The implications from this week’s revelation — that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign financed former British spy Christopher Steele’s unverified dossier of alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia — continue to expand.
But given this revelation, it’s important to revisit what we already know.
The FBI used the DNC/Clinton-funded dossier to obtain surveillance warrants targeting the Trump campaign from the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. At the time, the FBI was led by then-director James Comey:
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) April 19, 2017
CNN reported back in April that Steele’s dossier was used to secure a FISA warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page:
The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.
The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.
This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.
But it wasn’t just Carter Page who was targeted by the FBI/DOJ warrants obtained from the FISA Court.
CNN reported last month that Paul Manafort was also the subject of a FISA warrant both before and after last year’s election:
A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.
The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.
The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.
Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.
The extent to which the DNC-Clinton dossier was used to obtain the FISA surveillance on Manafort is still unknown, but given the timing and the fact that the dossier was used to target Carter Page, it seems likely.
The FBI’s involvement in the dossier itself was explained by none other than Christopher Steele himself.
Just days before last year’s election, he gave an interview to David Corn of Mother Jones trying to push out the allegations made in his dossier before Election Day.
Steele was only identified in the Mother Jones article as “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence.”
According to Steele, he provided his dossier and other memos to the FBI in August of last year:
The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.
There is no mention in Corn’s article that Steele’s work was funded as part of a contract with the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
The extent of the relationship between Steele and the FBI is still murky.
What we do know is that the FBI paid at least some of Steele’s expenses.
CNN reported last March about the payments made by the FBI to Steele:
The FBI reimbursed some expenses of the former British intelligence operative who produced a dossier containing allegations of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, people familiar with the matter said.
The short-lived arrangement before the US election ended abruptly in part because of the frustration of Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy, that the FBI wasn’t doing enough to investigate the Trump-Russia ties.
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that the FBI and Steele had sought to reach a payment arrangement.
An official familiar with the discussions said the FBI didn’t hire Steele as an informant, but that the arrangement instead allowed for expenses to be paid. It couldn’t be learned how much he was paid and for how long.
We know from the Washington Post story this week that what ended the relationship with Steele and the FBI was Steele’s identity being made public:
Some of Steele’s allegations began circulating in Washington in the summer of 2016 as the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into possible connections between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Around that time, Steele shared some of his findings with the FBI.
After the election, the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue gathering intelligence about Trump and Russia, but the bureau pulled out of the arrangement after Steele was publicly identified in news reports.
Steele was first publicly identified for his involvement in the dossier by the Wall Street Journal on January 11, 2017: the day after BuzzFeed published the dossier online.
One could understand the FBI’s reasoning for cutting ties with Steele: the Bureau was actively cooperating with a former foreign spy who had been commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC to investigate and undermine the next president of the United States.
But nearly a year after the presidential election, there remain a number of unanswered questions about the relationship between Steele and the FBI:
To what extent was the Steele dossier used by the FBI/DOJ to obtain the FISA warrants targeting Trump campaign officials?
Was the FBI aware of the extent to which Steele relied on information from Russian intelligence for the dossier’s claims?
Did the FBI recognize that the use of attorney’s to conceal the relationship between Steele and the Clinton campaign and the DNC might have violated federal election laws?
Was Steele’s dossier used as justification to unmask communications of Trump campaign associates?
Just yesterday we reported here at PJ Media that Rep. Trey Gowdy — the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — wants to know how much the FBI relied on Steele’s work for its investigation on the Trump campaign:
— Debra Heine (@NiceDeb) October 25, 2017
And in terms of public disclosure about the relationship between Steele, the FBI, and FISA warrants targeting Trump, our friend and colleague Andy McCarthy has at least one suggestion:
To repeat: Trump DOJ should declassify & disclose FISA app to show what representations were made to court about source of dossier claims.
— Andrew C. McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) October 25, 2017