sensitive matters team

January 6, 2017 – Emails Show FBI Brass Discussed Dossier Briefing Details With CNN

James Rybicki (Credit: The Associated Press)

(…) “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)

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)