Here’s what you need to know: In rushing out their assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Obama-administration officials chose not to include the risible Steele-dossier allegations that they had put in their “VERIFIED APPLICATION” for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) because . . . wait for it . . . the allegations weren’t verified.
And now, the officials are squabbling over who pushed the dossier. Why? Because the dossier — a Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed, based on anonymous Russian sources peddling farcical hearsay, compiled by a well-paid foreign operative (former British spy Christopher Steele) — is crumbling by the day.
As I write, we mark the two-year anniversary of Robert Mueller’s appointment to take over the Russiagate probe — which is fast transforming into the Spygate probe. Special Counsel Mueller inherited the investigation seven months after the Obama Justice Department and FBI sought a FISC warrant to monitor former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page. By then, it was already acknowledged that dossier information was “salacious and unverified,” to quote congressional testimony by former FBI director James Comey.
That was problematic on a number of levels.
If dossier claims were still unverified when Comey testified to Congress in mid 2017 (and thereafter), then those claims could not have been verified when the Obama Justice Department and FBI submitted it to the FISC as a “VERIFIED APPLICATION” in October 2016. It also had to have been unverified on January 6, 2017, when the Obama administration chose to include a sliver of the dossier in the briefing of President-elect Trump — the day after intelligence chiefs met with President Obama in the Oval Office and discussed what Russia information should be shared with the incoming Trump team.
Indeed, as I’ve pointed out before, a January 2018 memo that has not gotten nearly enough attention, written by Judiciary Committee Senators Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), recounts then-director Comey’s concession that there was no meaningful corroboration of the dossier. Rather, the FBI and Justice Department included it in the “VERIFIED APPLICATION” because they trusted Steele (who, I note for the zillionth time, was not a source of information but an accumulator and purveyor of information from unverified sources. Steele’s credibility, consequently, was beside the point).
Moreover, FBI and Justice Department procedures require that information be vetted for factual accuracy before it is submitted to the FISC. The rules of the FISC require the Justice Department to notify the court promptly if misstatements or inaccuracies have been discovered. Far from alerting the FISC that information in what it boldly labeled the “VERIFIED APPLICATION” was actually unverified, the Justice Department and the FBI kept reaffirming the dossier allegations to the court — in January, April, and June of 2017.
Comey has the better of the argument. There is, it is suggested, an email trail in which the former FBI director relates that Brennan was advocating the dossier’s inclusion in the ICA.
That also makes logical sense. There is good reason to believe Brennan, though he has tried to distance himself from the dossier, pushed it on congressional leaders in the late summer of 2016 — at around the same time Steele and his Fusion GPS collaborators were pushing it on select media outlets, hoping it would blow a Moscow-size hole in the Trump campaign.
One leader briefed by Brennan, then–Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), began writing letters urging Comey to investigate the purported Trump-Russia conspiracy. Reid’s August 27 letter, apparently referring to the memos Steele was compiling into a dossier (“a series of disturbing reports”), highlights purported meetings between a “Trump advisor” and “high-ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow in July — an obvious allusion to the dossier’s claim that Carter Page met with Putin associates Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin. (Page has always strenuously denied this allegation, it has never been verified, and the Mueller report implicitly rejects it.)
Brennan, however, is pushing back. Through an unidentified “former CIA official” (wonder who that could be!), he claims it was Comey who tried to force the dossier claims into the ICA. According to this account, Brennan, along with Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, heroically refused Comey’s plea because the dossier had not been corroborated. Comey is said then to have decided unilaterally to brief Trump on part of it.
There are some flaws in this story. For one thing, Brennan and Clapper are both notorious for lying to Congress. Second, Comey has testified a number of times that the other intelligence chiefs wanted him to brief Trump on a portion of the dossier (see, e.g., here), but Brennan and Clapper have not heretofore disputed his testimony. And third, it looks like the extremely abbreviated dossier briefing was little more than a pretext to elevate the dossier into a story the media would report. That is, unlike the Obama Justice Department and the FBI, media outlets that possessed the dossier had been reluctant to use it because it had not been verified. Yet, once it was leaked that intelligence agency chiefs had used it to inform the president-elect, the dossier became news regardless of whether it was true.
Why is that relevant? Because it appears that Clapper is up to his eyeballs in discussions about the dossier with CNN shortly before CNN reported that Trump had been briefed on it.
Hard to say, written by Glen Simpson who gave it to Steele to give it credibility and punch it up a little with disinformation? Fed back to FBI through Nellie who was also CIA.
Either the most sloppy investigatory work imaginable or a coup.
IMHO, we should be looking at the dog that didn’t bark. i.e. The FISC judge that apparently felt no need to take action on the applications that he received and rubber stamped.
@Clifford Burns: There may be a possibility they have a dossier on the judge, perhaps more accurate than the failed blackmail material on Trump.
@kitt: Looks like Admiral warned the FISA Judge about this….
@olhardhead: ya sailor Mike was a whitehat, if the FISA court was warned why the renewal? What was up with the the Judge?
Perhaps Barr will be able to sort it out with the CIA and their records, or they will be sealed for 50 years.
@kitt: perhaps she is part of a sting operation now….who knows. It does seem that she has knowledge of this though…..jus sayin’
@olhardhead: Not so, she look at what position she held prior to being chosen, she might be of great help.
@kitt: @kitt: yeah kitt, I guess I didn’t make that very clear….she might be on our side is what I meant…
@olhardhead: he is in a delicate position with the mutual spying agreements we have with supposed allies.
Steele said he got permission from his wife, which I think meant he was given the ok for his project of disinformation on Trump.