NEW YORK — Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey conceded that when it came to details inside the infamous anti-Trump dossier his FBI “didn’t know whether they were true or false.”
Yet in late October 2016, Comey signed the first of three successful FISA applications to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The second and third were renewal applications since a FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days.
All three applications reportedly cited as key evidence against Page the dossier produced by the controversial Fusion GPS firm which 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 was authored by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
According to Republican House characterizations, the FISA applications signed by Comey withheld key information raising questions about the dossier, including that it was financed by Clinton and the DNC and had known credibility issues.
Speaking at a CNN town hall event that aired on Thursday night, Comey said the “bureau began an effort after we got the Steele dossier to try and see how much of it we could replicate. That work was ongoing when I was fired.”
Yet aside from the general charge that Russia was seeking to interfere in the election, there were questions about the other dossier claims, he said, seemingly referring to the portions that sought to link Trump campaign officials to Russia.
Some of it was consistent with our other intelligence, the most important part. The Steele dossier said the Russians are coming for the American election. It’s a huge effort. It has multiple goals that I laid out for the audience. And that was true.
There were a lot of spokes off of that that we didn’t know whether they were true or false, and we were trying to figure out what we could make of it.
Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official, admitted in testimony released in March that he informed the FBI that the anti-Trump 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.
Critically, Ohr said that he transmitted all of that information in the time period before the FBI under James Comey certified the FISA application to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Comey signed the first FISA application in late October 2016.
Ohr’s testimony raises numerous immediate issues for the FBI and separately for Comey.
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, namely Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
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 released last February documented that Comey’s FISA applications did not disclose the information tying Clinton and the DNC to the dossier.
“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, 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.
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.