I’m late to this, as I have been in a well of economic and financial data lately, but….
When former FBI director James Comey briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump on the Steele dossier – before it was reported in various media outlets and circulated among Democratic circles as the basis of their many conspiracy theories about Trump and Russia – the FBI had already been alerted to the fact that its contents were Russian disinformation:
The FBI was warned sections of the controversial Steele dossier could have been part of a “Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations,” according to newly declassified footnotes from a government watchdog report.
The December report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz examined the FBI’s investigation into alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as the FBI’s four surveillance warrants for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Horowitz concluded the FBI was justified in launching the investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, although he found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s handling of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applications to surveil Page.
But some of Horowitz’s findings were disputed by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a broader investigation. At the time, Durham said “we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”
Several footnotes in Horowitz’s report were redacted, and Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson pushed for the declassification of four footnotes related to the Steele dossier, a collection of opposition research notes on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer.
The dossier was used, in part, by FBI investigators to secure four surveillance warrants for Page.
Footnote 350 in the IG report addresses the FBI’s knowledge of Russian contacts with Steele and the potential for disinformation. Steele had “frequent contacts with representatives for multiple Russian oligarchs, we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from (redacted) indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting.”
The footnote also indicates that warnings to the FBI’s Russia probe became more pronounced over time.
“The (redacted) stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate US foreign relations.”
Footnote 302 relates to the FBI’s efforts to verify information contained in the Steele dossier, commissioned by the DNC through opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
“According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, Person 1 had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS (Russian Intel)……In addition, in late December 2016, Department Attorney Bruce Ohr told SSA 1 that he had met with Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS) and that Simpson had assessed that Person 1 was a RIS (Russian intel) officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.”
The third footnote also relates to the Steele source.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd, in a letter to Grassley and Johnson, wrote that the “fourth and final footnote presents unique and significant concerns. Specifically, the redacted information refers to information received by a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team regarding possible previous attempts by a foreign government to penetrate and research a company or individuals associated with Christopher Steele.”
In the December FISA report, Horowitz found “the FBI did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page in Steele’s reporting when it relied upon his reports in the first FISA application or subsequent renewal applications.”
The FBI has since acknowledged that its warrants were illegal. The FISA court and DOJ inspector general have launched investigations looking at everything else Comey’s FBI sent to the FISA courts, and found that virtually every case involved misinformation being submitted to the court. In some cases, the required Woods file was totally empty. They cataloged no evidence to justify their requests to the court. (Shit like this is why we do not need a “health care Patriot Act” to track plagues.)
The fact that the Steele dossier was Russian disinformation would have been known to former Obama officials (and Obama himself) who did their part to use the allegations to play up Democratic conspiracy theories on social media and when serving on cable news panels. It’s been clear for a long time these folks were the “anonymous sources” for articles in places like WaPo and the NYT, who were among those pushing the conspiracy theories the hardest until they were ultimately debunked by the Mueller report and the DOJ inspector general.
They knew this, and they have been seeking every platform they could get to help spread Russian disinformation.