TEL AVIV — A memo authored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has confirmed that all four FISA court applications submitted by Obama-era federal agencies to monitor the communications of Carter Page, who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, relied upon the infamous, largely discredited 35-page anti-Trump dossier.
The memo, dated January 4, 2018 and addressed to the FBI and Justice Department, was re-released in a less-redacted version last night.
The memo confirms the centrality of the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of the controversial Fusion GPS firm in obtaining the FISA warrants. Steele’s dossier was reportedly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), but that information was omitted from the FISA warrants, according to recently released memos.
The Grassley-Graham memo relates (emphasis added):
On March 17, 2017, the Chairman and Ranking Member were provided copies of the two relevant FISA applications, which requested authority to conduct surveillance on Carter Page. Both relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims, and both applications were granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). In December of 2017, the Chairman, Ranking Member and Subcommittee Chairman Graham were allowed to review a total of four FISA applications relying on the dossier to seek surveillance of Mr. Carter Page, as well as numerous other documents relating to Mr. Steele.
An earlier, four-page House Intelligence Committee memo alleging abuse of surveillance authority released last week revealed that on October 21, 2016, the FBI and Justice Department sought and received the FISA order against Page, and that the agencies sought the renewal of the order every 90 days in accordance with court requirements. Renewals require separate finding of probable cause each time, the memo relates.
According to that memo, then-FBI Director James Comey “signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one.” Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed one or more of the applications on behalf of the Justice Department.
The earlier memo relates the FBI utilized the anti-Trump dossier as evidence against Page in order to obtain the initial FISA warrant. Now the Grassley-Graham memo documents that all FISA warrants depended upon the dossier.
The Grassley-Graham memo is particularly relevant since the politicians relate that they were able to review the actual FISA warrants. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, who was the primary author of the earlier memo, had faced news media criticism after he told Fox News that he didn’t personally read the FISA applications.
Comey, meanwhile, has faced scrutiny for his role in signing the FISA warrants utilizing the dossier starting in October 2016 despite Comey’s June 8, 2017 prepared remarks for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where he referred to the anti-Trump dossier as containing “salacious and unverified” material.
The Nunes memo further reveals the FBI and DOJ failed to inform the FISA court of the following:
- That Steele’s Dossier was reportedly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm. “Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials,” the memo states.
- That the initial application notes Steele worked for a “named U.S. person” but does not name the controversial firm Fusion GPS or its founder Glenn Simpson.
- That Steele reportedly met with Yahoo News at the direction of Fusion GPS. A Yahoo News article about an alleged trip by Page to Moscow was cited in the FISA warrant, according to the memo.
- After dossier author Christopher Steele was terminated months earlier as an FBI source, a “source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated.”
The Grassley-Graham memo, meanwhile, supports many of the assertions in Nunes’s memo.
Breitbart News reported the Grassley-Graham memo also raises questions about the FBI’s continued reliance on Steele despite significant issues with the former spy’s serving as a source:
The FBI included in its initial FISA warrant application in October 2016 a September 2016 Yahoo News article that contained information that seemingly corroborated the dossier. Steele apparently told the FBI that he had not spoken to Yahoo News for the article, and the FBI related that in its application to the FISC. The FBI learned in October he had unauthorized contacts with media, and suspended its relationship with Steele.
However, in a January 2017 FISA application renewal on Page, it noted in a footnote that it had suspended its relationship with Steele based on unauthorized contacts with the media in October 2016, but still continued to defend that he had nothing to do with the Yahoo News article. The FBI also did so in subsequent renewals.
The FBI did so despite an April 2017 report that said Steele had testified to a British court that he had spoken to news outlets before October 2016, and senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr had also told the FBI about those contacts in November or December 2016. The memo noted that the committee had evidence of those contacts before October 2016 as well.
The FBI also noted in its January 2017 application renewal that Steele was “bothered” by the FBI reopening its investigation into Clinton. The FBI also unredacted a portion that said Steele’s information “formed a significant portion of the FBI’s warrant application, and the FISA application relied more heavily on Steele’s credibility than on any independent verification or corroboration for his claims.”
Major questions have been raised as to the veracity of the dossier, large sections of which have been discredited. The dossier contains wild and unproven claims that the Russians had information regarding Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the widely mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed.
Glenn R. Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, admitted in recent testimony that he is not sure whether some of the most controversial claims inside the dossier produced by his company are true or false.
Citing a “Kremlin insider,” the dossier, which misspelled the name of a Russian diplomat, claimed that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen held “secret meetings” with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.
That charge unraveled after Cohen revealed he had never traveled to Prague, calling the story “totally fake, totally inaccurate.” The Atlantic confirmed Cohen’s whereabouts in New York and California during the period the dossier claimed that Cohen was in Prague. Cohen reportedly produced his passport showing he had not traveled to Prague.
In testimony in May, former FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia allegedly wanted Trump in office was not because the billionaire was, as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) claimed during a hearing, “ensnared in” Russia’s “web of patronage” – just as the dossier alleged. Instead, the FBI chief provided two primary reasons for Russia’s alleged favoring of Trump over Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
One reason, according to Comey, was that Putin “hated” Clinton and would have favored any Republican opponent. The second reason, Comey explained, was that Putin made an assessment that it would be easier to make a deal with a businessman than someone from the political class.
Comey’s statements are a far cry from the conspiracies fueled by the dossier alleging Putin held blackmail information on Trump.
Citing current and former government officials, the New Yorker reported the dossier prompted skepticism among intelligence community members, with the publication quoting one member 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 Michael Morell, who currently works at the Hillary Clinton-tied Beacon Global Strategies LLC.
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 [Russian intelligence] 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.
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.
Written with research by Joshua Klein.