NEW YORK — Numerous officials from John Kerry’s State Department have been fingered for playing roles in the distribution – and in one case, possibly also the compilation – of the largely discredited, 35-page anti-Trump dossier.
President Trump has been facing news media scrutiny for tweeting on Sunday about “leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels” of federal agencies, including the State Department.
As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
While Trump did not provide specifics, two top officials at Kerry’s State Department have already admitted to involvement in the dossier affair, and a third has been named.
Dossier author Christopher Steele was commissioned to produce the questionable document by the controversial Fusion GPS opposition research firm, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The Steele dossier was reportedly utilized by the FBI in part to conduct its probe into Trump over unsubstantiated claims of collusion with Russia. According to House Intelligence Committee documents, the questionable dossier was also used by Obama administration officials to obtain a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign. The political origins of the dossier and issues relating to Steele’s credibility as a source were kept from the FISA court, a House Republican memo documents.
Below are five major problems regarding the dossier and the roles allegedly played by Kerry State Department officials.
1 – State Department official Jonathan Winer exchanged documents and information with dossier author Christopher Steele, and passed the dossier contents to other officials at the State Department. Winer admitted to receiving information from Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal that originated with Cody Shearer, a shadowy former tabloid journalist who has long been closely associated with various Clinton scandals. Winer conceded that he passed Shearer’s anti-Trump material to Steele.
After his name surfaced in news media reports related to probes by House Republicans into the dossier, Winer authored a Washington Post oped in which he conceded that while he was working at the State Department he exchanged documents and information with dossier author and former British spy Christopher Steele.
Winer further acknowledged that while at the State Department, he shared anti-Trump material with Steele passed to him by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, whom Winer described as an “old friend.” Winer wrote that the material from Blumenthal – which Winer in turn gave to Steele – originated with Cody Shearer.
Winer served under Bill Clinton’s administration as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement. He wrote in his recent Washington Post oped that he rejoined the State Department in 2013 at the insistence of John Kerry.
In the Post piece, Winer related that while he was at the State Department, he repeatedly passed documents from Steele related to Russia to State officials, including to Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat who worked under the Clintons and served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Kerry.
“Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful,” he wrote.
Winer wrote that in the summer of 2016, Steele “told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials.”
Winer says that he met with Steele in September 2016 to discuss details that would later become known as the anti-Trump dossier. Winer wrote that he prepared a two-page summary of Steele’s information and “shared it with Nuland, who indicated that, like me, she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.”
Besides bringing Steele’s dossier information to the State Department, Winer conceded that he also passed information from Blumenthal to Steele, specifically charges about Trump that originated with Shearer.
Winer described what he claimed was the evolution of his contacts with Blumenthal regarding Shearer’s information, which he says he passed to Steele:
In late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-Contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at the Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.
What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources. On my own, I shared a copy of these notes with Steele, to ask for his professional reaction. He told me it was potentially “collateral” information. I asked him what that meant. He said that it was similar but separate from the information he had gathered from his sources. I agreed to let him keep a copy of the Shearer notes.
Shearer has numerous close personal and family connections to the Clintons and has reportedly been involved in numerous antics tied to them. National Review previously dubbed Shearer a “Creepy Clinton Confidante” and “The Strangest Character in Hillary’s Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
In his Washington Post oped, Winer does not say whether he knew at the time he interfaced with Steele that the ex-British spy was working for Fusion GPS, or that Fusion was being paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign via the Perkins Coie law firm.
2 – Victoria Nuland, a senior official in Kerry’s State Department, gave the green light for the FBI to first meet with Steele regarding his wild claims about Trump and Russia, according to a book released last week. It was at that meeting that Steele initially reported his dossier charges to the FBI, the book relates.
The book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, is authored by reporters by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.
The new book documents Steele told Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson that he believed the claims that he uncovered about Trump represented a “grave national security threat” that needed to be reported to the FBI. Simpson eventually allowed Steele to report the dossier’s claims to the FBI, the book reports.
Steele sought out Rome-based FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, with whom he had worked on a previous case. Before Gaeta met with Steele on July 5, 2016, the book relates that the FBI first secured the support of Nuland.
Regarding the arrangements for Steele’s initial meeting with the FBI about the dossier claims, Isikoff and Corn report:
There were a few hoops Gaeta had to jump through. He was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Rome. The FBI checked with Victoria Nuland’s office at the State Department : Do you support this meeting ? Nuland, having found Steele’s reports on Ukraine to have been generally credible, gave the green light.
Within a few days, on July 5, Gaeta arrived and headed to Steele’s office near Victoria station . Steele handed him a copy of the report. Gaeta, a seasoned FBI agent, started to read . He turned white. For a while, Gaeta said nothing . Then he remarked, “I have to report this to headquarters.”
The book documents that Nuland previously received Steele’s reports on the Ukrainian crisis and had been familiar with Steele’s general work.
Nuland did not return a Breitbart News request for comment. She previously served as chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott under Bill Clinton’s administration, and then served as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.
Nuland faced confirmation questions prior to her most recent appointment as assistant secretary of state over her reported role in revising controversial Obama administration talking points about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks. Her reported changes sought to protect Hillary Clinton’s State Department from accusations that it failed to adequately secure the woefully unprotected U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi.
3 – Kerry’s former chief of staff reportedly circulated a dossier summary while at the State Department.
An extensive New Yorker profile of Steele from earlier this month named Kerry’s chief of staff at the State Department, John Finer, as obtaining the contents of a two-page summary of the dossier and eventually deciding to share the questionable document with Kerry.
Finer received the dossier summary from Winer.
New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer named Finer in her report:
In September, 2016, Steele briefed Winer on the dossier at a Washington hotel. Winer prepared a two-page summary and shared it with a few senior State Department officials. Among them were Nuland and Jon Finer, the director of policy planning and the chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry. For several days, Finer weighed whether or not to burden Kerry with the information. He’d found the summary highly disturbing, but he didn’t know how to assess its claims. Eventually, he decided that, since others knew, his boss should know, too.
When Kerry was briefed, though, he didn’t think there was any action that he could take. He asked if FBI agents knew about the dossier, and, after being assured that they did, that was apparently the end of it. Finer agreed with Kerry’s assessment, and put the summary in his safe, and never took it out again. Nuland’s reaction was much the same. She told Winer to tell Steele to take his dossier to the FBI. The so-called Deep State, it seems, hardly jumped into action against Trump.
In February, the Daily Beast cited “a person familiar with that conversation” as saying that Finer was questioned as part of the Senate intelligence committee’s investigation.
The report did not mention Finer’s alleged involvement with the dossier affair.
4 – Kerry State Department official Winer says that fellow State Department official Nuland recommended that the dossier be taken to Kerry.
As also cited above, Winer wrote in his Washington Post piece about obtaining the dossier information from Steele:
I was allowed to review, but not to keep, a copy of these reports to enable me to alert the State Department. I prepared a two-page summary and shared it with Nuland, who indicated that, like me, she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.
5 – Winer and Nuland give seemingly conflicting accounts of Nuland’s handling of the Trump hoax dossier.
Nuland described in a recent Politico podcast interview what she claimed was her reaction when she was presented with Steele’s dossier information at the State Department.
She said that she offered advice to “those who were interfacing with” Steele, immediately telling the intermediary or intermediaries that Steele “should get this information to the FBI.” She further explained that a career employee at the State Department could not get involved with the dossier charges since such actions could violate the Hatch Act, which prevents employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in certain kinds of political activities.
In a second interview, this one with CBS’s Face The Nation, Nuland also stated that her “immediate” reaction was to refer Steele to the FBI.
Here is a transcript of the relevant section of her February 5 interview with Susan B. Glasser, who described Nuland as “my friend” and referred to her by her nickname “Toria”:
Glasser: When did you first hear about his dossier?
Nuland: I first heard — and I didn’t know who his client was until much later, until 2017, I think, when it came out. I first heard that he had done work for a client asserting these linkages — I think it was late July, something like that.
Glasser: That’s very interesting. And you would have taken him seriously just because you knew that he knew what he was talking about on Russia?
Nuland: What I did was say that this is about U.S. politics, and not the work of — not the business of the State Department, and certainly not the business of a career employee who is subject to the Hatch Act, which requires that you stay out of politics. So, my advice to those who were interfacing with him was that he should get this information to the FBI, and that they could evaluate whether they thought it was credible.
Glasser: Did you ever talk about it with anyone else higher up at the department? With Secretary Kerry or anybody else?
Nuland: Secretary Kerry was also aware. I think he’s on the record and he had the same advice.
Nuland stated that Kerry “was also aware” of the dossier, but she did not describe how he was made aware. She made clear that she told “those who were interfacing” with Steele to go to the FBI since any State Department involvement could violate the Hatch Act.
Her Politico podcast interview was not the only time she claimed that her reaction was to refer Steele to the FBI.
On Face The Nation on February 4, Nuland engaged in the following exchange in which she stated her “immediate” reaction was to refer Steele to the FBI (emphasis added):
MARGARET BRENNAN: The dossier.
VICTORIA NULAND: The dossier, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, “This is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI, if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”
And that was our reaction when we saw this. It’s not our — we can’t evaluate this. And frankly, if every member of the campaign who the Russians tried to approach and tried to influence had gone to the FBI as well in real time, we might not be in the mess we’re in today.
Nuland gave the two interviews after her name started surfacing in news media reports involving Kerry’s State Department and the dossier. Her name also came up in relation to a criminal referral of Steele to the Justice Department in the form of a recent letter authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
It is Winer’s version of events that seems to conflict with Nuland’s.
In his Washington Post oped, Winer writes that Nuland’s reaction was that “she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.” He does not relate any further reaction from Nuland.
Nuland’s public claim that her “immediate” response was to refer Steele to the FBI since State involvement could violate the Hatch Act seems to conflict with the only reaction that Winer relates from Nuland – that she felt Kerry should be made aware of the dossier information.
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.