’s debunked dossier in their Russiagate investigation than has been revealed, inserting key parts from it into their applications for warrants to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign.
Agents did this without telling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the precise wording was plucked directly from a political rumor sheet paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign or providing judges with any independent corroboration of the explosive allegations.
But the notion that mere “snippets” of the reporting by paid Clinton subcontractor Christopher Steele showed up in FISA applications, as CNN has described it, no longer holds up to scrutiny.
A close examination of all four of the FISA warrants reveals that the FBI lifted dozens of key phrases from the dossier – as well as practically some entire sentences – and pasted them verbatim into their sworn affidavits. It did so repeatedly without citing its sources or using typical hedging language such as “allegedly” or “purportedly” to indicate that the claims were unverified.
As a result, the FBI lent its voice of authority to many of the unsourced – and now debunked – accusations in the dossier.
For example, it avowed under oath in all four warrant applications that “the FBI has learned” that onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had secretly met with sanctioned Kremlin officials in Moscow. But those allegations came from Steele’s D.C.-based collector Igor Danchenko, who admitted to the FBI in a January 2017 interview his input was just “hearsay” gathered from “conversation with friends over beer.”
It is not clear whether the bureau decided to pay Steele in connection with the dossier so that it could represent the material as originating from one of its own confidential sources. At one point it reportedly offered him $1 million if he could verify key claims (he could not).
Meanwhile, the FBI repeatedly portrayed improbable third-hand rumors as sound “intelligence,” despite taking them directly from paid political opposition research operatives. Suggesting independent verification, the bureau repeatedly assured the FISA court it “assesses” the truth of damning claims.
In some cases, the FBI mixed partial information from one dossier report with partial information from another report to draw broader conclusions. It then used these as a foundation to claim evidence of a grand election “conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and Russia, with Page acting as an “intermediary.” Such a conspiracy was what counterintelligence agents needed to convince the FISA court that their main target Page was a Kremlin agent who posed a national security threat, and that deploying the government’s most intrusive investigative method – electronic surveillance – was necessary to investigate him.
In short, the FBI fabricated conclusions from fabrications and turned them into sworn representations before the powerful Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Veteran FBI investigators who have worked counterintelligence cases and sworn out wiretap warrants say the agents who ran the Russiagate investigation, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, violated the fundamental principle requiring them to independently verify evidence they present to the court.
“Their actions – lying and misrepresentations on warrants and affidavits – are antithetical to every instruction at FBI training at Quantico and in the field,” said 27-year FBI veteran Michael Biasello. “Any FBI Academy trainee and agent in the field is aware that search warrants, affidavits and any accompanying documents and information contained therein requiring federal judicial approval is to be vetted and verified to create a pristine document. Their accuracy is vital.”
The FBI declined comment.
The bureau’s reliance on the dossier – a series of 17 reports compiled by Steele for Fusion GPS, the Washington-based opposition research firm employed the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee – has been brought into sharp relief by the work of Special Counsel John Durham.
His team investigated for possible criminal misconduct the Russiagate probe that hobbled the Trump presidency. It zeroed in on the FBI’s handling of the dossier both before and after the agency began using it to gain FISA court approval to wiretap Page in 2016 and 2017. Investigators questioned several FBI witnesses about their interactions with Steele and Danchenko, some of whom Durham said were not forthcoming about their involvement and obtained related documents. Danchenko, who provided an estimated 80% of the dossier’s content, was indicted last year for lying about the sources of his information, though he was acquitted in October by a D.C.-area jury.
Like CNN, the New York Times has tried to minimize the agency’s reliance on the dossier. In a recent article on Durham’s inquiry, the Times maintained that the FBI only used “some” claims from the dossier in applying for court permission to wiretap Page.
In fact, the FBI used several claims – and those claims happened to constitute the most critical “evidence” in the wiretap applications. Even former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe has admitted that if not for the Steele dossier, no surveillance warrant would have been sought for Page.
All told, the FBI used four dossier reports – Report 80, Report 94, Report 95 and Report 102 – in all four of its FISA wiretap warrants targeting Page in 2016 and 2017. And three of the reports were based on a fictitious source. (Read more: RealClearWire, 12/20/2022) (Archive)