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August 23, 2019 – Unsealed documents prove former Trump associate, Felix Sater, was an informant for the FBI, CIA and DIA

Felix Sater (Credit: Stephen Voss/Redux)

“A former Trump business associate and witness in the special counsel’s probe provided “extensive” cooperation to U.S. spy agencies in numerous terrorism and mafia-related investigations, according to a court filing unsealed Friday.

Felix Sater provided the FBI, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency with intelligence on a broad range of topics over the course of more than a decade, Benton J. Campbell, the then-U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in an Aug. 27, 2009 court filing.

(…) Sater, an American citizen born in Russia, formally began cooperating with the U.S. government on Dec. 10, 1998, as part of an agreement that required him to plead guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges related to a $40 million stock scheme.

Over the course of the next decade, Sater obtained intelligence regarding mafia activities in New York, Russian organized crime schemes in Cyprus, and al-Qaeda activities in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Sater was credited with obtaining Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone numbers and with providing information about an assassination attempt against President George W. Bush.

Sater’s lawyers said in an Oct. 19, 2009 filing also unsealed Friday that he worked with U.S. military intelligence to covertly obtain details about a Russian anti-missile system.

The court filings, which were unsealed in response to a lawsuit media companies filed, confirm details of BuzzFeed News’ reporting in March 2018 on Sater’s expansive resume. Sater disclosed his informant work to BuzzFeed in an effort to push back on the media narrative that he was linked to Russian intelligence and Russian organized crime.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 8/23/2019) (Wall Street Journal, 8/23/2019)

March 20, 2019 – Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele and Dan Jones are running an elaborate media influence operation, pitching the Russia collusion and Trump impeachment narratives

Glenn Simpson (Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/The Associated Press)

“Key Democratic operatives and private investigators who tried to derail Donald Trump’s campaign by claiming he was a tool of the Kremlin have rebooted their operation since his election with a multimillion-dollar stealth campaign to persuade major media outlets and lawmakers that the president should be impeached.

The effort has successfully placed a series of questionable stories alleging secret back channels and meetings between Trump associates and Russian spies, while influencing related investigations and reports from Congress.

The operation’s nerve center is a Washington-based nonprofit called The Democracy Integrity Project, or TDIP. Among other activities, it pumps out daily “research” briefings to prominent Washington journalists, as well as congressional staffers, to keep the Russia “collusion” narrative alive.

TDIP is led by Daniel J. Jones, a former FBI investigator, Clinton administration volunteer and top staffer to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It employs the key opposition-research figures behind the salacious and unverified dossier: Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Its financial backers include the actor/director Rob Reiner and billionaire activist George Soros.

Christopher Steele (Credit: Victoria Jones/The Associated Press)

The project’s work has been largely shrouded in mystery. But a months-long examination by RealClearInvestigations, drawn from documents and more than a dozen interviews, found that the organization is running an elaborate media-influence operation that includes driving and shaping daily coverage of the Russia collusion theory, as well as pushing stories about Trump in the national media that attempt to tie the president or his associates to the Kremlin.

The group also feeds information to FBI and congressional investigators, and then tells reporters that authorities are investigating those leads. The tactic adds credibility to TDIP’s pitches, luring big media outlets to bite on stories. It mirrors the strategy federal authorities themselves deployed to secure FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign: citing published news reports of investigative details their informants had leaked to the media to bolster their wiretap requests.

Five days a week, TDIP  emails a newsletter to influential Democrats and prominent Beltway journalists under the heading “TDIP Research” – which summarizes the latest “collusion” news, and offers “points of interest” to inspire fresh stories regarding President Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

Daniel J. Jones (Credit: The Guardian)

Recipients of the TDIP reports include staffers at the New York Times and Washington Post and investigative reporters at BuzzFeed, ProPublica and McClatchy, as well as news producers at CNN and MSNBC, according to a source familiar with the project’s email distribution list. Democratic aides on Capitol Hill also subscribe to the newsletter.

The briefings typically run several pages and include an “Executive Summary” and links to court documents and congressional testimony, letters and memos, as well as new articles and videos.

The Steele dossier and impeachment are common themes in the reports, which generally spin news events against Trump, copies of the newsletter obtained by RCI show. A March 13 TDIP bulletin, for instance, highlighted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s sentencing without informing readers that Special Counsel Robert Mueller closed the case without any collusion accusation against Manafort, who was punished for personal financial crimes.

A Feb. 12 briefing led with an NBC News exclusive report on the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s two-year Russia probe. But it misstated what the news was — that both Democrats and Republicans agreed with the conclusion that there was “no factual evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia – claiming instead that Democrats “rejected” the conclusion.

“What’s significant about them is they’re totally one-sided,” said a veteran reporter with a major  newspaper who is plugged into the national security beat in Washington and insisted on anonymity. “It’s really just another way of adding fuel to the fire of the whole Russia collusion thing.”

Jones’ project doesn’t just spin the news. Its more ambitious goal is to make news by essentially continuing the Clinton-funded investigation into alleged Trump/Russia ties that began in 2016, and then sharing findings with news outlets, congressional investigators and federal agents.” (Read much more: RealClearInvestigations, 3/20/2019)

December 19, 2018 – BuzzFeed wins lawsuit over Steele dossier

BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith at a 2012 event with The Guardian. (Credit: Thos Robinson/Getty Images)

“A federal judge in Florida on Wednesday ruled in favor of BuzzFeed News in a defamation lawsuit over the outlet’s publication of the infamous and unverified Steele dossier.

The defamation lawsuit, filed Feb. 2, 2017, focused on allegations made in the final memo against Alexis Gubarev, a Russian tech executive with companies in Cyprus.

In a memo dated Dec. 13, 2016, Steele alleged Gubarev used his web hosting companies to hack into Democrats’ computer networks using viruses, bots and malware.

Gubarev vehemently denied the allegation, and after filing his lawsuit, BuzzFeed issued an apology and scrubbed his name from the version of the dossier published online.

Ben Smith, the editor of BuzzFeed, issued a statement claiming vindication in the case.

“As Judge Ungaro affirmed in her ruling, a key principle underlying the First Amendment is that the public has a right to know about actions taken by its government,” Smith said. “As we have said from the start, a document that had been circulating at the highest levels of government, under active investigation by the FBI, and briefed to two successive presidents, is clearly the subject of ‘official action.’” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 12/19/2018)

January 20, 2017 – 2018: James Comey planted spies in the White House to keep an eye on President Trump

(…) “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.

Anthony Ferrante speaks at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham College, August 2019. (Credit: Chris Taggart)

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.

Jordan Rae Kelly and Robert Mueller (Credit: public domain)

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)

January 10, 2017 – Strzok seeks to capitalize on news reports about dossier, text message suggests

Peter Strzok (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“A newly revealed text message suggests that former FBI official Peter Strzok sought to capitalize on news reports in January 2017 that President Donald Trump had been briefed about allegations in the infamous Steele dossier.

Strzok wanted to use a CNN report related to the dossier as a reason to interview witnesses as part of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government, according to the text message.

“Sitting with Bill watching CNN. A TON more out,” Strzok, a former FBI counterintelligence official, texted to FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Jan. 10, 2017.

“Hey let me know when you can talk. We’re discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people,” continued Strzok, according to a CNN report published Friday.

Just before Strzok sent the message, CNN had reported that top government officials, including then-FBI Director James Comey, briefed then-President-Elect Trump on Jan. 6, 2017 about some of the salacious allegations in the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and financed by Democrats.

Hours after CNN reported about the briefing, BuzzFeed News published the unverified dossier in full.

It is not clear why Strzok needed the CNN report as a pretext to conduct interviews.

Strzok took part in some of those interviews as the FBI’s lead investigator on the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. He and another FBI agent interviewed then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying in that interview about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 9/14/2018)

January 10, 2017 – Buzzfeed publishes the Steele dossier and on the same day, Richard Engel warns Maddow there is no evidence to support its claims

TRANSCRIPT: But amidst all of that today there was the news broken by CNN tonight and
then bolstered later by Buzzfeed this evening about Russia. And on the
surface this looks like really red-hot stuff. I will tell you the amount
of it. It`s been verified by U.S. Intelligence agencies or by NBC news is
very thin. What we can tell you is that President Obama and the incoming
president and the gang of eight, leadership of both the house and the
senate, heads of the intelligence committees, they were all given a sort of
dossier of alleged dirt that the Russians allegedly say they allegedly have
on Donald Trump.

Alleged dirt that they allegedly used to allegedly cultivate him is
basically a Russian asset who would do what they want because he knew what
embarrassing stuff they had on him. Buzzfeed tonight then published what
is says are the 35 pages of raw material from which this dossier was built.
We have no way of knowing if anything in it is true or if this document
itself some kind of plant or dirty trick. The basic claim here though is
that all of these top officials, including the president elect have now
been given a summary of this information by the intelligence agencies.
Whether it`s true we don`t know.

Whether it is believed to be true by our intelligence agencies we don`t yet
know but I bet we`ll find out. If it is true, of course, and Donald Trump
is a Russian agent and knows he is one that`s the story of the century. If
it isn`t true, it`s nevertheless the biggest possible distraction at a time
when things are already really wobbly for the incoming administration and
this historically unpopular president-elect. Joining us now here in New
York is NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Richard?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Good to talk to you.

MADDOW: Might be the story of the century. Might be – we don`t know.

ENGEL: It is very, very strange. And this has been bouncing around for
several months now. There have been a lot of allegations. I would even
call them rumors at this stage that the Russians put together a file on
Donald Trump, compromising material, compromising him financially,
compromising him personally –

MADDOW: Stuff that they – that he did that was bad that they had
documentation of?

ENGEL: That they caught him on trips to Russia and neighboring states
doing nefarious things and that they have evidence to back it up and that
he effectively fell victim to a Russian trap. This is the allegation. And
that they have assembled this file of compromising information on him and
that they are just waiting at any moment to either use it or use it to
blackmail him so he is a sort of a puppet. I have heard these allegations
for a long time. I have heard very, very specific allegations, times,
places, amounts of money, specific activities, I haven`t been able to prove
any of it. These allegations –

MADDOW: You have been chasing the story to see if you can document it?

ENGEL: I have called people in Russia, I have called leading experts, I
have tried to chase it down in this country and I`m not the only one.
Other reporters have been given this kind of material and have been looking
in to it and haven`t been able to prove it. And I called some of the
sources who were sending this my way, they said, ok, you have this
material, you say it is compromising as it is, show me the proof. Show me
these tapes that supposedly exist, show me the records of the money that
was supposedly paid. All of these things that these allegations that if
true would be incredibly compromising. So far I haven`t been able to find
anything. What`s interesting –

MADDOW: Why is this coming out now?

ENGEL: So, that`s what the interesting thing. There are lot of rumors.
These rumors have been circulating for months. Why would the intelligence
community then today boil it down to two pages and drop it like a bomb on
President-elect Trump, on many senior leaders in Washington.

MADDOW: Yes.

ENGEL: And on the president himself`s lap? Why do it right now? And
that`s the question. I was told by a senior intelligence source that the
reason they did it is the intelligence community is angry, the intelligence
community effectively wants to put him on notice saying, look, you are
saying all these things about Russia, be careful, there are all these
allegations out there. Are any of them true?

And I was told, “we can`t help you, Mr. Trump, unless you tell us more. We
need more input.”

MADDOW: These allegations are out there, we need to know if we need to be
taking care of this.

ENGEL: And lastly that there was a concern that these allegations just in
themselves could become a distraction and make it difficult for him to
govern.

MADDOW: Well yes. I mean you don`t have to – it doesn`t have to be true
for you to blackmail somebody with it, right? I mean I guess that`s –

ENGEL: I would treat them at this state with a lot of caution.

MADDOW: NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel. Richard thank
you for coming in to talk to us about this, weird news there, right man?
All right Brian Williams is up next for an hour of coverage followed

(Transcript)

January 6 – 10, 2017: Senator Ron Johnson has questions for “Sensitive Matters Team” – New emails show FBI and DOJ discussing dossier briefing for CNN release

“The footnotes in a letter from Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson outline a series of previously unknown emails between top FBI and DOJ officials as they discuss the Steele Dossier and prepare for a release by CNN.

The emails show that hours before FBI Director James Comey briefed President-Elect Trump on the dossier, Comey’s chief-of-staff James Rybicki e-mailed staff that Director Comey “is coming into HQ briefly now for an update from the sensitive matter team.”

On January 8th, 2017, two days after the Comey briefing, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe wrote an e-mail to top FBI officials (James Comey, James Rybicki, David Bowdich and Michael Kortan), with the subject: “Flood is coming.”

47 minutes later Andrew McCabe then emails across the street to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her deputy assistant Matthew Axelrod.  Andrew McCabe uses the subject line “News” in his e-mail to alert the Main Justice officials.

The letter from Senator Johnson then goes on to outline how CNN reported breaking news of the dossier on January 10th, using the ‘hook’ created by a leak of the briefing Comey gave to president-elect Trump.  CNN headlined their report: “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.”  A few hours later, BuzzFeed News published the contents of the “Steele dossier.”

Within the letter Senator Johnson asks Director Chris Wray to provide a list of all members of the “sensitive matters team” referenced by James Rybicki.  Additionally, Johnson requests Wray to provide all details about how FBI officials “first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele dossier.”

From the footnotes we can see the emails were first obtained by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General (Michael Horowitz) and turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

What makes this interesting is the emails are: all post-election; all seemingly unrelated to any of the three known primary IG investigative inquiries; and all provided by the OIG to congress, without prior request (that we know of).  Much like the Page/Strzok text message release, this email release seems specifically intended to spur further congressional inquiry, and broaden the general public awareness.

(Credit: Conservative Treehouse)

Why would IG Horowitz send these to congress?  Well, there’s not much he can do with them.  All of the outlined participants/recipients are no longer within the DOJ or FBI except David Bowditch (now Asst. Director under Wray); however, they do provide an expanded awareness and understanding of the post-election ‘small group‘ activity.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 5/22/2018)

January 6, 2017 – Comey writes in a memo that pressure from CNN prompted his dossier briefing with Trump

“Former FBI Director James Comey wrote in a newly released memo that pressure from news outlets — “CNN in particular” — convinced him to brief then-President-Elect Donald Trump on the infamous Steele dossier during a meeting at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017.

“I said media like CNN had [the dossier] and were looking for a news hook,” Comey wrote in a memo just after briefing Trump about the salacious allegations in the dossier.

“I said it was inflammatory stuff that they would get killed for reporting straight up from the source reports,” he added.

Four days after that meeting, CNN published a story revealing the existence of a salacious report alleging the Russian government had compromised Trump. The CNN story was referring to what’s now known as the dossier — an unverified 35-page report written by former British spy Christopher Steele.

CNN found its news hook: the very same meeting Comey said was necessary because of pressure from CNN.

CNN’s bombshell report created another news hook but for another news outlet. Hours after the CNN story went live, BuzzFeed News published the entire 35-page dossier, which was later revealed to be funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

The report has cast a cloud over the Trump presidency ever since, even though Trump has vehemently denied its allegations.

The Republican has reportedly fumed he believes Comey set him up. Comey’s briefing was used as a pretext to publish the dossier, which alleges the Russian government is blackmailing Trump with video of him using prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, the president argued.

The leaker of the Comey briefing to Trump has not been identified, though only a small number of government officials would have been aware of the meeting and of what Comey told Trump.

Joining Comey were James Clapper, John Brennan and Adm. Mike Rogers, the directors of the Office of National Intelligence, the CIA and the National Security Agency, respectively.”  (Read more: The Daily Caller, 4/19/2018)

Colin Powell’s recently hacked emails are published.

On September 13, 2016, hacked emails belonging to former Secretary of State Colin Powell appear on a website known as DCLeaks.com.  It is unclear who owns the DCLeaks website, which only appeared on the Internet a few months earlier. They are known for previously publishing hacked emails belonging to prominent Democrats and Republicans, including General Philip M. Breedlove, the former commander of NATO forces in Europe, and George Soros, a wealthy backer of liberal causes. It is also reported to have ties to Guccifer 2.0, who in turn has been accused of having links to the Russian government.

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Powell’s aide Peggy Cifrino states, “We are confirming that General Powell has been hacked and that they are his emails. We have no further comment at this time.” The dates of Powell’s hacked emails range from June 24, 2014 to as recently as August 29, 2016.

Some of the emails are first reported by BuzzFeed and the Intercept, followed by many other prominent mainstream news sources.

The New York Times reports, “A hack of Mr. Powell’s email this week has ripped away the diplomatic jargon and political niceties to reveal his unvarnished disdain of Donald J. Trump as a ‘national disgrace,’ his personal peeves with Hillary Clinton and his lingering, but still very raw, anger with the Republican colleagues with whom he so often clashed a decade ago.” (New York Times, 09/14/16)