(New York) Sen. John McCain has still not responded to questions raised in light of the disclosure last Tuesday that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) helped fund research utilized in the infamous, largely discredited 35-page dossier on President Donald Trump.
In December, it was McCain who notoriously passed the controversial dossier produced by the Washington firm Fusion GPS to then FBI Director James Comey, whose agency reportedly utilized the dossier as a partial basis for its probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
McCain’s office did not respond to repeated Breitbart News phone and email requests over the course of last week and this week seeking comment on whether the Arizona senator was aware that the material he passed to the FBI was paid for by the DNC and Clinton’s campaign.
McCain’s office also did not respond to requests for information on how he first obtained the dossier, which is filled with discredited charges.
A spokesperson for McCain confirmed by telephone that the Breitbart News requests were received.
The Washington Post last Tuesday reported that in April 2016, attorney Marc E. Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained Fusion GPS to conduct the questionable research on behalf of both the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Through Perkins Coie, Clinton’s campaign and the DNC continued to fund Fusion GPS until October 2016, days before Election Day, the Post reported.
Fusion GPS went on to hire former intelligence agent Christopher Steele to do the purported research. Steele later conceded in court documents that part of his work still needed to be verified.
Last week, the Washington Free Beacon confirmed it originally retained Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on numerous GOP candidates, including Trump. Free Beacon Chairman Michael Goldfarb served as deputy communications director on McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The Free Beacon denied any involvement with the dossier or Steele. “During the 2016 election cycle we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton,” wrote Goldfarb in a joint statement with the site’s editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti.
They continued: “The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele.”
On January 10, CNN was first to report, based on leaked information, that the contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings one week earlier to then-President Obama and President-elect Trump.
Just after CNN’s January 10 report on the classified briefings about the dossier, BuzzFeed published the dossier’s full unverified contents.
Earlier this month, McCain denied providing the dossier to BuzzFeed and said that he only gave the material to the FBI. “I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don’t know why you’re digging this up now,” McCain told the Daily Caller during what the news website described as a testy exchange.
It is not immediately clear how McCain obtained the dossier in the first place.
A January 11 statement from McCain attempted to explain why he provided the documents to the FBI but did not mention how he came to possess the dossier or whether he knew who funded it.
“Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI,” McCain said at the time. “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”
Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow, said McCain first consulted him about the claims inside the dossier at a security conference in Canada shortly after last November’s presidential election. Wood stated that McCain had obtained the documents from the senator’s own sources. “I told him I was aware of what was in the report but I had not read it myself, that it might be true, it might be untrue. I had no means of judging really,” Wood further told BBC Radio 4 in January.
In March, Vanity Fair raised questions about the alleged involvement of David J. Kramer, a former State Department official, in helping to obtain the dossier directly from Steele. The issue was also raised in a lawsuit filed against Steele by one of the individuals named in the dossier.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that in private interviews with Congressional investigators prior to the Post’s report revealing Perkins Coie’s reported payment to Fusion GPS, former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz both denied that they were aware of any arrangement to fund Fusion GPS’s opposition research. CNN reported that Elias was seated next to Podesta during the private interview.
That report prompted former CIA Director Leon Panetta to advocate for a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of both the Clinton campaign and the DNC regarding whether they had any knowledge of the payment to Fusion GPS to produce the dossier.
“Well, it certainly makes the situation very awkward,” Panetta said of Elias’s alleged involvement. “If you’re testifying and saying you have no knowledge, and the attorney sitting next to you is one of those that knew what was involved here, I think it does raise an issue that the committee is going to have to look at and determine just exactly who knew what.”
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. It also claimed there was an exchange of information between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.
Those allegations remain unsubstantiated following numerous public hearings. Indeed, former CIA Director John Brennan made clear in testimony last May that after viewing all of the evidence that was available to him on the Russia probe he was not aware of any collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Dossier was reportedly basis for Obama administration moves
According to the BBC, the dossier served as a “roadmap” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign during the Obama administration.
In April, CNN reported that the dossier served as part of the FBI’s justification for seeking the FISA court’s reported approval to clandestinely monitor the communications of Carter Page, the American oil industry investor who was tangentially and briefly associated with Trump’s presidential campaign.
Senior Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have reportedly requested that the FBI and Department of Justice turn over applications for any warrants to monitor the communications of U.S. citizens associated with the investigation into alleged Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In testimony last month, Comey repeatedly refused to answer questions about his agency’s ties to the dossier.
In testimony last month to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey admitted he pushed back against a request from President Donald Trump to possibly investigate the origins of “salacious material” that the agency possessed in the course of its investigation into alleged Russian interference.
Major questions have been raised as to the veracity of the dossier, large sections of which have been discredited.
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.
During testimony in May, the FBI’s 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 over the billionaire.
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 additional research by Joshua Klein.