TEL AVIV — In testimony released publicly earlier this week, the founder of the controversial opposition research firm Fusion GPS revealed that an associate of Sen. John McCain first reached out to the former British spy who compiled the infamous, largely discredited 35-page dossier on President Donald Trump in order to obtain information for McCain to pass to the FBI leadership.
The storyline of McCain’s associate initiating contact with former intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who was paid by Fusion GPS to compile the anti-Trump charges, for the first time indicates that McCain’s camp may have taken the initiative to obtain the shoddy dossier. Fusion GPS’s work against Trump was reportedly funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Last December, it was revealed that it was McCain who passed the controversial dossier contents produced by Fusion GPS to then-FBI Director James Comey, whose agency reportedly utilized the dossier as a basis for its probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
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.”
In August 22 testimony released earlier this week, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson divulged that contact between Steele and McCain’s office was initiated by David Kramer, a former State Department official who was described by Simpson as a “long-time advisor to Senator McCain.”
Simpson said that Kramer related to Steele that Kramer and McCain were at a security conference in Nova Scotia where the contents of the dossier were discussed with the two by Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow. Kramer had reached out to Steele for more information, Simpson stated.
Simpson testified that Kramer reached out a few weeks after the November presidential election last year:
At some point a few weeks after the election Chris called me and said that he had received an inquiry from David Kramer, who was a long-time advisor to Senator McCain, and that according to — Kramer told Chris that he had run into Sir Andrew Wood at a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that Kramer was accompanying Senator McCain to this conference and that the three of them had had an unscheduled or unplanned encounter where the issue of this research was discussed and the essence of it, I guess, was conveyed to Senator McCain and to David Kramer from Andrew Wood.
Simpson said he was not sure whether Steele gave him Wood’s name at that time. “He did say someone that he worked with in the past who was a former UK government official with experience in Russia had had this conversation with David Kramer and John McCain and that Senator McCain had followed up on it as to what more there was to know about these allegations, this information.”
“So Chris asked me do you know David Kramer,” stated Simpson. “And I said yes, I’ve known David Kramer for a long time. David Kramer is part of a small group of people that I’m sort of loosely affiliated with.”
So I told Chris he’s legit. David is someone I’ve known for a long time and he knows a lot about these issues and he’s very concerned about Putin and the Kremlin and the rise of the new Russia and criminality and kleptocracy. So he said, well, can we trust him? And I said yes, I think we can trust him.
Simpson made clear that the request for more information was initiated by McCain’s associate, Kramer. He said that Wood’s sharing of the information with McCain and Kramer at the security conference “caused David Kramer to follow up with Chris (Steele) and that it was passive. In other words, it was initiated by Mr. Kramer.”
Simpson said that the goal of McCain’s camp in obtaining the dossier information was to inquire about the document’s contents with FBI leadership.
Referring to Kramer, Simpson stated, “He says he wants information to give to Senator McCain so that Senator McCain can ask questions about it at the FBI, with the leadership of the FBI.
“That was essentially — all we sort of wanted was for the government to do its job and we were concerned about whether the information that we provided previously had ever, you know, risen to the leadership level of the FBI. We simply just didn’t know. It was our belief that Director Comey, if he was aware — if he was made aware of this information would treat it seriously.”
It was unclear from Simpson’s testimony why McCain would feel the need to get the dossier to the FBI leadership a few weeks after the November election. According to numerous reports and Capitol Hill testimony, the FBI immediately took Steele’s information seriously when the ex-spy had reportedly previously provided his anti-Trump claims to a contact at an FBI field office in Rome last July.
Mother Jones reported that a “few weeks” after Steele allegedly went to the FBI on his own in July, “the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports.”
“He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau,” Mother Jones reported.
“In other words, by the end of the July, the leadership of the FBI was paying attention,” the Washington Post reported.
Not only were they paying attention, the BBC reported that Steele’s information served as a “roadmap” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Last 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.
There were claims that the FBI originally offered to pay Steele to do his anti-Trump work. Those claims stem largely from a February Washington Post article reporting that after being paid to compile opposition research on Trump by Fusion GPS, 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.
The Post continued:
Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley sent the FBI a letter on March 6 requesting information and documents about the agency’s ties to Steele, including whether the FBI utilized Steele for its investigation into Trump and whether the FBI paid Steele or intended to pay him.
Simpson described Wood as informing McCain and Kramer about Steele’s work. Last month, Wood told Fox News that he served as a “go-between” to inform McCain about the dossier contents. “My mission was essentially to be a go-between and a messenger, to tell the senator and assistants that such a dossier existed,” Wood stated.
In a New York Times oped last week, Simpson and Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritch wrote that they helped get the dossier to McCain using an “emissary” with the goal of McCain passing the information contained in the questionable document to U.S. intelligence agencies.
“After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary,” the Fusion GPS founders related. “We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power.”
For the past four days, McCain’s office has not responded to Breitbart News phone and email inquiries seeking clarification of the Arizona politician’s role in delivering the discredited dossier to the U.S. intelligence community under the Obama administration.
The disclosure raises questions about whether McCain knew that the information he delivered to the Obama administration was actually an anti-Trump document reportedly funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
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.