NEW YORK — Jonathan M. Winer, an official in John Kerry’s State Department, vouched for the credibility of anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele to two reporters before they each broke separate stories about the information contained in Steele’s largely discredited dossier, the two reporters revealed in their new book.
Winer gave his nod of approval for Steele to the reporters while he served at the State Department. The detail is particularly noteworthy since Winer’s purported green light was followed by one of the reporters, Michael Isikoff, penning a story on Yahoo News that was cited in a FISA court application signed by James Comey to obtain a warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page.
Isikoff’s Yahoo News article focused on alleged contacts between Page and Russian officials during a trip to Moscow.
Winer later admitted that while he was at the State Department, he regularly interfaced and exchanged information with Steele, including passing anti-Trump claims to Steele that originated with Cody Shearer, who is a controversial figure long tied to various Clinton scandals. Winer also conceded that Shearer’s claims were provided to him by Clinton confident Sidney Blumenthal.
Another reporter, David Corn, also disclosed that he called Winer to assess the credibility of Steele before publishing a widely cited article at Mother Jones about Steele’s claims titled, “Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”
Isikoff and Corn revealed their contacts with Winer in their recently released book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.
Isikoff and Corn write that Isikoff was told about Steele’s dossier claims at a background briefing for individual reporters at the Tabard Inn in Washington, DC. The briefings were arranged by Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the controversial Fusion GPS firm, which had hired Steele for the anti-Trump work resulting in the dossier. Fusion GPS was paid for its anti-Trump work by Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the DNC via Perkins Coie.
Steele briefed Isikoff in a conversation that lasted an hour, Isikoff related. “But when Isikoff left the Tabard, after a conversation that lasted about an hour, he figured he had more than enough to work with,” Isikoff and Corn wrote.
Notably, other reporters at the briefing confab did not write about Steele’s claims, with some news outlets later describing the charges as unverified. The authors write that the Tabard briefing was attended by “reporters for the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, and Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff.”
In a recent article, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer reported that she personally attended one of the meetings at the Tabard and that “these encounters were surely sanctioned in some way by Fusion’s client, the Clinton campaign.” However, she wrote that at the time, Steele “provided no documentary evidence” and “neither the New Yorker nor any other news organization ran a story about the allegations.”
Isikoff and Corn, however, wrote that Steele provided “more than enough” for Isikoff to “work with.”
Isikoff’s next move, the authors relate, was to call Winer and another unnamed official at the State Department.
The authors write:
When he got back to the office, Isikoff called Jonathan Winer at the State Department; he had known Winer for years. Simpson had told him Winer could vouch for Steele. Yes, Steele was an absolutely reliable source, Winer said. Isikoff called another State Department official who had worked on Russian affairs. The source didn’t know about Page’s alleged meetings in Moscow but knew about Page. U.S. officials had taken notice of his previous trips to Russia, as well his provocative comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” the official said.
Isikoff did not disclose the name of the other official at the State Department.
Winer previously conceded that he compiled a dossier summary and shared it with Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat who worked under the Clintons and served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Kerry. Nuland has not responded to Breitbart News requests for comment.
After checking with Winer and the unnamed State Department official, Isikoff’s Yahoo News story ran after he also contacted Page for comment and talked with a “senior U.S. law enforcement official,” the authors write.
Later in the book, Isikoff and Corn also relate that Corn checked with Winer before penning his Mother Jones article for which they write that Steele was a source.
The authors state:
After speaking with Steele, Corn confirmed Steele’s identity and expertise. He contacted Jonathan Winer to ask him about Steele. (Isikoff, too, had called Winer about Steele.) Speaking on background, Winer told Corn that he had worked with Steele and that he had a solid track record of collaborating with U.S. government agencies and providing them accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters.
A four-page House Intelligence Committee memo released last month revealed that Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article was cited in an Obama-era FISA application as part of the justification to seek approval for monitoring Page’s communications. The House memo says that the FISA application cited Isikoff’s article “extensively.”
The House memo relates:
The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News and several other outlets in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington, DC in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.
The revelations that Winer was consulted by Isikoff and Corn before publishing their articles concerning Steele’s charges is not the only such disclosure in the book. The two also write that Nuland gave her approval for the FBI to first meet with Steele regarding his wild claims about Donald Trump and Russia.
The book documents Steele told Fusion GPS co-founder Simpson that he believed the claims he uncovered about Trump represented a “grave national security threat” that needed to be reported to the FBI. Simpson eventually allowed Steele to report the dossier’s claims to the FBI, the book reports.
Steele sought out Rome-based FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, with whom he had worked on a previous case. Before Gaeta met with Steele on July 5, 2016, the book relates that the FBI first secured the support of Nuland, who at the time was assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs specializing in Russia. Nuland currently serves as chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security.
Regarding the arrangements for Steele’s initial meeting with the FBI about the dossier claims, Isikoff and Corn report:
There were a few hoops Gaeta had to jump through. He was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Rome. The FBI checked with Victoria Nuland’s office at the State Department: Do you support this meeting? Nuland, having found Steele’s reports on Ukraine to have been generally credible, gave the green light.
Within a few days, on July 5, Gaeta arrived and headed to Steele’s office near Victoria station. Steele handed him a copy of the report. Gaeta, a seasoned FBI agent, started to read. He turned white. For a while, Gaeta said nothing. Then he remarked, “I have to report this to headquarters.”
The book documents that Nuland previously received Steele’s reports on the Ukrainian crisis and had been familiar with Steele’s general work.
After his name surfaced in news media reports related to probes by House Republicans into the dossier, Winer authored a Washington Post oped in which he conceded that while he was working at the State Department he exchanged documents and information with Steele.
Winer further acknowledged that while at the State Department, he shared anti-Trump material with Steele passed to him by Sidney Blumenthal, whom Winer described as an “old friend.” Winer wrote that the material from Blumenthal – which Winer in turn gave to Steele – originated with Cody Shearer.
Shearer has numerous close personal and family connections to the Clintons and has reportedly been involved in numerous antics tied to them. National Review previously dubbed Shearer a “Creepy Clinton Confidante” and “The Strangest Character in Hillary’s Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
In the Post piece, Winer related that while he was at the State Department, he repeatedly passed Russia-related documents from Steele to Nuland, a career diplomat who worked under the Clintons and served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Kerry. “Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful,” he wrote.
Winer stated that in the summer of 2016, Steele “told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials.”
Winer says that he met with Steele in September 2016 to discuss details that would later become known as the anti-Trump dossier. Winer wrote that he prepared a two-page summary of Steele’s information and “shared it with Nuland, who indicated that, like me, she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.”
Besides bringing Steele’s dossier information to the State Department, Winer conceded that he also passed information from Blumenthal to Steele, specifically charges about Trump that originated with Shearer.
Winer described what he claimed was the evolution of his contacts with Blumenthal regarding Shearer’s information:
In late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-Contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at the Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.
What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources.
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. Follow him on Facebook.