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In a Friday night, holiday weekend document dump, we’re now learning that before the Mueller investigation began, the FBI knew that at least part of the ridiculous so-called Steele dossier was based upon planted Russian disinformation.
Worse, according to Senator Ron Johnson in a Wall Street Journal op-ed released Friday night, the FBI continually lied about the provenance of the fake dossier information and only showed the FISA court and inspector general damning information about President Trump’s election team. Exculpatory information was left out.
More outrageously is the fact that this information was known to the FBI’s top brass and Hillary Clinton’s muckrakers, Fusion GPS, in October thru December of 2016 — months before Robert Mueller was assigned to investigate RussiaGate, according to CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge:
Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote:
Declassified footnotes to a Justice Department inspector general report show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation team investigating members of the Trump campaign received classified reports in 2017 identifying key pieces of the Steele dossier as products of a Russian disinformation campaign. This might be only the tip of the iceberg because other recently declassified information demonstrates that even more disinformation may have been planted in Christopher Steele’s reporting.
Let that sink in. The FBI knew that at least some of its evidence against the Trump campaign, and maybe more, was likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign—evidence from a source that was “central and essential” for getting the first FISA warrant. It isn’t clear what if anything the FBI did to determine whether their investigation was based in substantial part on Russian disinformation.
Yet the FBI assistant director in charge of the investigation, Bill Priestap, told the inspector general that as of May 2017 (when Robert Mueller took over as special counsel), the FBI “didn’t have any indication whatsoever” that their evidence was part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Johnson says he learned about the information about the lies in the footnotes of the Inspector General’s classified report in December 2019, just four months ago. He’s been fighting to get them declassified ever since.
My colleague Sen. Chuck Grassley and I began pressing Attorney General William Barr, and eventually acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, for full declassification of these footnotes. That’s why they’re now public.
The FBI team’s handling of these intelligence reports seems consistent with how it ran the entire investigation. From the opening of the investigation, the FBI team kept accumulating exculpatory information. Yet rather than wind the investigation down, they ramped it up. Minimally intrusive open-source searches became Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants and confidential human sources targeting campaign staffers.
Then it got worse. The FBI team excluded exculpatory information from its FISA application; it ignored exculpatory evidence provided by another U.S. government agency; and, when that later became an issue, an FBI attorney doctored an email to cover it up. Given all that, it’s not surprising that the FBI, on learning their evidence was the product of a Russian disinformation campaign, simply shrugged it off.
Johnson says he wants to know what former FBI chief James Comey knew about the intentionally planted Russian disinformation, asking:
Why did former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI general counsel James Baker refuse to have their security clearances reinstated before they were interviewed by the inspector general? Was it so they wouldn’t have to explain this information?
Which members of the FBI team reviewed these reports? Did Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, who referred to the opening of the investigation as an “insurance policy”? Did the FBI attorney who doctored the email? Did Mr. Mueller?
What, if anything, did the FBI do to follow up on these reports?
Johnson asks if the FBI engaged in willful ignorance of the facts in order to get President Trump.
The Steele dossier already ranks as one of the dirtiest political tricks of all time. The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign paid for it, laundered it through friends and allies in the Justice and State departments, and spun it into a full-blown FBI investigation of her political rival. Then, after Donald Trump was elected, it was used as a political cudgel to bludgeon his administration and set up an 18-month special counsel investigation. Now it’s been revealed the FBI had evidence that it was based in substantial part on a Russian disinformation campaign.
Johnson says that this information is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
The upshot is Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for the Steele dossier through her attorneys, the DNC and Fusion GPS and it was she who was “colluding” with Russians to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.