NEW YORK — In testimony, James Comey admitted that when he infamously briefed then President-elect Donald Trump about the controversial dossier, Comey did not inform the incoming president about who financed the document.
The detail, contained in a second round of Comey’s testimony released earlier this week, is particularly relevant since the embattled former FBI director admitted in testimony two weeks ago that he was aware the dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele was financed by Democrats who opposed Trump.
Comey’s seeming withholding of information from Trump about the political origins of the dossier raises further questions. Comey last year stated that he pushed back against a request from Trump to possibly investigate the origins of “salacious material” – meaning the dossier — that the agency possessed in the course of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees on Monday, Comey was asked whether he informed Trump about the dossier’s financing.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked: “In this meeting, did you tell the President who had financed the dossier?”
“No,” was Comey’s simple reply.
Jordan was referring to Comey’s early January 2017 official briefing to Trump about the dossier. That briefing was subsequently leaked to the news media, with CNN on January 10, 2017 breaking the story that the contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings one week earlier to Trump and then-President Barack Obama.
Prior to CNN’s report leaking the briefings, which was picked up by news agencies worldwide, the contents of the dossier had been circulating among news media outlets, but the sensational claims were largely considered too risky to publish.
Questions have been raised on the need to include the dossier’s wild and unsubstantiated charges in the classified briefings, which were reportedly conducted by Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. Comey reportedly stayed in the room alone with Trump afterwards to orally brief the incoming president on the most salacious allegations. In his latest testimony, Comey stated that some of the dossier’s other charges were included in written material presented to Trump during the course of the briefing.
With his latest testimony, Comey has now reconfirmed that Trump was not told at the briefing, which took place at Trump Tower in New York, that the dossier had been paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkin Coie law firm.
In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Comey conceded he knew Democrats funded the dossier when he was asked about his knowledge of Steele’s political patrons.
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 to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Comey first signed the FISA application 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. In other words, Comey may have kept from the FISA court information that would raise questions about the dossier charges, which were cited as evidence against Page in the FISA applications.
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.
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.