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Christopher Steele dossier source probed as Russian agent by FBI

Christopher Steele dossier source probed as Russian agent by FBI

FBI agents knew the “primary sub-source” used by Christopher Steele to compile his anti-Trump dossier had been suspected of being a Russian intelligence operative, yet they still treated the dossier as valid, according to new documents declassified Thursday.

The source, who is not named, had been investigated by the FBI a decade ago after approaching foreign policy researchers and offering to pay for secrets. The source also had numerous contacts with other Russian operatives, according to an inspector general’s report.

Yet none of that information was shared with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when the FBI sought a secret wiretap on Trump campaign figure Carter Page.

Instead the FBI was still defending the Steele dossier as late as 2018.

“This is the most stunning and damning revelation the committee has uncovered,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee, who released the documents publicly after Attorney General William P. Barr ordered that part of the inspector general’s report declassified.

The Steele Dossier accused Mr. Trump of conduct ranging from grotesque to treasonous. It has largely been discredited, with some lawmakers on Capitol Hill saying it amounted to Russian disinformation.

But the dossier was used to obtain a secret spy warrant on Mr. Page, and it was leaked to the press in the days before Mr. Trump was inaugurated, helping fuel claims that he was colluding with Russia. Then-FBI Director James B. Comey even raised the contents of the dossier with Mr. Trump at their first meeting during the presidential transition, kicking off the bad blood that would lead to Mr. Comey’s firing and appointment of the special counsel.

The FBI’s use of the dossier, despite knowing it was not reliable, has become a black eye for the bureau.

Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, demanded to know Thursday why FBI officials were still defending the document to the Senate intelligence committee in 2018.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “concerned about what I’ve heard about that briefing.”

He said all the senior bureau employees involved with the Russia investigation are no longer with the FBI, and he said line-level employees could face discipline, but they are waiting for the conclusion of a criminal investigation ordered by Mr. Barr.

That investigation has already won a guilty plea from a former FBI lawyer who admitted to altering an email to make it appear as though Mr. Page had not had a prior working relationship with a U.S. intelligence agency. In fact he had, which if it had been known might have undercut the FBI’s allegation that he may have been working with Russia.

The special counsel’s two-year investigation did not find evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump team and Russia.

According to the newly declassified information, Mr. Steele’s source approached some think tank employees in late 2008, including one who worked for an influential Obama foreign policy advisor, and wondered whether he would get a job on the administration, would have access to secrets, and would be willing to “make a little extra money.”

The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation, discovering the person was already associated with two other counterintelligence subjects, and had contact with known Russian intelligence officers.

The FBI had sought a FISA warrant but before it was approved the person left the U.S.

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Published at Fri, 25 Sep 2020 00:57:31 +0000