A newly declassified Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) attachment to the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian election activities proves that top FBI leaders, including fired former director James Comey, deliberately misled President Donald Trump about the Steele dossier in early 2017. The annex to the ICA, which was declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on June 9 and provided to Congress, consists of a two-page summary of the debunked anti-Trump dossier by British foreign national Christopher Steele.
The declassified Steele dossier annex, which was attached to the full ICA at the demand of the FBI, is noteworthy both for what it included and what it refused to disclose about the dossier and its author.
Although the debunked dossier was jointly funded by the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, the FBI never disclosed that information in the annex. The FBI did not disclose that the allegations were funded by a political opponent of the incoming president, nor did it disclose that Steele himself, aside from the political motivations of his paymasters, was also personally “desperate” to prevent Trump’s election and inauguration as president.
In 2016, Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked for the Democrat opposition research firm that hired Steele to peddle anti-Trump allegations to affect the 2016 elections, told the FBI that Steele was personally invested in defeating Trump in 2016.
“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” Ohr testified to Congress. Ohr also said he told the FBI that Steele’s anti-Trump work was being directed and funded by the Clinton campaign.
Instead of plainly disclosing the facts about the motivations of the foreign national hired to spread uncorroborated alleagations against Trump, the FBI instead described Steele only as “an executive of a private business intelligence firm and a former employee of a friendly foreign intelligence service.” To date, neither Comey nor his deputy Andrew McCabe, who was fired for repeatedly lying under oath to federal agents, has adequately explained why they refused to acknowledge and disclose that Steele was working for the DNC and the Clinton campaign.
The ICA annex on the Steele dossier also failed to disclose that Steele had been fired by the FBI as a source after he leaked information to the media about his dossier and then lied about it. Steele’s leaks about his own handiwork were later used by the FBI in a secret spy warrant application as proof that his dossier was accurate. In its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to spy on former Trump affiliate Carter Page, the FBI falsely implied that a September 2016 article by Yahoo! News verified several of Steele’s allegations about Carter Page. The FBI did not disclose to the FISA court that Steele himself was the source for the allegations referenced in that news story.
While the FBI deliberately withheld material information about the funding of the anti-Trump Steele dossier, it had no problem peddling false allegations about Trump included in Steele’s dossier, including that Trump had been a secret Russian agent working for Russian president Vladimir Putin for at least five years.
“[T]he FBI source claimed that the Kremlin had cultivated [Trump] for at least five years,” the annex declared. “The FBI source also claimed Russian authorities possessed compromising material on the President-elect’s activities when he was in Russia[.]”
“The FBI source claimed that secret meetings between the Kremlin and the President-elect’s team were handled by some of the President-elect’s advisers, at least one of whom was allegedly offered financial remuneration for a policy change lifting sanctions on Russia.”
In reality, all of the allegations against Trump were blatantly false. The reference to “compromising material” referred to baseless allegations laundered by Steele that Trump had hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed in the Moscow Ritz-Carlton where former President Barack Obama had once slept. Steele further alleged that the Russian security services had video of the incident and were using it to blackmail Trump. Even though those specific allegations were not explicitly included in the annex on the Steele dossier, Comey chose to personally brief Trump on them during his January 6, 2017 meeting with Trump.
“I said the Russians allegedly had tapes involving him and prostitutes at the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow from about 2013,” Comey told Trump, according to a top secret memo Comey wrote to himself the next day. “I said I wasn’t saying this was true, only that I wanted him to know that it had been reported [in the dossier] and that the reports were in many hands.”
“I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey continued. “I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold.”
In reality, it was the briefing of this attachment by intelligence chiefs that was quickly leaked to CNN and used to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the unverified and uncorroborated allegations. Comey’s briefing itself became the very news hook that CNN needed to pretend that the dossier was a serious document rather than the lunatic ravings of a partisan hatchet man on the payroll of the DNC and Clinton campaign.
In congressional testimony on March 20, 2017, Comey confirmed that the conversation he had with Trump about the annex on the Steele dossier was classified. When asked by Sen. Angus King (D-Maine) about the circumstances of Comey’s January 6, 2017 meeting with Trump and how they were leaked to the media, Comey refused to answer, saying that he could not divulge information about classified conversations.
“I can’t comment because I do not want to ever confirm a classified conversation with a president or president-elect,” Comey said. “I’m not going to confirm that there was such a conversation because then, I might accidentally confirm something that was in the newspaper.”
“Any unauthorized disclosure of classified conversations or documents is potentially a violation of law and a serious, serious problem,” Comey, who later absconded with classified memorandums following his termination as FBI director, said.
The release of the ICA annex, specifically marked as “Annex A” in the 2017 document, also raises questions about whether former CIA director may have perjured himself before Congress when he denied under oath that the dossier was never part of the ICA.
“Did the CIA rely on [the Steele dossier]?” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked Brennan on May 23, 2017.
“No,” Brennan replied.
“Why not?” Gowdy asked in response.
“Because we — we didn’t,” Brennan said. “It wasn’t part of the corpus of intelligence information that we had. It was not in any way used as a basis for the Intelligence Community assessment that was done.”
Brennan and other former Obama administration officials involved in the effort to spy on and later oust Trump from office are reportedly being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether any crimes were committed by federal investigators and their sources throughout the multi-year operation against Trump. To date, not a single person involved in the anti-Trump investigation has been charged with criminal wrongdoing.