(…) “Comey claimed that he was compelled to brief Trump on the dossier because “CNN had [it]” and was “looking for a news hook.”
Hours before Comey briefed Trump, FBI chief of staff James Rybicki e-mailed staff that Comey “is coming into HQ briefly now for an update from the sensitive matter team.” Just as the same officials dubbed the Clinton e-mail investigation the “mid-year exam” and the anti-Trump counterintelligence investigation “Crossfire Hurricane,” they also used various phrases using “sensitive” to refer obliquely to the dossier.
Two days after the briefing, on January 8, 2017, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who earlier this year was fired and then referred for criminal prosecution by the DOJ inspector general for repeatedly lying about media leaks, wrote an e-mail to top FBI officials with the subject, “Flood is coming.”
“CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story,” McCabe wrote to Comey, Rybicki, and two others. “The trigger for them is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment.” He did not detail how he came to know what CNN’s “trigger” was for publishing the dossier briefing story.
Although the January 10 story from CNN also claimed that Trump was presented with a two-page summary of the dossier, which was not part of the official intelligence community assessment given to Trump, Comey himself later claimed that he did not give the two-page document to Trump, raising questions about whether McCabe himself was a source for CNN’s assertion that Trump had been given the entire two-page document during the briefing.
Shortly after sending his e-mail to Comey and other FBI officials, McCabe e-mailed then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her deputy, Matthew Axelrod. McCabe used the subject line “News” in his e-mail to the DOJ officials.
“Just as an FYI, and as expected,” McCabe wrote, “it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting.” It is not clear how McCabe came to be so familiar with CNN’s understanding of the dossier, its briefing, or how close CNN was to reporting on the matter.
In a Monday letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, Sen. Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked the director to provide a list of all members of the “sensitive matters team” referenced by Rybicki in his January 6 e-mail. Johnson also requested that Wray provide all details about how FBI officials “first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele dossier.” (Read more: The Federalist, 5/22/2018)