DOJ Watchdog Puts Final Nail In Steele Dossier’s Coffin
=The Justice Department watchdog’s report debunked one of the Steele dossier’s most specific allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, and severely undermined others.
=The report also faulted the FBI for failing to thoroughly investigate the dossier and failing to tell a federal court about problems with Steele’s information.
=One of Steele’s primary sources provided the FBI with information that contradicted parts of the dossier.
=The report also said that FBI investigators found that Michael Cohen didn’t go to Prague.
A Justice Department watchdog’s report released Monday definitively debunked one of the Steele dossier’s most pervasive allegations of collusion, while severely undermining other hair-raising claims about Donald Trump and former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The report is unsparing of both Christopher Steele, the dossier author, and the FBI’s handling of the salacious document.
It paints a picture of Steele, a former British spy, as an eager gun-for-hire encumbered with a poor sense of judgment. The FBI, while absolved of a top-down, politically-motivated conspiracy to take down Trump, failed to verify any of Steele’s allegations, and also omitted key pieces of information that contradicted the dossier.
“Our review revealed instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] application targeting Carter Page were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed,” reads the report.
The report details how Steele collected information in the dossier, as well as the limited steps that the FBI took to verify the document.
The dossier’s most specific allegation of Trump-Russia collusion — that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to pay off Russian hackers — was “not true,” FBI officials determined, according to the IG report.
When FBI investigators did obtain valuable insight into Steele’s work, the bureau largely failed to include it in applications to continue surveillance against Carter Page.
According to the IG report, Steele’s dossier played a “central and essential” decision in the FBI’s decision to apply for FISA warrants against Page. FBI investigators considered seeking a FISA warrant against the Trump adviser in August 2016, but were rejected by bureau lawyers who did not believe there was enough probable cause to establish that Page was a Russian agent.
That changed on Sept. 19, 2016, when six of Steele’s dossier memos arrived in the inboxes of the FBI’s core Trump-Russia investigative team. The IG report says that the FBI immediately sought to obtain FISAs. They were approved on Oct. 21, 2016.
The IG report quotes Steele’s primary source for the dossier, who told the FBI in a series of interviews in 2017 that Steele misreported several of the most troubling allegations of potential Trump blackmail and Trump campaign collusion.
The source told the FBI in interviews in early 2017 that the dossier’s steamiest allegation — that the Kremlin had blackmail video of Trump in a Moscow hotel room with prostitutes — was based on “rumor and speculation.”
Steele said in the dossier that his source had confirmed the incident, which allegedly occurred in 2013 at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow. But according to the IG report, Steele’s source told the FBI that they had been unable to confirm that the incident occurred.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s information to assert to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that Page was acting as an agent of Russia. The dossier alleged that Page was part of the Trump campaign’s “well-developed conspiracy of coordination” with the Kremlin and that he had worked under the direction of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Steele also alleged that it was Page’s idea to release hacked DNC emails through WikiLeaks.
According to the IG, Steele did not acknowledge meeting with reporters, and expressed frustration that news reports at the time threatened to expose his sources.
Steele’s main FBI handler told the FBI that the former spy’s contacts with the press “blew his mind.”
h/t Eustace Muffins