The mainstream media is anxious—desperate, even—to claim that the report issued Monday from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz dispels once and for all the “conservative conspiracy theories” about the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 election.
The report, The New York Times assures us, “debunked President Trump’s accusations that former bureau leaders engaged in a politicized conspiracy to sabotage him.” Nothing to see here, move along.
But in fact the IG report does reveal that something is very wrong at the FBI. For one thing, it shows that the FBI lied about the credibility of Christopher Steele, a key source in the agency’s application to spy on a Trump campaign associate beginning in fall 2016. The report says the justification for spying on Carter Page, a U.S. citizen, was “based on significant omissions and inaccurate information in the initial and renewal FISA applications.”
How did that happen? The 400-page IG report shows it happened because the FBI team in charge of the investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, relied entirely on information from Steele, a former British intelligence agent and author of the discredited, Democratic National Committee-funded dossier alleging collusion between Trump and Russia. Steele’s dossier claimed, among other things, that Page was an intermediary between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Russian government, and that Page secretly met with Russian officials in Moscow to discuss obtaining derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.
None of that was true, nor was any of it corroborated when the FBI submitted its FISA application to wiretap Page in fall 2016, but these Steele reports were nevertheless the primary basis for establishing probable cause in that and subsequent FISA applications. In other words, Page was spied on by his own government for more than a year, all because the FBI lied about Steele’s credibility.
Why It Matters Whether Steele Is Credible
Given the lack of corroboration of the assertions in the Steele dossier, the IG reports states that “it was particularly important for the FISA applications to articulate the FBI’s knowledge of Steele’s background and its assessment of his reliability.” But rather than articulating its knowledge of Steele’s reliability, the FBI lied about it, saying Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings.”
According to the IG report, the FBI “overstated” the significance of past reporting from Steele, who had been a paid FBI informant since 2013. Moreover, the conclusion that Steele could be trusted on this basis hadn’t been approved by his FBI handler, per the agency’s procedural regulations. Not only that, but the FBI omitted crucial information about the reliability of one of Steele’s key Russian sources, whom Steele himself had warned the FBI was a “boaster” who “may engage in some embellishment.”
In addition, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec met with Steele on October 11, 2016, two weeks before the DOJ and FBI used the Steele dossier to obtain a FISA surveillance warrant on Page. As Margot Cleveland noted in these pages on Monday, Kavalec’s meeting notes reveal that Steele wasn’t reliable.
He claimed “the Russians had constructed a ‘technical/human operation run out of Moscow targeting the election’ that recruited emigres in the United States to ‘do hacking and recruiting,’” and that “payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami.” Kavalec’s notes corrected Steele’s statement: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”
The upshot of all this is that the Crossfire Hurricane team at the FBI presented Steele as a reliable source in order to obtain a warrant to wiretap Page, even though there was ample reason to doubt that he was at all reliable or trustworthy.
Was Steele a Confidential FBI Informant Or Not?
One issue raised in the report that speaks directly to Steele’s credibility is confusion over his relationship with the FBI. According to his FBI handler, Steele was enrolled as a Confidential Human Source, or CHS, in the fall of 2013. Yet Steele denies that he was ever a CHS, and told the IG’s office that he was barred from being a “clandestine source” because of his previous intelligence work for another country.
But this doesn’t add up. According to the report, Steele said he never recalls being told by the FBI that he was a CHS and that he would never accept such an arrangement, “despite the fact that he signed FBI admonishments and payment paperwork indicating that he was an FBI CHS.” Moreover, his FBI handler says Steele never told him he was barred from being a CHS, and that he “expressly informed Steele that he was a CHS.”
The clearest indication that Steele knew he was a CHS, despite his denials, is that he signed annual written acknowledgements of the FBI’s CHS rules, and he accepted a total of $95,000 from the FBI. Every time he was paid, he signed paperwork using his CHS codename. The IG report states that in the view of Steele’s FBI handler, “Steele’s contention that he was not a CHS is not credible.”
There’s of course much more in the IG report about the FBI’s dishonesty and deceit related to the Russia investigation, but the fact that the agency lied about Steele’s credibility in order to secure a wiretap on Page speaks volumes about the Russia collusion hoax and the deep state bureaucrats who cooked it up.