NEW YORK — David J. Kramer, a former State Department official and longtime associate of John McCain, reportedly invoked the Fifth Amendment to get out of testifying before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the infamous, largely discredited 35-page dossier on President Donald Trump.
Kramer, who is a central player in how the unverified Trump dossier made its way to the FBI in late 2016, testified before the committee in December in a closed-door session, indicating he had information about the dossier’s sources. A subpoena was issued for mid-January, as first reported by the Washington Examiner.
The law enforcement source confirmed, however, that Kramer did not appear and has exercised his Fifth Amendment rights.
In addition to being asked to testify on Capital Hill, Kramer last December gave a videotaped deposition as part of a separate court case against BuzzFeed, which first published the dossier. According to a characterization of the deposition by Fox News, which viewed British court documents, Kramer discussed his communication with Christopher Steele, the former British spy hired by the controversial Fusion GPS firm to produce the questionable, anti-Trump document. However, Kramer’s attorneys have reportedly requested that the deposition be kept private.
FoxNews.com posed the following four questions to Kramer’s Florida attorney, Marcos Jimenez:
Fox News asked why Kramer took the Fifth; why he’s no longer cooperating with the committee; why they want to keep the BuzzFeed deposition under seal; and whether Kramer helped provide the document to BuzzFeed.
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 its full unverified contents.
Last October, 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.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Kramer received a copy of the dossier directly from Fusion GPS after McCain expressed interest in the document. McCain then reportedly passed the dossier directly to FBI Director James Comey.
Those details marked the clearest indication yet that McCain may have known that the dossier originated with Fusion GPS, meaning that he may have knowingly passed on political material to the FBI.
Until now, it has not been clear whether McCain was aware of the origins of the dossier when he hand delivered the unsubstantiated document to Comey.
It is still not clear whether McCain knew that Fusion GPS’s anti-Trump work resulting in the dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
McCain has not responded to multiple Breitbart News requests seeking comment on the matter.
The details about McCain’s involvement were buried toward the end of a nearly 4,100-word February 6 Post article titled, “Hero or hired gun? How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation.” The article was an extensive report describing the work done by Steele, who was contracted by Fusion GPS to produce the dossier. The Post article followed the release of a four-page House Intelligence Committee memo alleging abuse of surveillance authority allegedly utilizing the questionable dossier.
According to the Post, Steele originally sought out Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow and friend of Steele, for advice prior to the election concerning his alleged research into Trump.
In mid-November, following Trump’s victory, Wood reportedly turned to Steele to discuss whether additional steps were necessary to ensure the U.S. government was aware of Steele’s charges about Trump and Russia.
Wood said that he then reached out to Kramer, who was known for his close ties to McCain, according to the Post.
The Post cited Wood explaining that Kramer had arranged for Wood to meet McCain in December 2016 on the sidelines of a security conference in Canada. There, Wood described detailing Steele’s claims at the meeting with McCain, telling the Arizona senator that he could arrange for the politician to review the purported research.
“I told him, ‘I know there’s a document. I haven’t read it, but it seems to me that it’s reliably set up,’” Wood told the Post.
Wood described McCain as being “visibly shocked,” and expressing interest in reading the full report.
Ten days after the Canada meeting, Kramer met Steele at Heathrow Airport in London and then went to Steele’s home, where the McCain associate spent several hours reviewing the dossier claims, according to people familiar with the events who spoke to the Post.
The Post relates that Kramer then received a physical copy of the dossier directly from Fusion GPS Co-Founder Glenn R. Simpson:
Back in Washington, Kramer received a copy of the dossier from Simpson and completed the handoff to McCain. In a private meeting on Dec. 9, McCain gave Comey the dossier — passing along information that Steele had provided to the FBI earlier in the year.
Shortly before Inauguration Day, Comey briefed Trump on the document, alerting him to what the FBI director would later describe to Congress as a report that contained “salacious, unverified” information that was circulating in the media.
The Post’s reporting marks the first public description of McCain’s associate, Kramer, as having received the dossier directly from Fusion GPS.
In a New York Times oped last month, Simpson and fellow GPS Co-Founder Peter Fritch wrote that they helped McCain share their anti-Trump dossier with the Obama-era intelligence community via an unnamed “emissary.”
“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.”
Simpson did not write that he directly handed the dossier to any “emissary.” It was not clear from the obscure phraseology in the Times oped whether McCain knew Fusion GPS was behind the dossier or whether the unnamed “emissary” was even aware of Fusion GPS’s connection to the document. The Post’s revelation about Kramer reportedly receiving the dossier from Simpson sheds new light on the topic.
A January 11, 2017 statement from McCain attempted to explain why he provided the Steele dossier 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.”
Newsweek earlier reported that McCain directly Kramer to meet Steele:
Kramer was reportedly directed to meet with Steele in London by McCain, who then received copies of the Trump-Russia dossier and delivered them to the Arizona senator upon returning home. McCain then gave the dossier to the FBI in December 2016.
Also, Fox News, which saw the British court documents related to a civil lawsuit, reported that Steele testified that an arrangement was made whereby Fusion GPS would use Kramer to deliver hard copies of the dossier to McCain, who in turn gave the dossier to the FBI.
It is still unclear why McCain needed to deliver the dossier to Comey last December. By then, according to the House memo, the FBI had not only already launched an investigation into Trump’s campaign partially utilizing the dossier but Comey himself had two months earlier signed an application using the dossier to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page, who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign.
Shortly after McCain gave Steele’s dossier to Comey, the FBI chief updated then President-Elect Trump and President Obama on the dossier in a classified briefing.
As Breitbart News documented, Comey’s dossier briefing to Trump was subsequently leaked to the news media, setting in motion a flurry of news media attention on the dossier, including the release of the document to the public. The briefing also may have provided the veneer of respectability to a document that had been circulating for months within the news media but widely considered too unverified to publicize.
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.