The controversial, partially discredited 35-page dossier on President Donald Trump compiled by a former British intelligence officer reportedly served as the FBI’s justification for seeking court approval to clandestinely monitor Carter Page (pictured), who has been identified as a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump.
CNN broke the story, reporting:
The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.
This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.
This is not the FBI’s only use of the dossier. Last month, the BBC reported the document served as a “roadmap” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
The dossier, which contains wild and unproven claims about Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the widely-mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed, was compiled by former intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who was reportedly paid by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Trump.
Instead of questioning the FBI’s motivations for its reported use of the suspect dossier, some news media organizations actually brandished the FBI’s reported use of it to bolster the dossier’s credibility.
“Report: FBI’s use of Trump dossier in court order request boosts its credibility,” is the title of an AOL.com article.
“Trump’s Russia dossier corroborated: FBI used document to obtain wiretap on Carter Page,” reported Salon.com.
Coverage of the matter by other major news media outlets reviewed by this reporter failed to provide reasonable context regarding the many questions surrounding the dossier or criticism of the document from current and former U.S. officials.
Last month, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele to compile the Trump opposition research dossier, raising questions about the document, including whether Steele was ever paid by the FBI at the same time he was paid by Fusion GPS.
The Washington Post reported that after being paid to compile opposition research on Trump by the billionaire’s opponents during the election, Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.”
Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele, the Post reported.
In light of the Post report, Grassley last month also sent a letter to the FBI requesting information on whether the agency utilized Steele.
In the letter, Grassley questioned the FBI’s intentions over the Steele report:
The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.
Citing current and former government officials, the New Yorker reported the dossier prompted skepticism in the intelligence community, with the publication quoting one member as saying it was a “nutty” piece of evidence to submit to a U.S. president.
Steele’s work has been questioned by former acting CIA director Morell, who currently works at the Hillary Clinton-tied Beacon Global Strategies LLC. Beacon was founded by Phillippe Reines, who served as communications adviser to Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. From 2009-2013, Reines also served in Clinton’s State Department as the deputy assistant secretary of state for strategic communications. Reines is the managing director of Beacon.
NBC News reported on Morell’s questions about Steele’s credibility:
Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians. He also raised questions about the dossier written by a former British intelligence officer, which alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. …
Morell pointed out that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Meet the Press on March 5 that he had seen no evidence of a conspiracy when he left office January 20.
“That’s a pretty strong statement by General Clapper,” Morell said.
Regarding Steele’s dossier, Morell stated, “Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can’t judge the information — you just can’t.”
Morell charged the dossier “doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think.”
“I had two questions when I first read it. One was, How did Chris talk to these sources? I have subsequently learned that he used intermediaries.”
And then I asked myself, why did these guys provide this information, what was their motivation? And I subsequently learned that he paid them. That the intermediaries paid the sources and the intermediaries got the money from Chris. And that kind of worries me a little bit because if you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, “Hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you,” because they want to get paid some more.
I think you’ve got to take all that into consideration when you consider the dossier.
Meanwhile, the FBI became interested in Page after he “gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute,” according to a report in the New York Times citing U.S. officials.
However, the Times does not specify exactly what the FBI suspected Page was doing, or even why his speech drew FBI attention.
The Times reported:
That trip last July was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.
It is unclear exactly what about Mr. Page’s visit drew the F.B.I.’s interest: meetings he had during his three days in Moscow, intercepted communications of Russian officials speaking about him, or something else.
The Times report reveals that Page was only monitored after he had already left the campaign:
After Mr. Page, 45 — a Navy veteran and businessman who had lived in Moscow for three years — stepped down from the Trump campaign in September, the F.B.I. obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing the authorities to monitor his communications on the suspicion that he was a Russian agent.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With research by Joshua Klein.