(…) “Two U.S. officials briefed on the inspector general’s investigation of possible FBI misconduct said Comey was essentially “running a covert operation against” the president, starting with a private “defensive briefing” he gave Trump just weeks before his inauguration. They said Horowitz has examined high-level FBI text messages and other communications indicating Comey was actually conducting a “counterintelligence assessment” of Trump during that meeting in New York.
In addition to adding notes of his meetings and phone calls with Trump to the official FBI case file, Comey had an agent inside the White House who reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to other officials familiar with the matter.
Although Comey took many actions on his own, he was not working in isolation. One focus of Horowitz’s inquiry is the private Jan. 6, 2017, briefing Comey gave the president-elect in New York about material in the Democratic-commissioned dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Reports of that meeting were used days later by BuzzFeed, CNN, and other outlets as a news hook for reporting on the dossier’s lascivious and unsubstantiated claims.
Comey’s meeting with Trump took place one day after the FBI director met in the Oval Office with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss how to brief Trump — a meeting attended by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who would soon go to work for CNN.
At the same time Comey was personally scrutinizing the president during meetings in the White House and phone conversations from the FBI, he had an agent inside the White House working on the Russia investigation, where he reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to officials familiar with the matter. The agent, Anthony Ferrante, who specialized in cybercrime, left the White House around the same time Comey was fired and soon joined a security consulting firm, where he contracted with BuzzFeed to lead the news site’s efforts to verify the Steele dossier, in connection with a defamation lawsuit.
Knowledgeable sources inside the Trump White House say Comey carved out an extraordinary new position for Ferrante, which allowed him to remain on reserve status at the FBI while working in the White House as a cybersecurity adviser.
“In an unprecedented action, Comey created a new FBI reserve position for Ferrante, enabling him to have an ongoing relationship with the agency, retaining his clearances and enabling him to come back in [to bureau headquarters],” said a former National Security Council official who requested anonymity.
“Between the election and April 2017, when Ferrante finally left the White House, the Trump NSC division supervisor was not allowed to get rid of Ferrante,” he added, “and Ferrante continued working — in direct conflict with the no-contact policy between the White House and the Department of Justice.”
Through a spokeswoman at FTI Consulting, which maintains the BuzzFeed contract, Ferrante declined to comment.
Another FBI official, Jordan Rae Kelly, who worked closely with Mueller when he headed the bureau, replaced Ferrante upon his White House exit (though she signed security logs for him to continue entering the White House as a visitor while he was working for BuzzFeed). Kelly left the White House last year and joined Ferrante at FTI Consulting.
Working with Comey liaison Ferrante at the NSC in early 2017 was another Obama holdover — Tashina Gauhar, who remains a top national security adviser at the Justice Department.
In January 2017, Gauhar assisted former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in the Flynn investigation. Later, she helped Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resist, initially, Trump’s order to fire Comey. Gauhar also took copious notes during her meetings with White House lawyers, which were cited by Mueller in the section of his report dealing with obstruction of justice.” (Read more: RealClearInvestigations, 7/22/2019)