Newly declassified documents raise serious questions about James Comey potentially withholding damning information regarding the credibility of Russia collusion charges repeatedly relied upon to obtain four successive warrants to spy on a member of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The documents, reviewed in full by Breitbart News, show that a senior official in the FBI under Comey was told early on from professional colleagues of dossier author Christopher Steele that they found Steele to possess traits evidencing “poor judgement,” a “lack of self-awareness” and issues with validating claims. The official was provided this assessment as part of an FBI review of Steele’s reliability.
Yet the FBI saw fit to repeatedly rely in part upon now debunked Russia collusion charges that originated in a series of wild claims collected by Steele when the agency successfully applied for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to spy on Carter Page, a tangential foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The negative findings about Steele’s character were collected in November and December of 2016 from meetings with professional colleagues who were aware of Steele’s work performance in a previous position, the declassified documents show.
At issue for Comey is a sentence about Steele’s reliability that featured on the first warrant obtained from the FISA court to spy on Page but went conspicuously missing from three renewal applications.
On October 20, 2016, the original FISA warrant signed by Comey told the FISA court in an extensive footnote that the FBI was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele.
That was one month before an FBI official looking into Steele’s reliability met abroad with “persons who previously had professional contacts with Steele or had knowledge of his work.”
The documents show the FBI query looking into Steele received both positive and negative reviews from those work colleagues.
The positive comments described Steele as “smart,” a “person of integrity,” and “[i]f he reported it, he believed it.”
The criticism, however, was quite damning when it came to the colleagues’ opinion of Steele’s work collecting information.
Colleagues said Steele “[d]emonstrates lack of self-awareness,” exercised “poor judgment,” and was “[k]een to help” but that willingness was “underpinned by poor judgment.”
Other negatives collected from Steele’s work colleagues included “Judgment: pursuing people with political risk but no intel value,” and “[d]idn’t always exercise great judgment sometimes [he] believes he knows best.”
Also, the colleagues told the FBI that Steele does “[r]eporting in good faith, but not clear what he would have done to validate.”
There is no indication in the declassified FISA applications that any of these assessments were reported to the court by the FBI in three renewal applications that were filed for months after the agency learned about the criticisms of Steele’s work. Instead, the warrants continued to vouch for Steele’s reliability.
The language in the same footnote on renewal applications removed the sentence that the FBI was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele. The findings with potentially derogatory information about Steele collected by the FBI were not added to that footnote.
Instead, the same footnote informed the FISA court that “in or about October 2016,” the FBI had to “suspend its relationship” with Steele because of his “unauthorized disclosure of information to the press.”
Not only did the FBI’s three FISA renewal applications not mention the potentially derogatory information it collected on Steele in that footnote, it used the same footnote to seemingly deceptively continue to uphold Steele’s alleged reliability. The footnote assessed Steele as being “reliable” even though he spoke to the media.
Even after directly cutting off Steele over his decision to speak to a media outlet, there are numerous reports the FBI continued to obtain Steele’s Russia collusion claims about the Trump campaign via Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official.
But even Ohr said in testimony that he informed the FBI that Steele’s dossier was based on “hearsay” and not tangible evidence. Ohr’s testimony provides a timeline that he transmitted the criticism of Steele’s dossier to the FBI in the period before Comey used the dossier as central evidence in the successful FISA applications to conduct surveillance on Page.
As Breitbart News reported, Ohr also testified that he informed the FBI 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 FISA warrant didn’t mention Fusion GPS, either.
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 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.
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.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKlein_