CIA Believed Steele Dossier to Be ‘Internet Rumor,’ Still Included in IC Assessment Appendix

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper(L) and CIA Director John Brennan chat before testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats to America and its allies, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 9, 2016. / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images

A Justice Department inspector general report released Monday revealed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believed Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier alleging Trump-Russia collusion was “internet rumor,” but it was still included in a January 2017 intelligence community assessment’s appendix that was briefed to President-Elect Donald Trump, triggering its publication by Buzzfeed.

The report said on December 17, 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey completed a review of the FBI’s draft submission for the intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference efforts in the election and told subordinates he told then-Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper the Steele reporting was important. He said Clapper thanked him for letting him know and it was not discussed further.

The report said during the interagency editing process of the ICA, the CIA later expressed concern about using the Steele dossier in the text of the ICA.

The report stated:

The [FBI] Supervisory Intel Analyst explained that the CIA believed that the Steele election reporting was not completely vetted and did not merit inclusion in the body of the report. The Intel Section Chief stated that the CIA viewed it as ‘internet rumor,'” and wanted to include the reporting in an appendix, not the body.

However, then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe wrote on December 28, 2016, to the then-ODNI principal deputy director objecting to the CIA’s proposal, to put it in the appendix.

McCabe told the inspector general that he wanted Steele’s reporting to be included in the ICA because President Obama had requested “everything you have relevant to this topic of Russian influence,” although not vetted, it was “consistent” with information from other sources and came from a source with a “good track record,” and that Trump needed to be advised because it had been widely circulated and was likely to leak into the public realm.

McCabe said he feared placing it in an appendix would “minimize” the information and prevent it from being properly considered. The CIA’s view won, and only included a short summary of Steele’s reporting in the appendix.

Steele’s reporting was later briefed to Trump — a briefing that served as the basis of a CNN report on the dossier. Shortly after, Buzzfeed published the dossier in full.

The report also shed some light on whose idea it was to include Steele’s reporting at all, despite the CIA believing it to be “internet rumor.”

According to the report, Comey had discussed Steele’s reporting with Clapper, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and then-National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, about how it should not be integrated into the ICA, but “important enough and consistent enough that it ought to be part of the package in some way.”

“They had come up with this idea to make an [appendix]. I remember, I don’t think I was part of a debate about that, as I said, but I remember a conversation where I was told that’s how it would be handled and my reaction was, okay, that’s reasonable,” Comey stated, according to the report.

The IG report also revealed that the dossier formed a central part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on a then-Trump campaign member, Carter Page, despite Democrat denials.

 

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