Disclosures: Russian Disinformation in Steele Dossier Fueled Collusion Probe by Obama, Comey, FBI

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., holds up a copy of the "Steele
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The FBI heavily relied on a Democrat-funded dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele to spy on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, even after learning that the document likely contained Russian disinformation, evidence declassified this week revealed.

On Wednesday, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA) and Ron Johnson (WI) released newly declassified footnotes from the December 2019 Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general (IG) report about the FBI’s Russia collusion probe. The footnotes indicate that the FBI may have assisted Moscow in interfering in the American elections by relying on Russian disinformation contained in Steele’s infamous “pee dossier” to carry out its collusion investigation.

FBI officials began their investigation during former President Barack Obama’s administration while the agency, a component of DOJ, was under the leadership of James Comey. The probe, which ultimately found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, carried into the current administration.

Steele’s dossier served as the FBI’s primary source for its collusion allegations, even though the agency knew Russian disinformation had tainted the information in the document. In other words, the Democrat-funded, infamous “pee dossier” that fueled the FBI’s collusion investigation relied on Russian lies.

A press release issued by Grassley and Johnson on Wednesday noted:

Despite multiple reports in 2017 warning that claims in an anti-Trump dossier [by Steele] were “false” and “part of a Russian disinformation campaign,” the FBI continued to rely on the Democrat-funded opposition research to spy on a Trump campaign aide.

The two senators added in a joint statement:

As we can see from these now-declassified footnotes in the IG’s report, Russian intelligence was aware of the dossier before the FBI even began its investigation and the FBI had reports in hand that their central piece of evidence was most likely tainted with Russian disinformation.

[DOJ] Inspector General Michael Horowitz and his team did what neither the FBI nor Special Counsel Mueller cared to do: examine and investigate corruption at the FBI, the sources of the Steele dossier, how it was disseminated, and reporting that it contained Russian disinformation.

As early as July 2016, Russian operatives were aware that Steele was investigating then-presidential candidate Trump, the footnotes showed.

That year, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democrat party hired Steele to compile information on the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.

FBI officials ignored warnings in January 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have targeted and collected data on Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, the newly released information revealed.

According to the declassified footnotes, a February 2017 intelligence report also warned the FBI that Russian intelligence officers had infiltrated Steele’s network of sources that contributed to the dossier.

That year, Russian operatives reportedly fed disinformation to Steele contained in his anti-Trump dossier used by the FBI as its central evidence to obtain authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court to wiretap Carter Page, a former aide to the Trump campaign.

In its December 2019 audit, the DOJ IG highlighted “at least 17 significant errors and omissions” in the Page federal surveillance application that enabled the Russia collusion probe in 2016.

In 2017, various reports relayed information to the FBI, highlighting inaccuracies in the dossier, warning that some of the information in the document “was a part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations,” the declassified footnotes said.

FBI officials also learned from a February 2017 intelligence report that allegations about Trump’s sexual activities during a 2013 trip to Moscow were false, a footnote showed.

The allegations reportedly stemmed from Russian intelligence “‘infiltrat[ing] a source into the network’ of a [REDACTED] who compiled a dossier of information on Trump’s activities.”

Another footnote pointed out that the FBI dismissed a warning in October 2016 that a Steel contact was “rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer.”

Meanwhile, a different footnote noted that the FBI also ignored Steele’s “frequent contacts” with Russian oligarchs.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal noted about the new revelations:

The FBI has brushed off concerns it was manipulated, telling the IG that the bureau evaluated and dismissed the idea. … This is the same FBI that by January 2017 had tracked down Mr. Steele’s primary source, who admitted that most of what Mr. Steele reported was “rumor” and “hearsay.” Yet former FBI Director Jim Comey and his coterie pushed the disinformation on the secret [ Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA] court.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian election interference barely mentioned the Steele dossier.

“It’s now clear that Mr. Mueller and his team of Obama Justice Department holdovers—including deputy Andrew Weissmann—didn’t want to expose anything about the FBI and Justice mistakes and misinformation,” the Journal noted.


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