Now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s final report predictably found no collusion between Donald Trump or his 2016 campaign and Russia, it is time for the appropriate investigative authorities to probe the possibility of crimes committed in the perpetuation of the Russia collusion hoax.
Below, in no particular order, are eight key questions related to possible wrongdoing in the sordid Russia collusion affair.
1 – Was a false crime deliberately reported to the FBI?
Former British spy Christopher Steele reportedly met on July 5, 2016 with a Rome-based special agent, where he turned over the unsubstantiated, largely-discredited anti-Trump charges listed in his infamous dossier alleging collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The controversial Fusion GPS firm hired Steele to do the anti-Trump work that resulted in the compilation of the dossier. Fusion GPS was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The dossier contents were so unverified that numerous major media outlets briefed on the document refused to publish stories on the salacious material.
The BBC reported that Steele’s information served as a “road map” for the FBI’s investigation into claims of coordination between Moscow and members of Trump’s presidential campaign.
2 – Were Obama administration officials involved in passing dossier charges of questionable political origin to the FBI or bolstering Steele’s credibility to the bureau?
David Kramer, a long-time adviser to late Senator John McCain, revealed in testimony that he met with two Obama administration officials to inquire about whether the anti-Trump dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele was being taken seriously.
In a deposition on Dec. 13, 2017 that was recently posted online, Kramer said that McCain specifically asked him in early December 2016 to meet about the dossier with Victoria Nuland, a senior official in John Kerry’s State Department, as well as an official from the National Security Council.
Nuland’s specific role in the dossier episode has been the subject of some controversy for her.
In their book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, authors and reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn write that Nuland gave the green light for the FBI to first meet with Steele regarding his dossier’s claims. It was at that meeting that Steele initially reported his dossier charges to the FBI, the book relates.
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, who at the time was assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs specializing in Russia.
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.
An extensive New Yorker profile of Steele named another former official from Kerry’s State Department for alleged involvement in circulating the dossier. The magazine reported that Kerry’s chief of staff at the State Department, John Finer, obtained the contents of a two-page summary of the dossier and eventually decided to share the questionable document with Kerry.
Finer received the dossier summary from Jonathan M. Winer, the Obama State Department official who acknowledged regularly interfacing and exchanging information with Steele, according to the report. Winer previously conceded that he shared the dossier summary with Nuland.
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 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, who is a controversial figure long tied to various Clinton scandals.
3 – Did James Comey withhold from the FISA court key information raising questions about the dossier, which was utilized as evidence in successful FISA applications to obtain successive warrants to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign?
Comey signed the first of three FISA applications in late October 2016. The second and third were renewal applications since a FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days. All three applications reportedly cited the dossier.
Comey cited the Steele dossier in the applications to monitor Page even though his own FBI determined the document was “only minimally corroborated.”
A House GOP memo on the matter relates that after dossier author Steele was terminated months earlier as an FBI source a “source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated.” Still, Comey saw fit, according to the Republican and Democrat memos, to utilize the dossier in the FISA documents.
In recently released testimony, Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official, stated he informed the FBI that the infamous, largely discredited Steele dossier was based on “hearsay” and not tangible evidence.
Ohr said that he transmitted that information in the time period before the FBI under Comey used the controversial dossier as central evidence in the FISA application.
As Breitbart News reported, Ohr also testified that he informed the FBI at the same time that Steele’s dossier was tied to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Ohr testified that he further warned his FBI superiors that the dossier information was likely “biased” against Trump and that he thought Steele was “desperate that Trump not be elected.”
Ohr revealed that he spoke to the FBI about the role of Fusion GPS in producing the dossier, and informed the agency that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked at the time for Fusion GPS.
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 and the redacted FISA application itself.
The application also did not say that the FBI was provided with any information that would raise issues of bias concerning Steele. Instead, Comey’s FISA application stated generally that “the FBI speculates” that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign — a far cry from informing the court that the dossier utilized as central evidence against Page in the FISA warrant was paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents.
The phraseology that the FBI “speculates” on possible bias is at odds with Ohr’s testimony that he directly told the FBI about several possible avenues of bias and that he had reason to believe Steele himself was biased.
In other words, Comey may have kept from the FISA court information that would at a minimum raise major questions about the dossier charges that were cited as key evidence against Page in the FISA applications.
The House Intelligence Committee memo documented that the dossier served 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 Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the 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, which does not inform the court of the dossier’s ties to the DNC, Clinton campaign or Fusion GPS, was further confirmed when the Trump administration released a redacted version of the FISA applications last July.
Meanwhile, in confirming that he told the FBI about his wife’s relationship with Fusion GPS prior to the first FISA application, Ohr also spotlights the House GOP Intel memo’s assertion that Nellie Ohr’s connection to Fusion GPS, which produced a central piece of evidence in the FISA application, was “inexplicably concealed” from the FISA court.
Comey’s FISA application is also accused of incorrectly assessing that Steele did not provide information to Yahoo News. A Yahoo News article about an alleged trip by Page to Moscow was cited as purported evidence against Page in the FISA warrant, according to the House GOP memo.
However, the memo relates that the Page FISA application “incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News.”
The GOP memo continued:
Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News and several other outlets in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.
4 – Who leaked a classified briefing about the dossier contents to CNN?
On January 10, CNN was first to report the leaked information that the controversial contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings inside classified documents presented one week earlier to then President Obama and President-elect Trump. The classified briefings were presented by Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. Comey reportedly briefed Trump alone on the most salacious charges in the dossier.
CNN cited “multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” – in other words, officials leaking information about classified briefings – revealing the dossier contents were included in a two-page synopsis that served as an addendum to a larger report on Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Prior to CNN’s report leaking the Comey briefing to Trump, 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.
All that changed when the dossier contents were presented to Obama and Trump during the classified briefings. In other words, Comey’s briefings themselves and the subsequent leak to CNN about those briefings by “multiple US officials with direct knowledge,” seem to have given the news media the opening to report on the dossier’s existence as well as allude to the document’s unproven claims.
Following the CNN report, the full dossier document was published hours later by BuzzFeed.
5 – Why were Obama and Trump briefed on the dossier in the first place given that the questionable document was funded by Trump’s primary political opponents and the FBI itself could not corroborate the wild material?
As per above, those two classified briefings were subsequently leaked to the news media and set in motion an avalanche of anti-Trump news media coverage on the dossier’s wild allegations. The briefings also may have provided the veneer of respectability to a document circulated within the news media but widely considered too unverified to publicize.
6 – What role, if any, did the Obama-era Justice Department play in perpetuating the politically tinged Russia collusion narrative?
Last year, the Justice Department inspector general (IG) referred former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to Washington’s top federal prosecutor after an IG’s report found that McCabe had lied to investigators or Comey four times, including on three occasions where McCabe was under oath.
McCabe also faced controversy over a much-debated text message from FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server. According to the four-page Republican House Intelligence Committee memo authored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Strzok message reportedly referred to “a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an ‘insurance’ policy against President Trump’s election.”
There is also the case (cited above) of Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official, who admitted to interfacing repeatedly with dossier author Steele while Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS. Fusion, again, was paid by Clinton and the DNC to compile the Steele dossier.
Possible Justice Department bias was spotlighted by the Justice Department’s Inspector General report on the Clinton email probe which described an extraordinary system of communication set up between former FBI official Lisa Page and former deputy director Andrew McCabe that bypassed the ordinary chain of command to communicate important information about the agency’s probe of Clinton’s email server.
The method of communication involved ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was romantically involved with Page, sending information on the Clinton probe to McCabe through Page, the report found.
Page and Strzok have been the subject of public controversy following revelations that they exchanged a series of anti-Trump text messages. Still more messages were revealed in the 500-plus page report Inspector General report, including messages in which the pair discussed stopping Trump from becoming president.
7 – Was the Clinton-funded dossier utilized in the Obama-era Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election? Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan gave contradictory testimony on the matter.
The January 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) report released by Comey’s FBI, Brennan’s CIA and the NSA under Mike Rogers assessed that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. It also claimed that Russia worked to aid Trump’s electoral victory.
In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, Comey stated that material from the Steele dossier was indeed utilized in the IC report. Internally, the FBI referred to the dossier as “crown material.”
“So do you recall whether any quote, crown material or dossier material was included in the IC assessment?” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked Comey.
“Yes,” Comey replied. “I’m going to be careful here because I’m talking about a document that’s still classified. The unclassified thing we talked about earlier today, the first paragraph you can see of exhibit A, is reflective of the fact that at least some of the material that Steele had collected was in the big thing called the intelligence community assessment in an annex called annex A.”
Annex A in the report was titled, “Russia—Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US.”
The annex, like the rest of the report, contains the following disclaimer:
This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.
Comey went on to describe a conversation that he said he had with Brennan about how to include the dossier material in the IC assessment:
Gowdy: Do you recall the specific conversation or back and forth with then-Director Brennan on whether or not the material should be included in the IC assessment?
Comey: Yes. I remember conversation — let me think about it for a second. I remember there was conversation about what form its presentation should take in the overarching document; that is, should it be in an annex; should it be in the body; that the intelligence community broadly found its source credible and that it was corroborative of the central thesis of the intelligence community assessment, and the discussion was should we put it in the body or put it in an attachment.
I’m hesitating because I don’t remember whether I had that conversation — I had that conversation with John Brennan, but I remember that there was conversation about how it should be treated.
Comey’s descriptions are at direct odds with a statement Brennan made during May 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in which Brennan claimed the dossier was “not in any way used as the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment” on alleged Russian interference. Brennan repeated that claim during numerous news media interviews.
Comey is not the only former top official involved in the IC report to say that the dossier played a role in the report’s conclusions.
As RealClearPolitics.com documents, former NSA Director Rogers wrote in a classified letter that the dossier played a role in the IC’s assessment and a dossier summary was included in an initial draft appendix:
In a March 5, 2018 letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Adm. Rogers informed the committee that a two-page summary of the dossier — described as “the Christopher Steele information” — was “added” as an “appendix to the ICA draft,” and that consideration of that appendix was “part of the overall ICA review/approval process.”
James Clapper, who served as director of National Intelligence under the Obama administration, conceded during a CNN interview that the IC assessment was able to corroborate “some of the substantive content of the dossier,” implying that the dossier itself was a factor.
“I think with respect to the dossier itself, the key thing is it doesn’t matter who paid for it,” Clapper said. “It’s what the dossier said and the extent to which it was — it’s corroborated or not. We had some concerns about it from the standpoint of its sourcing which we couldn’t corroborate.”
“But at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our Intelligence Community assessment which from other sources in which we had very high confidence to it,” he added.
It was Clapper’s agency that released the Intelligence Community report.
The purported inclusion of the dossier may help to explain why Rogers’ NSA assessed the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump and worked to get him elected only with a classification of “moderate confidence,” while the FBI and CIA gave it a “high confidence” rating.
8 – Was the infamous Trump Tower meeting a political dirty trick against the Trump campaign?
Multiple Breitbart News investigations into the infamous brief meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 between individuals tied to Russia, Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials point to the increasing likelihood of the confab being set up as a dirty trick against Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Three Russian participants at the meeting have ties to the controversial Fusion GPS outfit, and two have confirmed ties to Clinton.
Also, email logs brought to light show numerous emails were exchanged between a Clinton associate, Fusion GPS and Trump Tower participants, with the subjects of some of those emails listing the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials and was by all accounts the very topic of the Trump Tower meeting.
One Russian participant in the Trump Tower presentation admits to personally knowing Hillary Clinton since the late 1990s and says he “knew” some of the people who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Another Russian attendee, a translator, testified that he was previously an interpreter for Hillary herself as well as for John Kerry and Barack Obama.
Questions are also raised by a timeline showing numerous personal meetings between Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and Trump Tower participants. A Clinton associate, Ed Lieberman, was listed as being present at one and possibly two of those meetings.
Separately, Lieberman met with one Russian participant the same day of the Trump Tower meeting, according to separate testimony.
There are also questions about the initial setup of the Trump Tower meeting, with the publicist who sent the infamous email to Donald Trump Jr. promising “information that would incriminate” Clinton later admitting that he used deliberately hyperbolic language to ensure that the meeting took place. No such incriminating information on Hillary was provided, according to all meeting participants. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Robert Goldstone, the publicist, further said that he believes the meeting was a “bait and switch” by a Russian lobbyist seeking a meeting on another matter by misleadingly claiming to be bringing the Trump campaign dirt on Clinton.
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.