In testimony, former FBI Director James Comey says that prior to signing a FISA application to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, Comey was aware that the dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele was financed by Democrats who opposed President Donald Trump.
Yet according to Democratic and Republican House Intelligence memos, that information was not specifically included in the FISA application, which in part relied on Steele’s work to obtain warrants to monitor Page.
The Steele dossier was reportedly funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, Comey was asked about his knowledge of Steele’s political patrons. A transcript of Comey’s testimony was released on Saturday.
I thought he was retained as part of a Republican-financed effort — retained by Republicans adverse to Mr. Trump during the primary season, and then his work was underwritten after that by Democrats opposed to Mr. Trump during the general election season.
“When did you learn that his work went from being financed by what you described as Republicans to what you described as Democrats?” Comey was asked.
The former FBI director was also asked whether he learned about political actors financing Steele “before there were any court filings” — a clear reference to the FISA application, which Comey first signed in late October 2016.
Comey replied: “I certainly learned of it before the end of October. And I think the filing that you’re referring to obliquely was at the end of October sometime. So, it was before that.”
Comey’s FISA application to conduct surveillance did not specifically state that the FBI had information that Steele was being paid in connection with any U.S. political party, according to House documents.
A House Intelligence Committee memo released last February documented that as FBI director, Comey signed three FISA applications to spy on Page with the dossier serving as part of the basis for the warrant requests.
“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.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a rebuttal of the House memo that confirms the key contention that the FBI and DOJ both failed to inform the FISA court that Steele’s dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The Democratic memo quotes a footnote from the FISA application, which says that Steele:
was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. person and Source #1 have a long-standing business relationship.) The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
That footnote was further confirmed when the Trump administration released a redacted version of the FISA applications last July.
The statement in Comey’s FISA application that “the FBI speculates” that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign is a far cry from informing the court that the dossier utilized in the FISA warrant was paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Clinton and the DNC.
Meanwhile, there are immediate problems with Comey’s latest testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Not only does Comey say he “thought” Steele “was retained as part of a Republican-financed effort” that was then switched over to Democratic financing, Comey also gives an alleged timeframe for when he claims that he learned about that purported information. He says he learned about it “sometime in September, October … when I was briefed on the materials that had been provided to the FBI.”
The Republican-led effort Comey cited was a reference to actions taken by the Washington Free Beacon, which admitted to hiring Fusion GPS to investigate “multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary.”
An issue for Comey is that the Free Beacon says it had nothing to do with Steele’s work for Fusion GPS, meaning that Comey’s characterization of Steele’s dossier as being originally financed as part of a “Republican-financed effort” is at odds with the Free Beacon’s public statements on the matter.
The Free Beacon stated: “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. Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign.”
Another issue for Comey is that in his latest testimony he repeatedly stated that as director of the FBI he “never” knew that Fusion GPS had been hired to do its anti-Trump research by the Perkins Coie law firm, which represented Clinton and the DNC.
Yet the FISA warrant signed three times by Comey stated the FBI had information that Steele had been hired by a “U.S.-based law firm.” It stated the FBI “was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia.”
Here is a transcript of the relevant portions of Comey’s latest testimony as it relates to Perkins Coie:
Mr. Gowdy: When did you learn that Fusion GPS was hired by Perkins Coie?
Mr. Comey: I never learned that, certainly not while I was Director.
Mr. Gowdy: Well, when did you learn the DNC had hired Perkins Coie?
Mr. Comey: I never learned that. Again, while I was Director. I think I’ve read it in the media, but, yeah, even today, I don’t know whether it’s true.
Mr. Gowdy: While you were the Director, you never knew that the DNC hired a law firm that hired an oppo research firm that hired Christopher Steele?
Mr. Comey: No, I don’t think so. I don’t have any recollection of being told that or reading that or learning that while I was Director.
Comey was not asked to explain how he could sign three FISA warrants stating that Steele was hired by a “U.S.-based law firm” yet claim not to know Steele was hired by Perkins Coie.
Later in the testimony, a skeptical Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked Comey to explain his claim that he didn’t know Steele was being paid via Perkins Coie considering testimony from Comey’s own legal counsel, FBI official James Baker, that Baker was contacted by an attorney for Perkins Coie and was provided documents related to the Russia probe.
Here is the relevant portion of that testimony:
Mr. Meadows: Let me ask one clarifying question, if you don’t mind. Director Comey, you were saying that you had no knowledge that Perkins Coie was actually involved with the Democrat National Committee and involved in this particular investigation that ultimately was initiated. Is that correct?
Mr. Comey: I, when I was FBI Director, don’t remember ever being told anything about Perkins Coie. I think I’ve since read stuff in the media, but not when I was Director.
Mr. Meadows: So are you saying that James Baker, your general counsel, who received direct information from Perkins Coie, did so and conveyed that to your team without your knowledge?
Mr. Comey: I don’t know.
Mr. Meadows: What do you mean you don’t know? I mean, did he tell you or not?
Mr. Comey: Oh, I — well —
Mr. Meadows: James Baker, we have testimony that would indicate that he received information directly from Perkins Coie; he had knowledge that they were representing the Democrat National Committee and, indeed, collected that information and conveyed it to the investigative team. Did he tell you that he received that information from them? And I can give you a name if you want to know who he received it from.
Mr. Comey: I don’t remember the name Perkins Coie at all.
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.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.