Revelations the past few days and weeks about the FBI’s so-called Russia collusion probe raise more than enough questions to warrant a renewed government investigation into actions taken at the agency during James Comey’s tenure there.
The past three weeks saw the declassification of key portions of documents from the FBI’s controversial Crossfire Hurricane investigation, including the release of FBI transcripts and the removal of some redactions from Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrants to spy on a member of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Also, internal FBI documents were released yesterday containing damning materials showing possible FBI wrongdoing in their probe of Trump’s then-national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Below is a list of just some of the revelations from the newly declassified documents that spotlight possible misdeeds on the FBI in investigating now debunked claims of collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The list includes disclosures from the past three weeks alone and does not include other disclosures from the past two years raising many more questions.
1 – FBI notes show internal motivations on interviewing Michael Flynn “to get him to lie” and “get him fired.”
Fox News reported the smoking-gun notes were written by Bill Priestap, the FBI’s former head of counterintelligence, documenting conclusions from a meeting with Comey and then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“What is our goal?” one note reads. “Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
The note discussed whether the FBI should get Flynn “to admit to breaking the Logan Act” during a conversation he had with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The Logan Act is an obscure law banning negotiation by unauthorized American citizens with foreign governments in dispute with the U.S. It was only used twice to indict to Americans – once in 1802 and another in 1852. Neither case ended in a conviction.
Amid the questions about FBI conduct in the Flynn case, it may be instructive to recall evidence of underhanded FBI spy tactics against both Flynn and President Trump.
In February, Breitbart News first spotlighted a largely unreported section of an extensive Inspector General report revealing the FBI under Comey deceptively sent a senior member of the team investigating alleged Russian collusion to conduct an official briefing with Flynn and Trump.
Unbeknownst to both Trump and Flynn, that FBI investigator memorialized that briefing, which included exchanges with Flynn and Trump, in an official document that was added to the Crossfire Hurricane case file probing the Trump campaign over unsubstantiated and ultimately discredited charges of Russian collusion.
This means the FBI’s controversial Crossfire Hurricane probe team investigating members of the Trump campaign not only directly interfaced with Trump and Flynn without telling them but also recorded their comments in the official case file. Flynn at the time was already a target of the FBI probe.
Moreover, the FBI investigator who conducted the briefing says that he used the occasion as an opportunity to study Flynn’s behavior and mannerisms just in case the FBI needed to eventually conduct a subject interview of Flynn. Indeed, the same investigator himself was the FBI agent who conducted an in-person FBI interview with Flynn on January 24, 2017 in connection with the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.
2 – The FBI relied on the infamous dossier despite information that its wild claims were Russian disinformation.
We already know the FBI reportedly used Christopher Steele’s dossier as a partial roadmap for its own probe and as central “evidence” to obtain FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. This even though the FBI was aware Steele was working on behalf of Fusion GPS, which was paid to produce the dossier by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm. We also know that the FBI did not share that specific information with the FISA court.
Two weeks ago, further declassification shows Comey’s FBI obtained information from a source that the wild and unsubstantiated “golden showers” claim about Trump was not only false but was likely a product of Russian disinformation.
One newly unredacted footnote to an Inspector General report documents that the FBI was alerted in 2017 that one of Steele’s allegations included in the dossier was “part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.” Meaning Steele’s wild charges about Trump may have been part of a Russian misinformation campaign.
Another footnote says the Russian Intelligence Service may have targeted Obris, Steele’s company, and that Russian intelligence was aware of Steele’s investigation into Trump.
That footnote states:
In late January 2017, a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team received information that RIS may have targeted Orbis and research all publicly available information about it.
However, an early June 2017 USIC report indicated that two persons affiliated with RIS were aware of Steele’s election investigation in early July 2016. The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us he was aware of these reports, but that he had no information as of June 2017 that Steele’s election reporting source network had been penetrated or compromised.
Before those footnotes, there were already questions about whether Steele’s so-called sources were a product of Russian misinformation.
As Breitbart News previously reported, a book by the co-founders of Fusion GPS disclosed that Steele was unable to travel to Russia because the Russian government had reason since 1999 to suspect he was an MI6 intelligence officer. The information raises questions about the credibility of any supposed information on Trump that could be obtained by Steele from alleged Russian sources given that Russia had already suspected his ties to British intelligence.
3 – Comey used Steele’s dossier despite the FBI internally finding contradictory information about its claims.
Another newly released bombshell footnote in the IG report documents the FBI was not only aware Steele’s dossier was potentially influenced by Russian “disinformation”, the agency also had information from sources totally denying some of Steele’s main claims.
The footnote reveals an “inaccuracy” about Steele’s claims about former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. The “inaccuracy” is not listed in the footnote. Steele’s dossier claimed that Cohen met with Russian agents in Prague in the summer of 2016. After that charge was first revealed in media reports, Cohen released passport information showing he never traveled to Progue.
Another footnote cited a source unsurprisingly entirely denying the “golden showers” charge.
4 – Comey’s FBI relied on Steele despite the agency’s own warnings about him.
As early as 2015, a unit within the FBI was skeptical of Steele’s Russian contacts and recommended that his work be put through a validation review.
The FBI, however, did not conduct such a review until 2017 and even then, didn’t include the results of the review in Steele’s official file at the agency’s electronic record-keeping system, the newly declassified documents reveal. As detailed above and below, the FBI review found major problems with Steele’s reporting. There is no evidence the FISA court was told about these findings.
5 – Comey’s FISA applications deleted a claim about the FBI having no known critiques of Steele while Comey failed to inform the FISA court of known critiques about Steele.
The newly declassified documents show that a senior official in the FBI under Comey was told early on from Steele’s professional colleagues 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.
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 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.
6 – The FBI used a left-wing conspiracy theory to obtain the FISA warrants and spy on Page.
The newly declassified documents show that in order to build its dubious case of Russian collusion to the FISA court, Comey’s FBI utilized the misleading Democratic Party talking point that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had the Republican Party platform gutted so as to “not provide defensive weapons to Ukraine.”
The disclosure reveals that the FISA warrant cites a “July 2016 article in an identified news organization” claiming that Trump’s campaign “worked behind the scenes to make sure” the GOP “platform would not call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all [the Republican Party’s] foreign policy leaders.”
Without offering any evidence, the FISA application claims “the FBI assesses that, following Page’s meetings in Russia, Page helped influence Political Party #1 and Candidate #1′ s campaign to alter their platforms to be more sympathetic to Russia.”
Political Party #1 refers to the Republican Party and Candidate #1 is Trump. Page repeatedly denied having the meetings in Russia referred to in the FISA applications.
There are several layers of problems with the FBI’s claims to the FISA court about the Republican Party platform.
Firstly, the “July 2016 article” is actually an opinion piece by the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin titled “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.”
Second, the charge, which comes mostly from that Washington Post opinion piece, remains so unproven that even the left-leaning PolitiFact failed to reach a judgement on the issue, allowing “it’s hard to use those news reports as evidence in this fact-check.”
The entire issue revolved around one platform committee member, a Ted Cruz supporter, who wanted to use language calling for the U.S. to provide “lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military. Instead the platform eventually called for “appropriate assistance” to Ukraine – which leaves open the possibility of providing “lethal defensive weapons” – and called for “greater coordination with NATO defense planning.”
That was enough for the Washington Post’s Rogin to pen his piece.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow used the tidbit to claim on television that “something weird” happened regarding “that Ukraine and Russia thing” on the platform. She claimed the Trump campaign “jumped right up on that and they insisted that that plank only, that one, had to be taken out, that language could not stand.”
Writing at the Washington Examiner, media critic Byron York noted:
Missing from all the talk is what the Republican platform actually said before it was allegedly “gutted” by Trump. What did the original draft of the platform say about Russia and Ukraine? Was it, in fact, changed? If so, how?
As it turns out, a look at the original draft of the platform — which has never been released publicly — shows that it always had tough language on Russian aggression in Ukraine. And not only did that language stay in the final platform — nothing was taken out — it was actually strengthened, not weakened, as a result of events at the convention. …
Not only that, the later, final platform contained a few additional words on Russia and Ukraine that weren’t in the original draft. To the first passage cited above, after “from the Baltic to the Caucasus,” the GOP platform committee added this:
“We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.”
7 – A newly released transcript shows an FBI source repeatedly tried and failed to get a Trump adviser to link the campaign to Russia.
The transcript between a confidential source working for the FBI and George Papadopoulos, the former adviser to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, shows numerous instances of the FBI source clearly trying to lead Papadopoulos into linking Russia with the Trump campaign.
Breitbart spotlighted those sections of the transcript when it was released earlier this month.
The tactic raises questions about the FBI’s possible misuse of sources.
Breitbart previously reported that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s 476-page IG report on the FBI’s Operation Crossfire Hurricane documented the FBI’s use of sources close to Trump during the election and the transition period when Trump was entering the White House, showing the extent of the spying using people surrounding Trump.
The FBI sources include one person who was in direct contact with Trump and who was utilized by one FBI agent to “obtain insight into the incoming Trump administration.” Another source was described as voluntarily providing the FBI team probing Trump with large volumes of documents.
Yet another FBI source held a position in the Trump campaign, and another was described as a Trump “supporter.” Another source was documented as attending a private gathering with Trump.
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_