Former British spy Christopher Steele was informed months after accepting the job to compile a dossier on then-candidate Donald J. Trump that the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee were paying the bills but that’s not what the FBI told the secret FISA court when it sought a warrant to spy on one of Trump’s campaign volunteers.
This bit of explosive information was revealed in an expose on Steele by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer but the implications for the FBI are profound. Why? Because the bureau explicitly stated in its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Application to the secret court that Steele was unaware of who backed Fusion GPS, the firm which hired him, for the research.
Steele, however, claimed in the expose titled Christopher Steele, The Man Behind the Trump Dossier that he did know who was paying his bill.
“Under the arrangement, Orbis was a subcontractor working for Fusion GPS, a private research firm in Washington,” according to the article. “Fusion, in turn, had been contracted by a law firm, Perkins Coie, which represented both Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Several months after Steele signed the deal, he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. In all, Steele was paid a hundred and sixty-eight thousand dollars for his work.”
Did Steele lie to the FBI or did the FBI choose not to disclose this information to the secret court?
In a footnote on the warrant application to the court, the FBI stated that the “identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia.” Meaning that now embattled Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele to conduct the research, never advised him of who was paying his bill.
The FBI submitted the FISA application on Carter Page, a former volunteer for the Trump campaign, on Oct. 21, 2016. Steele, according to testimony provided by Fusion GPS owner and former Wall Street Journal Reporter Glen Simpson was hired in the Spring of 2016. The New Yorker article also states that Steele was hired in the Spring.
That means that Steele would have known who was paying him by the time he met with the FBI in Italy during the summer of 2016.
Which leads to another question, did Steele lie to the FBI or did the FBI choose not to disclose this information to the secret court?
The FBI did not immediately respond for comment but Page, whom the FBI was spying on, has denied all the accusations made against him the Steele dossier. He has defended himself against those allegations this year as he made rounds on numerous television and cable news shows over the past several weeks.
Page has also filed a number of lawsuits against media organizations, including Buzzfeed for publishing what former FBI Director James Comey said to President Trump in January 2017, when he briefed him was “salacious and unverified.”
Still, the FBI months earlier used the dossier, which they admittedly said was unverified, to get a warrant to spy on Page.
One major accusation in Steele’s dossier accused Page of colluding with Russian businessman Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company. The dossier, which was based on information from former and current Russian spies, said Sechin offered Page a 19 percent stake in Russia’s oil company in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on his country. Page told me in an earlier interview, as he has told numerous media outlets and Congress, that he never met with Sechin and says the offer to give him roughly $18 billion, a sum of which was 19 percent stake at the time, is laughable and highly improbable.
More problematic for the FBI and DOJ was the fact that both government agencies stonewalled for months turning over documents requested by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee. Last year, Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, requested that the committee see the applications after FBI text messages discovered by the DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz surfaced.
Horowitz’s team of investigators discovered that FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his paramour FBI lawyer Lisa Page had sent more than 50,000 texts to each other, a number of which revealed the pair was deeply opposed to President Trump’s candidacy and others showing bias toward Hillary Clinton. Strzok, who was on the FBI’s Russia desk, was also a senior member of the FBI’s team investigating Clinton.
Nunes fought the FBI and DOJ for nearly a year, then had another public battle with the DOJ’s Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein in January over the four-page memo the committee was prepared to release to the public. The FBI and DOJ advised the White House not to approve the release of the memo, citing its release had national security implications. President Trump, however, decided to release it without redactions after a review by the FBI and White House revealed that there was no threat to national security.
The committee’s findings revealed that the FBI did not disclose to the courts that the DNC and Clinton campaign funded the research used as the bulk of their evidence in obtaining the warrant. If proven true it would be a violation of federal law.
On March 2, Nunes demanded in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the DOJ investigate what appears to be clear violations of FBI protocol and possible criminal violations under federal law when the bureau obtained the warrant. He asked the DOJ to provide answers to what the committee deemed was a “clear violation of FBI protocols” in the warrant application.
The potential criminal violations listed by Nunes in the letter are 18 USC 242 and 50 the SC 1809:
- 18 USC 242: using color of law to conduct a targeted investigation based on the pretext of law enforcement
- 50 USC 1809: surveillance conducted under color of law in a manner not authorized by FISA.
The evidence against the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is mounting and it is almost certain that the evidence being collected behind closed doors and the bits being uncovered in the media will all be taken into account by investigators.
And maybe that will fall to the investigators in a second special counsel if Republican law makers get their way. Nunes has not yet discussed his position publicly on whether Sessions should appoint a special counsel but those who know him told this reporter it’s only a matter of time. He’s sure to follow Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-SC, both who have recently joined other lawmakers asking Session’s to appoint a special counsel to investigate the FBI and its handling of the dossier, as previously reported.
Session’s told Fox New’s Shannon Bream Wednesday night “I have great respect for Mr. Gowdy and Chairman Goodlatte, and we are going to consider seriously their recommendations.” Session’s revealed that he “appointed a person outside of Washington — many years at the Department of Justice — to look at all of the allegations that the House Judiciary Committee members sent to us and we are conducting that investigation.”