FBI Used Steele Dossier to Justify Surveillance of Trump Campaign Aide Carter Page Despite Warnings it Included Russian Disinformation
Should more FBI documents related to its Russia probe be declassified?
by Causes | 5.11.20
What’s the story?
- Recently declassified footnotes show that despite warnings that portions of the Steele dossier could have been part of a Russian disinformation campaign, the FBI relied in part on the Steele dossier in its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to carry out surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
- The Steele dossier was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele for political opposition research firm Fusion GPS and funded by the Democratic National Committee & Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
- The declassified footnotes come from Dept. of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report into alleged surveillance abuses against Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, which found that the dossier played a “central and essential role” in the FBI’s FISA application.
- Horowitz’s report found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s initial FISA application and the subsequent renewals but no evidence of political bias motivating them.
- The Senate is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize and reform FISA surveillance powers this week, which lapsed and have been inactive since March 15th. The House passed the bill on a 278-136 vote on March 11th, so it may soon reach President Donald Trump’s desk for enactment or a veto.
What do the declassified footnotes show?
- Several dozen footnotes were declassified by the DOJ & the Director of National intelligence (DNI) and were revealed at the urging of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI). Two of the footnotes show that the Steele dossier may have been undermined by Russian disinformation.
- Footnote 350 shows that the FBI received a U.S. intelligence community (USIC) report on January 12, 2017, which warned of an inaccuracy related to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in the Steele dossier and assessed it was “part of a Russian disinformation campaign.” That day, the Page FISA warrant was renewed for the first time.
- The rest of footnote 350, which remains partially redacted, shows that a similar report of false claims in the dossier arrived in February ― a month before the second FISA warrant renewal. Here’s how it reads with bolded portions of the footnote indicating recently declassified material and redactions noted parenthetically:
“In addition to the information in Steele's Delta file documenting Steele's frequent contacts with representatives for multiple Russian oligarchs, we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from [REDACTED] indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele's election reporting. A January 12, 2017, report relayed information from [REDACTED] outlining an inaccuracy in a limited subset of Steele's reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen. The [REDACTED] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele's reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations. A second report from the same [REDACTED] five days later stated that a person named in the limited subset of Steele's reporting had denied representations in the reporting and the [REDACTED] assessed that the person's denials were truthful. A USIC report dated February 27, 2017, contained information about an individual with reported connections to Trump and Russia who claimed that the public reporting about the details of Trump's sexual activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false, and that they were the product of RIS “infiltrat[ing) a source into the network” of a [REDACTED] who compiled a dossier of information on Trump's activities. The [REDACTED] noted that it had no information indicating that the individual had special access to RIS activities or information.”
- Footnote 342 shows that the FBI was alerted in January 2017 that Russian intelligence services (RIS) may have targeted Steele’s company, Orbis.
- Footnote 342 also notes that in early June 2017, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team took over the probe, a U.S. intelligence community (USIC) report indicated that persons associated with RIS were aware of Steele’s work on his opposition research dossier in early July 2016 (before the FBI started its probe). On June 27, 2017, the Page FISA warrant was renewed a third time. Here’s how it reads with bolded portions of the footnote indicating recently declassified material and redactions noted parenthetically:
“In late January 2017, a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team received information [REDACTED] that RIS may have targeted Orbis [REDACTED] and research all publicly available information about it. [REDACTED] 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.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: FBI via Wikimedia / Public Domain)
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