Inspector General Michael Horowitz discovered that FBI agents shared extensive classified materials with former British spy Christopher Steele, despite knowing the Democratic National Committee was paying Steele and that Hillary Clinton herself was aware of Steele’s research, according to a new report by Eric Felten at RealClearInvestigations.
FBI agents met with Steele in Rome just a month before the 2016 election, where they gave him a “general overview” of Crossfire Hurricane as well as details of the cases against Trump campaign staffers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn. In addition to the intel, Steele was compensated $15,000 by the FBI for attending the three-hour meeting.
According to Felten, the FBI agent referred to as “Handling Agent 1″ in the Horowitz report is FBI agent Michael Gaeta, who worked on cases fighting organized crime in Russia. Gaeta and Steele met working on the investigation of corruption at international soccer organization FIFA. “Between 2014 and 2016, Steele collected $95,000 from the bureau for his work on the FIFA case and reports on corruption in Russia and Ukraine,” Felten reports. Gaeta became Steele’s go-to for work and began feeding Gaeta information on Trump and Russia connections that would eventually form the “dossier.”
Felten points out that the FBI took extra measures internally to keep Crossfire Hurricane confidential. It was considered both “prohibited,” meaning it could be accessed only by agents officially working on the case, and “close-hold,” meaning information was known only by DOJ and FBI officials. Yet despite the appearance of classified intel, the FBI was eager to meet with Steele, even with the knowledge of his DNC connections.
The FBI had every reason to expect Steele to share information with Glenn Simpson, whose client was the Clinton campaign. Steele claims to have been “candid” with Gaeta about who was writing the checks for his Trump-Russia research. Steele took notes of the July 5 meeting he had with the “handling agent.” According to the Horowitz report, those notes state that Steele told Gaeta “Democratic Party associates” were funding his Fusion GPS work, that the “ultimate client” was the Clinton campaign, and that “the candidate,” as the IG report puts it, “was aware of Steele’s reporting.”
Horowitz’s IG report implies that permission was given to share classified information simply by the presence of the “section chief” at the meeting with Steele. “FBI Security staff told us [the IG’s office] that the Assistant Director for CD [Counterintelligence Division] can authorize the disclosure of classified information,” reads a footnote in the report.
When Felten asked if this was FBI policy, or if there is record of this authorization being granted, Office of the Inspector General spokeswoman Stephanie M. Logan declined to comment.