TEL AVIV — While he served as the FBI’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe penned emails in which he revealed his awareness of plans by CNN to break a major story regarding salacious claims made in the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
McCabe wrote the email two days before CNN on January 10, 2017 was first to report leaked information that the controversial contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings one week earlier to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump. Prior to CNN’s report leaking the briefings, which was picked up by news agencies worldwide, the contents of the dossier had been circulating among news media outlets, but the sensational claims were largely considered too risky to publish.
Perhaps tellingly, McCabe noted in his January 8, 2017 email that the “trigger” for CNN’s forthcoming dossier story of which he had insider knowledge was the official separate classified briefings to Obama and Trump on the unsubstantiated claims.
“CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story,” McCabe wrote in the email to senior FBI leadership. “The trigger for them is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment.” The subject line for that email was “Flood is Coming.”
Besides showing insider knowledge of the CNN story released two days later, McCabe’s email adds fuel to the argument that the leak of the classified briefings themselves gave the news media the opening to report on the dossier’s existence as well as allude to some of the document’s most outrageous claims.
In its report, CNN itself noted that the dossier claims were circulating for months among the news media, and that the inclusion of the dossier claims in the briefings with Trump and Obama gave the charges some credibility.
Questions have been raised on the need to include the dossier charges in the classified briefings, which were reportedly conducted by Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. Comey reportedly stayed in the room alone with Trump afterwards to orally brief the incoming president on the most salacious allegations.
Trump was not told at the briefing, which took place at Trump Tower in New York, that the dossier had been paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkin Coie law firm.
The McCabe emails were obtained by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), chairman of the Senator’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and were disclosed in a letter on Monday to FBI Director Christopher Wray seeking more information from the agency.
McCabe is already in hot water after the Justice Department Inspector General (IG) last month referred McCabe to Washington’s top federal prosecutor after an IG report found that McCabe had lied to investigators or Comey four times, including on three occasions where McCabe was under oath.
There have long been questions about who leaked the information about the classified briefings on the dossier to CNN.
Johnson’s letter noted that McCabe referred in his emails to CNN’s planned coverage of the dossier claims as “sensitive reporting” and a “sensitive story.”
In a second email the same day – two days before CNN’s Jan. 10 story – McCabe wrote to then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her deputy Matthew Axelrod, also telling them about CNN’s forthcoming plans. “Just as an FYI, and as expected,” McCabe wrote, “it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting.” The subject line for that email was “News.”
In CNN’s dossier story, the news network cited “multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” — in other words, officials leaking information about classified briefings — revealing the dossier contents were included in a two-page synopsis that served as an addendum to a larger report on Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Just after CNN’s January 10 report on Comey’s classified briefings about the dossier, BuzzFeed famously published the dossier’s full unverified contents.
The New York Times used CNN’s story on Comey’s briefing to report some contents of the dossier the same day as CNN’s January 10 report on the briefings.
In his memos on his private conversations with Trump, Comey wrote that he briefed Trump on unverified claims about an alleged escapade with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013 because “media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook.”
In actuality, Comey’s very briefing to Trump, which was subsequently leaked to CNN, provided the network with the hook to publish its story on the controversial dossier containing the infamous “Russian prostitute” claims as well as unsubstantiated charges of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
In his memoir, published last month, Comey also claimed that CNN was a factor in his decision to include the dossier claims in the classified briefing to Trump and another briefing to President Obama.
Still, I could see no way out of it. The FBI was aware of the material. Two United States senators separately contacted me to alert me to its existence and the fact that many in Washington either had it or knew of it. CNN had informed the FBI press office that they were going to run with it as soon as the next day.
Immediately following CNN’s article, National Intelligence Director Clapper added fuel to the media fire about the dossier by releasing a statement saying he spoke to Trump to express “my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press” — referring to the leaks to CNN about the classified briefing. He called the leaks “extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”
Clapper’s statement generated fresh media coverage of the dossier briefing.
In his statement, Clapper also noted the dossier contents had been “widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the IC became aware of it.”
It seems the news media waited for the leak about the dossier briefings first reported by CNN before publicizing the dossier’s existence and some of its contents. Yet Comey claims the opposite was the case – that he conducted the briefings because of the possibility of news media coverage.
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.