Details revealed in newly released FBI notes show the primary subsource of the anti-Trump dossier — written by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele — debunking the infamous “pee tape” claim, as the source told the FBI that his report on Trump’s “unorthodox sexual activity” at a hotel in Russia was mere “rumor and speculation,” having been unable to confirm the story.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday released a newly declassified FBI memo from an interview with the primary subsource for Christopher Steele’s infamous dossier which took place over a three day period in late January 2017.
On the second day of the interview, the FBI inquired of the dossier’s infamous claim that while staying at the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow in 2013, Trump hired “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ [sic] (urination) show in front of him.” The dossier claims that Trump sought to “defile” the bed after learning that President Obama had used the same suite during a trip to Russia.
The primary subsource told the FBI that Steele was given the names of the management at the Ritz Carlton, admitting that he reported Trump’s unusual sexual activity at the hotel as “rumor and speculation” and that he “had not been able to confirm the story.”
The primary subsource told the FBI that “the ability to blackmail Trump was a ‘logical conclusion’ rather than reporting.” He also told the FBI that he “had no idea” where the (Steele dossier’s) mention of department “K” — which supposedly possessed the compromising material — originated from and “does not recall hearing that, or mentioning that” to Steele.
That disgraced former FBI Director James Comey’s FBI knew then that the perverse claim was baseless raises questions concerning Comey’s decision — which he acknowledged in prepared remarks for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence delivered on June 8, 2017 — to push back against requests from President Trump to investigate the origins of that very claim.
In a private White House dinner with Trump on January 27, only two days after the FBI interviewed the primary subsource, Comey said the topic of the “salacious material” again came up as Trump was considering asking the FBI to investigate the origins of the claims, a move which Comey strongly discouraged.
During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.
Not only did Comey choose not to disclose that information to President Trump, but he even added that it would be “very difficult to prove a negative.”
There is no evidence that Comey ever shared his knowledge discrediting the “pee” claims with Trump. Instead, Comey allowed the perverse allegations to persist, resulting in the notion that Russia possessed material that granted them leverage over the president.
It is unclear why Comey saw fit to brief Trump on the “pee” claims in the first place. Comey and other former Obama administration officials presented the unusual briefing as a courtesy to Trump to warn him about the news media possibly publicly releasing embarrassing claims about the newly elected president. However, questions have been raised regarding the need to include the dossier’s wild and unsubstantiated charges in the classified briefings, since it is highly unusual for the intelligence community to warn politicians about possible pending negative publicity.
Comey’s classified briefing was subsequently leaked to the news media, with CNN reporting in early January that the contents of the dossier were presented during classified briefings one week earlier to Trump and then-President Barack Obama.
Prior to CNN’s report leaking the briefings, which was picked up by news agencies worldwide, the contents of the dossier had been circulating among some major news media outlets, yet the sensational claims were largely considered too risky to publish.
Comey’s briefing seems to have provided the news media with the hook to publish a story on the controversial dossier containing the infamous “Russian prostitute” claims, as well as unsubstantiated charges of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Shortly after CNN’s January 10 report on the classified briefings about the dossier, BuzzFeed infamously published the dossier’s full unverified contents.
Meanwhile, the newly declassified FBI notes raised further questions about the FBI’s conduct, as they showed that the agency was alerted by the primary subsource of numerous flaws and red flags undermining Steele and his reporting at the time the dossier’s claims were used as an excuse to spy on Carter Page, a former tangential adviser to Trump’s campaign.
During the period when the interview was conducted, Comey signed successive applications to obtain FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrants to spy on Page. The FISA warrants repeatedly relied on the dossier authored by Steele that contained the debunked “golden showers” claim.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who released the newly declassified FBI notes, stated that the memo regarding the FBI interview of the primary subsource in January 2017 should have “required the system to stop and reevaluate the case against Mr. Page,” while labelling the FBI and the Department of Justice’s persistence in seeking a FISA warrant against Page in April and June of 2017, a “miscarriage of justice.”
The DOJ memo clearly indicated that “the reliability of the dossier was completely destroyed after the interview with the primary subsource in January 2017,” Graham argued. “Those who knew or should have known of this development and continued to pursue a FISA warrant against Mr. Page anyway are in deep legal jeopardy in my view.”
Graham added that the documents — which he had long sought — tell a “damning story for anyone who’s interested in trying to find the truth behind the corrupt nature of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 and beyond.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.