The intelligence community and top Obama administration officials knew that Fusion GPS and ex-British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier that alleged collusion between the Trump campaign with Russia was largely uncorroborated by early 2017, according to a declassified document released Thursday.
The declassified document was an annex to the Obama administration’s Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian interference in the election released in early 2017. One page of the annex said of Steele’s dossier (emphasis added):
An FBI source using both identified and unidentified subsources, volunteered highly politically sensitive information from the summer to the fall of 2016 on Russian influence efforts aimed at the US presidential election. We have only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified the annex on June 9, 2020, and released it to Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Wednesday.
Although Steele’s reporting had “only limited corroboration” and was not included in the main body of the ICA, large parts of the dossier was included in the annex to the ICA, which was prepared for and briefed to President Obama and President-Elect President Trump.
The annex said:
The most politically sensitive claims by the FBI source alleged a close relationship between the president-elect and the Kremin. [Steele] claimed that the President-elect and his top campaign advisers knowingly worked with Russian officials to bolster his chances of beating Secretary Clinton, were fully knowledgeable of Russia’s direction of leaked Democratic emails and were offered financial compensation from Moscow.
[Steele] claimed that the Kremlin had cultivated the president-elect for at least five years, had fed him and his team intelligence about Secretary Clinton and other opponents for years, and agreed to use Wikileaks in return for policy concessions by the president-elect assuming he won the election—on NATO and Ukraine.
[Steele] also claimed Russian authorities possessed compromising material on the president-elect’s activities when he was in Russia, as well as a compromising dossier on Secretary Clinton’s political activities that was controlled by the Kremlin and not shared with the president-elect or his team.
[Steele] claimed that secret meetings between the Kremlin and the president-elect’s team were handled by some of the president-elect’s advisers, at least one of whom was allegedly offered financial remuneration for a policy change lifting sanctions on Russia.
Steele’s reporting was attached to the ICA “largely at the insistence of FBI’s senior leadership,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in an investigation.
Horowitz had found that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pushed to include Steele’s reporting in the ICA itself, arguing that “Obama had requested ‘everything you have relevant to this topic of Russian influence.'” CIA officials had argued that Steele’s reporting should only be included in an appendix, not the main body of the ICA.
Then-FBI Director Jim Comey would later brief Trump on the ICA and the annex alleging collusion. That briefing to Trump was then leaked to CNN, which led to BuzzFeed publishing the dossier in full in January 2017. The dossier continued to plague Trump until he was cleared of any criminal conspiracy, coordination or cooperation with Russia by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in 2019.
Despite the intelligence community and top Obama officials knowing that the Fusion GPS-Steele dossier only had limited corroboration, it was also used as a basis to obtain three additional secret surveillance warrants to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page through 2017.
The dossier was also used by then-House Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) as evidence of collusion. In March 2017, he read from the dossier during a House Intelligence Committee hearing as if it was an indictment.
Even after then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) exposed that the dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign in late 2017, those pushing the Russian collusion narrative continued to call the dossier credible and Steele a trustworthy agent.
The ICA’s conclusion that the dossier was largely uncorroborated also preceded the appointment of Mueller, to find the alleged collusion.
After two-years, and more than $30 million taxpayer dollars, Mueller’s investigation found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy, coordination, or cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Throughout 2016, Fusion GPS and Steele had pushed the dossier to journalists, lawmakers, and around the Obama administration.