Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he would not have signed an application for a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign aide had he known it contained inaccurate information.
“If you knew then what you know now, would you have signed the warrant application in June 2017 against Carter Page?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked McCabe.
“No, sir,” McCabe said.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Dec. 9, 2019 blasted the FBI over a series of errors and omissions in four applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page.
The IG report said that investigators failed to disclose numerous problems with the Steele dossier, which the FBI cited extensively in the FISA applications.
McCabe signed the fourth and final FISA application in June 2017. The Justice Department has deemed that application and another one signed in April 2017 to be invalid because of widespread errors.
Three other officials who signed off on FISA warrants against Page have told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they would not have authorized surveillance against the former Trump aide if they had known about some of the findings in the IG report.
The IG report said that FBI investigators failed to verify allegations from former British spy Christopher Steele before using the information in the FISA applications.
Steele alleged in a dossier that the Trump campaign and Kremlin were part of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” to influence the 2016 election.
The special counsel’s office debunked that allegation in a report released on April 18, 2019.
The IG report said that the FBI failed to disclose evidence that undercut the credibility of the dossier
McCabe, who was fired from the FBI in March 2018, told Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham that he was not briefed on the details of an FBI interview with the primary source for Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier that the FBI used to obtain its FISA warrants.
The source, Igor Danchenko, told the FBI that information he gave to Steele was based on hearsay and rumor. Steele portrayed the information as verified in the dossier, which is cited extensively in the FBI’s four FISA applications against Page.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, on Sunday suggested shutting down U.S. intelligence agencies if they refuse to turn over information they collected on Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
In an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Nunes said that he is aware of intelligence he described as “smoking guns” that should be declassified and released to the public.
“Every Republican senator and member of Congress should be saying…we want every damn bit of evidence that every intelligence agency has or it’s maybe time to shut those agencies down,” said Nunes.
Nunes was discussing a memo from John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, released this week through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The memo said that U.S. intelligence agencies obtained intercepted Russian intelligence agencies discussing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s authorization of a plan to link President Donald Trump to the Kremlin’s hacking efforts.
The U.S. intelligence community made an investigative referral to the FBI in September 2016 regarding the information, according to the Ratcliffe memo.
Ratcliffe quoted the referral as mentioning the “approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.”
The underlying information is still classified, preventing lawmakers who have seen it from talking about it publicly. Partisan debate has erupted over whether the information is Russian disinformation.
Nunes said Sunday that the pieces of intelligence he has seen are “definitely smoking guns” that “definitely needs to be made available to the American public.”
“There’s even more underlying evidence that backs up what Director Ratcliffe put out,” Nunes added.
Nunes has battled the FBI and Justice Department since early 2017 for information about the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier. Nunes and other Republicans accused the FBI of withholding information that undercut the credibility of the dossier, which accused the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report released in December 2019 said that the FBI withheld information that undercut the credibility of the dossier, which the bureau used to obtain warrants to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
It is unclear whether the intelligence cited in the Ratcliffe memo deals with the dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Clinton campaign and DNC hired Steele through opposition research firm Fusion GPS in June 2016 to investigate Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia.
Lindsey Graham teased a major bombshell in his investigation of the FBI’s Trump probe on Sunday.
Graham also previewed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for James Comey on Wednesday.
He said that the committee will also interview Andrew McCabe on Oct. 6. Graham is investigating what the FBI knew about the primary source for dossier author Christopher Steele.
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham provided a slew of updates about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane on Sunday and teased “damning” revelations that he said will soon be made public.
“There’s a day of reckoning,” Graham said in an interview on Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures.”
On Thursday, Graham released a declassified FBI memo that said that the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation in 2009 against the primary source for dossier Christopher Steele, a Russia analyst identified as Igor Danchenko.
The FBI investigated whether Danchenko was illegally working as a Russian agent.
Graham said that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team learned about the previous investigation in December 2016 but continued relying on Steele’s dossier for its investigation into the Trump campaign.
The FBI also failed to disclose the derogatory information in applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, according to Graham.
An FBI and Justice Department team interviewed Danchenko in January 2017 regarding his work for Steele, a former British spy.
The revelation marks a major development in the investigation into the origins of the dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Graham said Sunday that “there’s something else coming more damning than this, believe it or not.”
The South Carolina Republican hinted that additional documents related to the dossier and the FBI’s investigation will be declassified.
Maria Bartiromo, the host of “Sunday Morning Futures,” reported that her sources say that U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, is unlikely to issue additional indictments or a report on his investigation.
Bartiromo, who did not identify her sources, said that there is an internal debate at the Justice Department about whether or not to release the information so close to an election.
The Justice Department did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Durham has secured a guilty plea from former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted to altering an email related to Carter Page in June 2017.
Graham said he had no knowledge of Durham’s plans, but added, “I’ll be shocked if nobody’s charged with a crime at the FBI…for misleading the FISA court.”
Graham said he plans to ask Comey what he knew about Danchenko, and why the FBI failed to disclose information about him to the FISA Court.
“I’m going to ask James Comey, did you know that the man who put the dossier together for Christopher Steele was a suspected Russian spy on the payroll of the Democratic Party. If you knew that why didn’t you tell the court?” Graham said.
He also said that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will testify before the committee on Oct. 6. McCabe directed many of the decisions in Crossfire Hurricane.
Graham told Bartiromo that he is also trying to arrange an interview with William Barnett, an FBI special agent who questioned the basis for the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Barnett told U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen in an interview on Sept. 17 that he “did not understand the point” of the investigation of Flynn. He also said that the special counsel’s team had a “get Trump” mentality.
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said Sunday he has filed multiple “crimes reports” regarding alleged leaks of classified information to the media.
“When I become aware of intelligence community information that is disclosed unlawfully, I do what’s called a crimes report. I’ve done that now on a number of occasions, and so those investigations are moving forward,” Ratcliffe said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Ratcliffe said that the timing of any prosecutions from the investigations “would be something that the FBI would have to address.”
Ratcliffe said he wants to avoid “a repeat of what happened a month ago,” a reference to a briefing he gave to all members of Congress regarding foreign governments’ efforts to interfere in American politics.
Ratcliffe said that he asked lawmakers not to disclose any of the classified information from the briefing, but he asserted that “within minutes of that one of those briefings ending, a number of members of Congress went to a number of different publications and leaked classified information.”
He said that the leaks were “for political purposes” to create what he said is a false narrative “that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China.”
Ratcliffe’s decision to limit election-related intelligence briefings prompted outrage from Democrats who say that he is withholding information about Russian meddling to provide political cover for President Donald Trump.
Ratcliffe did not provide details about which leaks have spurred him to file crimes reports. Republicans have long called on the Justice Department to more aggressively investigate leaks that sprung during the FBI and special counsel’s Trump-Russia investigations.
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday released an FBI memo from 2018 that he says shows investigators lied to the Senate about statements that the primary source for the Steele dossier told the FBI regarding the salacious document.
“This document clearly shows that the FBI was continuing to mislead regarding the reliability of the Steele dossier,” Graham said in a statement announcing the release of an eight-page briefing document that the FBI provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018.
The memo summarizes what Igor Danchenko, the primary source for dossier author Christopher Steele, told the FBI during interviews in early 2017. Steele relied primarily on Danchenko, a Russia analyst, to collect information for an investigation into Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, provided parts of the dossier to the FBI, which used the information in applications to conduct surveillance against Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A Justice Department inspector general’s report found that the FBI withheld information that undercut the reliability of Steele and the dossier.
The IG report said Danchenko’s statements to the FBI “raised significant questions about the reliability” of Steele’s reports.
According to Graham, the newly declassified FBI memo shows that the bureau did not disclose any of the dossier’s red flags in the Senate Intelligence briefing document.
“Somebody needs to go to jail for this,” Graham said Sunday.
“They lied to the FISA court. They got rebuked, the FBI did in 2019, by the FISA court putting in doubt all FISA applications, the FISA court just ripped a new one for the FBI, a year before they’re lying to the Senate Intel committee. It’s just amazing, the compounding of the lies.”
Graham took issue with two lines from the FBI memo, which he said was written in February or March 2018.
“At minimum, our discussions with [redacted] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele,” the memo says.
It also said that Danchenko “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it.”
Graham says both statements are inaccurate. He pointed to Danchenko’s remarks to the FBI that he did not recognize some of the information that Steele attributed to him and his sub-sources in the dossier.
Several of the dossier’s most explosive allegations have been debunked.
One of those was Steele’s claim that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2018 to meet with Kremlin insiders to arrange payments to Russian hackers. The IG report said the FBI determined by February 2017 that the allegation was inaccurate and that Cohen did not visit Prague.
The time period for the FBI briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee was a chaotic one in the investigation of the dossier. In February 2018, both Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released dueling memos regarding the dossier.
Republicans asserted that the FBI relied heavily on Steele’s information to surveil Page, but that investigators had failed to verify any of the dossier’s allegations.
Documents declassified on Tuesday detail an intense debate between the CIA and FBI in late 2016 over the handling of information from Christopher Steele, with one CIA official telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that the former British spy’s allegations about Trump-Russia collusion were “very unvetted.”
Despite the CIA’s concerns about Steele’s allegations, the FBI successfully lobbied to include his information in an Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. The bureau also continued using information from Steele to conduct surveillance against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Investigators have since debunked several of Steele’s allegations.
According to the Senate report, FBI investigators informed CIA analysts on Dec. 20, 2016 that the bureau wanted to include information from Steele in the ICA.
James Comey and Andrew McCabe, the FBI director and deputy director, respectively, negotiated with their counterparts at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to include Steele’s information, saying that it was relevant to the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But CIA officials and analysts told the Senate panel that they had deep reservations about the dossier, according to the newly declassified materials.
“We would have never included that report in a CIA-only assessment because the source was so indirect. And we made sure we indicated we didn’t use it in our analysis, and if it had been a CIA-only product we wouldn’t have included it at all,” the CIA’s deputy director of analysis told the Senate panel.
According to the Senate report, an assistant director for an intelligence agency said that while she concurred with parts of the annex that dealt with Russia’s election-related efforts, allegations regarding collusion involving members of the Trump campaign was uncorroborated.
“I can tell you that there is no information coming from [redacted] sources that would corroborate any of that,” the official told the Senate panel, adding that Steele’s Trump-related information was “very unvetted.”
A CIA analyst told the committee on July 18, 2017, that the agency had “a bitter argument” with the FBI over whether to put the information in the annex.
John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, said that the CIA “pushed back” against Comey’s requests to include Steele’s information in the body of the ICA. The CIA eventually agreed with Comey to include the information in the annex.
Brennan said that a deputy director of analysis “was very concerned about polluting the ICA with this material.”
According to the Senate report, Brennan told the committee that he received an unsolicited phone call from someone in the British government saying they were not involved in creating the dossier.
“He wanted to make sure that I understood and that others in the senior officialdom of the U.S. government understood that that officer, Steele, had been a former [redacted] but had no current relationship with [redacted] and that dossier was not put together in any way with [redacted] support,” Brennan said. “So he wanted to make sure there was a separation there.”
Aaron Zelinsky, a top prosecutor on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on June 24.
Zelinsky will testify as a whistleblower against Attorney General William Barr, Democrats announced.
He resigned in protest earlier this year as a prosecutor on the case against Roger Stone after Barr intervened to revise a recommendation for a steep prison sentence against the Trump confidante.
One of the top prosecutors on the special counsel’s team is set to testify as a whistleblower against Attorney General William Barr, the House Judiciary Committee announced on Tuesday.
Aaron Zelinsky will testify on June 24 regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the prosecution of Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidante convicted on charges that he made false statements to Congress during its investigation of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Another Justice Department attorney, John Elias, the acting chief of staff for the assistant attorney general for the antitrust division, will also testify as a whistleblower about what Democrats say is “improperly motivated activity” by the antitrust division.
“Mr. Zelinsky can speak to the Department’s handling of the sentencing of Roger Stone and Mr. Elias can speak to improperly motivated activity by the Antitrust Division,” the Judiciary Committee announced.
Democrats on the committee subpoenaed Zelinsky and Elias to compel their testimony. Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York said that both of the prosecutors are designated as whistleblowers, meaning that they will have protections against retribution for testifying to Congress.
Zelinsky resigned from his position as a prosecutor on the case against Stone on Feb. 11 after the Justice Department’s main office intervened to recommend a lighter sentence against the Trump associate.
Prosecutors initially recommended the maximum of nine years in prison for Stone.
After Barr intervened, Timothy Shea, who then served as U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., revised the recommendation in a subsequent court filing, saying that Stone deserved a “substantial” prison sentence, but one that was “far less” than the maximum nine year sentence.
Prosecutors argued in the revised filing that the initial recommendation did not take into full account that a key government witness at Stone’s trial asked that Stone receive no jail time.
Zelinsky and three other attorneys stepped down from their positions on the Stone matter after the revised filing.
The special counsel’s team initially investigated whether any Trump associates conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. When that probe turned up no evidence of collusion, prosecutors set their sights on whether Stone had any contacts with WikiLeaks, the group that published emails that Russians stole from the DNC and Clinton campaign.
Prosecutors said in a report of their investigation that there was no evidence that any Trump associate — including Stone — took part in the hacks or the release of the emails. The special counsel’s team sought to find out whether Stone had prior knowledge of WikiLeaks’ activities or discussed the group’s document dumps with anyone on the Trump campaign.
A jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Stone on Nov. 15 on charges that he made false statements to Congress regarding his conversations about WikiLeaks. He was also convicted on an obstruction charge and a witness tampering charge.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison on Feb. 20. He is scheduled to begin his sentence at the end of the month, though President Trump has signaled he may pardon his longtime associate.
Trump supporters have asserted that the case against Stone was a far cry from the alleged conspiracy that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was initially tasked to investigate.
Zelinsky, who is currently a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore, played a key role in several prosecutions of Trump associates during the special counsel’s investigation, which he joined in June 2017.
He was involved in the investigation against George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign aide who served as a catalyst for the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign in July 2016. Though the FBI and Mueller team initially suspected that Papadopoulos was the key to Trump-Russia collusion, the former campaign aide ended up pleading guilty to a single charge of making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with a mysterious Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud.
Prosecutors secured Papadopoulos’s plea deal relatively early in their investigation, on Oct. 5, 2017. By entering the plea agreement, Papadopoulos was prohibited from disclosing details of contacts he had with multiple confidential FBI sources in 2016.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s investigation of the Trump team said that FBI agents failed to disclose exculpatory information from Papadopoulos’s conversations with one of the FBI informants, Stefan Halper, in applications to conduct surveillance on another Trump aide, Carter Page.
Like a vast majority of the prosecutors on the special counsel’s team, Zelinsky was an avowed Democrat. He wrote more than 50 articles between 2009 and 2014 for Huffington Post, the liberal news outlet. In one article in 2012 he declared his political affiliation, writing: “I’m a Democrat.”
Christopher Steele testified in March that a former State Department official and longtime Clinton ally contacted him in summer 2016 regarding the Trump dossier.
Strobe Talbott told him he had learned of the dossier project from one or more Obama administration officials, Steele said.
Multiple former State Department officials were involved in handling and disseminating Steele’s dossier, which came under intense scrutiny in a Justice Department inspector general’s report.
Former British spy Christopher Steele testified in March that a longtime ally of the Clintons contacted him in summer 2016 about his investigation into Donald Trump after learning about it from one or more Obama administration officials.
Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, contacted him in the months leading up to the 2016 election inquiring about an investigation he was conducting at the time into Trump’s possible ties to Russia, Steele said in a sworn deposition on March 18.
“I remember taking a phone call from him, your Lordship, earlier in the summer, in which he said that he was aware that I had — he spoke in fairly cryptic terms, but he was aware that we had material of relevance to the US election,” Steele testified of Talbott, who served as deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration.
Steele, who was testifying in the United Kingdom as part of a defamation lawsuit against him, said that Talbott indicated he had learned about Steele’s Trump-related work from either State Department official Victoria Nuland or National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
“Although he didn’t state it explicitly, one or either or both of them had briefed him on the work we had been doing,” Steele said, referring to Nuland and Rice.
A spokeswoman for Rice, Erin Pelton, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that it is “utterly and completely false” that Rice spoke to Talbott about Steele’s work. Nuland and Talbott did not respond to requests for comment.
Nuland, who is a non-resident fellow at Brookings, had previous links to Steele. She received dozens of reports from the ex-spy in 2014 and 2015 related to Russia and Ukraine. She also authorized an FBI agent to meet with Steele on July 5, 2016, shortly after he began investigating Trump on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign.
Carter Page, a major target of the dossier, blasted Talbott over his contacts with Steele.
“Strobe Talbott is someone who I had long known and respected,” Page told the DCNF.
“The new evidence revealing that he and his colleagues from the Brookings Institution got involved in this severe election interference campaign with the DNC-funded Dodgy Dossier truly shocks the conscience.”
Steele had revealed in an Aug. 1, 2018, court filing in the case that he talked with Talbott about the dossier, and provided him a copy of the salacious report in November 2016. Other details about Talbott’s involvement in the dossier saga have trickled out in recent months.
Fiona Hill, a former Brookings official who worked in the Trump administration, testified to Congress in 2019 that Talbott provided her a copy of the dossier on Jan. 9, 2017, a day before BuzzFeed News published the salacious document.
Hill testified in another setting in 2019 that she believed that Steele’s dossier includes disinformation from Russia.
The FBI received evidence in 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives might have fed disinformation to Steele. A Justice Department inspector general’s report said that the U.S. intelligence community told the FBI in June 2017 that two Russian intelligence officers were aware of Steele’s investigation of Trump as early as July 2016.
Talbott’s interest in the dossier raises questions about what he knew of another Trump-related investigation that focused on allegations similar to Steele’s.
Talbott’s brother-in-law, Cody Shearer, compiled two memos alleging that the Kremlin has video of Trump in Moscow engaged in lewd sexual behavior. Steele’s initial dossier memo, dated June 20, 2016, includes a similar allegation.
Steele’s State Department contact, Jonathan Winer, handled both of the dossiers. Winer provided Steele with a copy of Shearer’s memos. Steele in turn provided those to the FBI. Winer also shared Steele’s documents with his State Department colleagues. He also arranged a meeting for Steele with Kathleen Kavalec, a deputy to Nuland, on Oct. 11, 2016.
Talbott left the Brookings Institution in October 2017 after 15 years leading the think tank. A former college classmate of Bill Clinton, he was appointed in 2011 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to serve as chairman of State Department’s Foreign Affairs Advisory Board, which served as a mechanism to provide foreign policy advice to officials at Foggy Bottom.
Christopher Steele shed new light on his work for the Clinton campaign and DNC, revealing in testimony last month that he met with two lawyers for the Democrats as part of his investigation into Donald Trump.
Steele met with Perkins Coie partners Michael Sussmann and Marc Elias, he testified.
Steele said that Sussmann provided him with the now-debunked tip that a Russian bank had a secret communications channel with the Trump Organization.
A lawyer representing the DNC and Clinton campaign provided Christopher Steele with information in 2016 regarding an alleged secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, the former spy told a British court last month.
That now-debunked tip, from Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann, set off a chain of events that led to Steele publishing a Sept. 14, 2016 memo accusing the founders of the bank, Alfa Bank, of having “illicit” ties to Vladimir Putin, according to a court transcript obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
A week after Steele wrote that memo, he had another meeting with Sussmann’s colleague, Marc Elias, according to the transcript.
Steele disclosed the previously unreported meetings with Sussmann and Elias during testimony in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Alfa Bank founders, the transcript shows.
Steele’s testimony about Sussmann and Elias provides insight into how deeply involved the two lawyers were in the Trump investigation, and suggests they helped shape Steele’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Perkins Coie, Sussmann and Elias did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Elias, who served as general counsel for the Clinton campaign, hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to investigate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS in turn picked Steele, a former MI6 officer, in June 2016 to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Russia.
Steele would go on to produce 17 memos alleging that the Russian government had blackmail material on Trump, and that members of his campaign were conspiring with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
Many of Steele’s most explosive allegations have been debunked in the 40 months since BuzzFeed News published the dossier.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report said that Steele’s primary source of information disputed many of the allegations in the dossier. The IG report also said that the FBI and U.S. intelligence community received evidence in 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have fed disinformation to Steele.
The IG report also dealt a fatal blow to the Alfa Bank theory peddled by Sussmann.
It said the FBI investigated whether there were “cyber links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization, the company owned by Donald Trump, “but had concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links.”
The three owners of Alfa Bank have sued Steele in the U.S. and U.K. over the Sept. 14, 2016 memo, which is referred to as “Company Intelligence Report 112” in the dossier.
Steele testified under oath in London on March 17 and 18.
He revealed that Sussmann, a former Justice Department official, told him during a meeting on July 29, 2016 about suspicious network traffic between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, according to the transcript.
He also said that the theory about the computer server traffic was the catalyst for the dossier memo he would write six weeks later about Alfa Bank, the transcript shows.
“I’m very clear is that the first person that ever mentioned the Trump server issue, Alfa server issue, was Mr. Sussman [sic],” Steele told Hugh Tomlinson, a lawyer for the Alfa Bank owners, on March 17, the transcript shows.
Steele went on to say that Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson instructed him at some point after the Sussmann meeting to write a report about Alfa Bank, according to the transcript.
“I was given the instruction sometime after that meeting by Mr. Simpson,” said Steele, adding that the instruction from Simpson “was absolutely, definitely linked to the server issue,” the transcript shows.
It was not previously known whether Steele keyed in on Alfa Bank on his own initiative, or if someone else tasked him with investigating the bank.
Steele said that he directed his dossier source to collect information from Russia about the bank, the transcript shows.
The transcript also shows that Steele claimed that the source, who has not been identified, met with a “top level Russian government official,” who reported back on the Alfa Bank founders.
In Report 112, Steele wrote that the Russian official said that the three Alfa Bank founders had had “ups and down” with Vladimir Putin in the past, but were on “very good terms” with the Russian leader at the time. The source also alleged that the Alfa Bank founders had delivered “large amounts of cash” to Putin in the 1990s, when he served as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.
The report also alleges that both sides held compromising information on the other, keeping everyone involved in check.
The Alfa Bank founders have vehemently denied Steele’s allegations.
Sussmann shopped the allegations about the Alfa Bank computer servers around to others besides Steele, including to journalists and the FBI’s top lawyer.
He shared the information with reporters from the New York Times and Slate, which ran a story on Oct. 31, 2016.
According to that story, Alfa Bank’s servers were communicating in a peculiar fashion with those of the Trump Organization. A team of computer experts who studied the traffic determined that the Alfa-Trump channel was being used for some sort of communication between the two sides, the story said.
That assessment, if true, would have fit into Steele’s theory that the Trump campaign was conspiring with the Kremlin.
The Slate story appeared as rumors gained steam that the Trump campaign was somehow involved in the hack and release of emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign. On Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo! News published a story alleging that Trump campaign aide Carter Page met secretly with Kremlin insiders to discuss exchanging material on Hillary Clinton.
On the day the Slate story appeared, Mother Jones reporter David Corn published a report citing a “former Western intelligence officer” who claimed that the Russian government had compromising material on Trump.
It is now known that Steele was involved in one way or the other in all three of the stories. He has acknowledged in court proceedings to meeting with both reporters from Mother Jones and Yahoo, and had investigated the allegations central to the Slate story.
To further spread the Alfa Bank story, Sussmann contacted James Baker, his former DOJ colleague who then served as general counsel for the FBI. Baker told House investigators on Oct. 18, 2018 that Sussmann contacted him to share the information and that they met on Sept. 19, 2016.
That day was a busy one for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team. The Justice Department IG report said that Steele provided six memos from his dossier to the FBI that same day.
The FBI began almost immediately drafting an application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Carter Page. The applications relied heavily on Steele’s dossier, which alleged that Page was a key link between the Trump team and Kremlin.
Notably, Steele did not provide the FBI with Report 112 from his dossier, according to the IG report. The FBI eventually obtained the memo on Nov. 6, 2016, when provided it to Baker.
It is unclear whether Sussmann and Steele’s outreach to the FBI on Sept. 19, 2016 was coordinated, or merely coincidental.
Three days later, Steele met with Elias at Perkins Coie’s offices in Washington, D.C., the ex-spy testified. Steele did not provide details of his discussions with Elias.
He also met with several journalists to discuss the dossier during that same visit to the U.S. capital. One of the journalists Steele met was Michael Isikoff, the author of the Yahoo! story about Carter Page.
Perkins Coie has been reluctant to discuss its affiliation with Fusion GPS and Steele. Elias, the Perkins Coie partner, did not disclose his involvement in the matter when he attended a congressional deposition regarding the dossier along with his client, former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
One mystery is where Sussmann obtained the information regarding an Alfa Bank connection to the Trump Organization. Steele testified that a group of cyber experts passed Sussmann the information in late July 2016.
The cyber experts, who go by the pseudonyms “Max” and “Tea Leaves,” have spoken to numerous reporters about their investigation, including at Slate, The New Yorker and The New York Times.
A cyber firm that Alfa Bank hired to investigate the server allegations determined that the computer records were likely fabricated by “threat actors” who wanted “to make it appear as though a connection existed” between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.
“If true, this would constitute a potential violation of various US federal laws,” Ankura, the cyber firm, wrote in a report released Friday.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, called on House Democrats to invite Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify about his investigations of the FBI’s abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, has resisted requests to invited Horowitz to testify about his office’s report of the FBI’s mishandling of surveillance against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Jordan renewed his request of Nadler after Horowitz released the preliminary results of an audit his office conducted of a sample of 29 applications that the FBI submitted to a federal court in order to spy on American citizens.
“Because of the pervasiveness and seriousness of the FISA application deficiencies — and the pending reauthorization of FISA — we renew our request that you invite Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify at a public hearing promptly when the House returns to session,” Jordan wrote in a letter to Nadler obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Horowitz’s investigators found problems in all 29 applications selected for audit. A memo that Horowitz sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray said FBI agents failed to complete a series of procedures — called Woods Procedures — that are in place to ensure that investigators verify every piece of evidence that is cited in FISA applications.
Horowitz began the audit as a follow-up to his investigation into the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page.
That report found that FBI agents withheld information that undercut the bureau’s theory that Page was a Russian agent. Investigators also failed to disclose derogatory information regarding former British spy Christopher Steele. The FBI cited information from Steele throughout its surveillance warrant applications.
Horowitz’s latest report could potentially derail Congress’ reauthorization of several surveillance tools that the government uses to spy on foreigners and U.S. citizens.
The House struck a bipartisan deal on March 11 to reauthorize the surveillance tools after lawmakers agreed to enhance penalties and punishments for government officials who abuse the spy process. The Senate passed a 75-day extension of the surveillance laws on March 16.