We can see that Hillary Clinton’s campaign shared false allegations of Trump-Russia collusion! Special Counsel John Durham challenged the FBI’s claims about how and why its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began.
The drama is happening against the clashing approaches of the two Justice Department officials tasked with scrutinizing the Russia probe’s roots and unearthing any misconduct.
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The bureau’s defenders with Horowitz’s report argue that the FBI’s Trump-Russia conspiracy investigation, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, is untainted despite its extensive use of the discredited Clinton-funded Steele dossier.
Durham stated that his office had “advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.” Unlike Horowitz, Durham stressed that his “investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department” and has instead obtained “information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.”
His office hasn’t described the specific basis for its disagreement. Crossfire Hurricane lawyers’ defense has a tremendous problem, copious countervailing evidence in the public record.
- ‘’Numerous officials received Steele’s allegations – some meeting with the ex-British intelligence officer himself – and discussed sending them up the FBI chain weeks before July 31, 2016, the Horowitz-endorsed date when the bureau claims it opened the Russia-Trump “collusion” investigation. These encounters call into question the FBI’s claim that Steele played no role in triggering Crossfire Hurricane and that its team only received the dossier weeks after their colleagues, on September 19.
- The FBI’s own records belie its claims that it decided to launch the Russia probe, not because of the dossier, but instead on a vague tip recounting a London barroom conversation with a low-level Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos. Australian diplomat Alexander Downer’s tip, recorded in bureau records, was that Papadopoulos had merely “suggested,” that Russia had made an unspecified “suggestion” of Russian help – a thin basis upon which to investigate an entire presidential campaign.
- Upon officially opening Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, FBI officials immediately took investigative steps that mirrored the claims in the Steele dossier even though they were supposedly unaware of it. In August, the FBI team opened probes of Trump campaign figures Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort – all of whom are mentioned in the dossier – based on predicates that are just as flimsy as the Downer-Papadopoulos pretext.
- The FBI’s claim that Steele played no role in sparking the Trump-Russia probe is further called into question by top bureau officials’ previous false claims about the investigation, including Steele’s role. They not only lied to the public and Congress, but to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.’’
‘Definitely of Interest to the Counterintelligence Folks’
Durham’s November indictment of Igor Danchenko was the last one for the Clinton-funded dossier. But to sympathetic media amplifiers of the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe, the roots were unscathed.
David Corn “concluded that the FBI investigation of Trump-Russia contacts had been legitimately launched,” thereby proving that “there was no hoax.”
The article that wants to demonstrate “Why the Discredited Dossier Does Not Undercut the Russia Investigation,” Charlie Savage, stated that Horowitz’s report established that Steele’s allegations didn’t reach the Crossfire Hurricane team until September 16, 2016. ‘’ they did not yet know about the dossier” when they launched the probe on July 31.’’
First Steele-FBI contact about the dossier appeared on July 5, three weeks before the probe was officially launched. Steele contacted Michael Gaeta, who served in Rome as a legal attaché.
Steele informed him, “I have some really interesting information you need to see … immediately.” Gaeta jumped at the chance: “I said, all right, I will be up there tomorrow,” and immediately caught a flight to London. At Steele’s office on that early-summer day, the former British spy briefed his eager FBI handler on the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories he had generated and handed over a copy of his first “intelligence report.”
“I couldn’t just sweep it under the rug, couldn’t discount it just on its face,” he told Congress, adding that Steele “was an established source.” On July 12, Gaeta told a colleague in the FBI’s New York field office, the then-assistant special agent in charge, about Steele’s allegations. According to Horowitz — the I.G. who concluded that Steele “played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening” – this agent then informed his superiors about the Steele allegations “the same day.” The Steele material, Horowitz’s team, was told, was seen by these FBI officials as “something that needs to be handled immediately” and “definitely of interest to the Counterintelligence folks.”
On July 28, at his FBI colleague’s request, Gaeta shared a copy of the two reports he got from Steele.
‘’ According to the inspector general’s report, Gaeta heard from a colleague that high-level officials were already “aware of the reports’ existence,” including at the “Executive Assistant Director (EAD) level” at FBI headquarters in Washington. This occurred, Gaeta told Congress, “on maybe August 1, right around then,” or “either July 31.”’’
“I was told by the [assistant special agent in charge] at a very high level, he goes at the EAD level at headquarters they have the reports,” Gaeta said. According to the I.G. report, Gaeta emailed an FBI supervisor on July 28 to report that Steele had told him that the contents of two of his reports “may already be circulating at a ‘high level’ in Washington, D.C.”
Gaeta talked about the Steele dossier claims with the legal attaché monitoring his work at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. The unidentified government lawyer told the inspector general that he signed off on Gaeta’s discussions with the N.Y. field office and recalled having the expectation that Steele’s reporting would be provided “to the Counterintelligence Division (CD) at FBI Headquarters within a matter of days.”
Before the trip to see Steele in London, Gaeta got the approval of Victoria Nuland. Nuland’s office then received information directly from Steele “in the middle of July.” Steele, Nuland recalled in a 2018 interview, “passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI.”
Another U.S. government official shared Steele’s information with the FBI. It confirmed that he had a personal connection. ‘’ Then-senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife Nellie worked alongside Steele at Fusion GPS, first made contact with Steele right before the former British spy’s meeting with Gaeta on July 5, and then shortly after. This led to a July 30 breakfast between the Ohrs and Steele at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. – one day before Crossfire Hurricane began. At this sit-down, Ohr recalled to Congress, Steele claimed that he had evidence that Russian intelligence “had Donald Trump over a barrel.”’’ TGP reported.
Ohr stated, “I wanted to provide the information he [Steele] had given me to the FBI.” He immediately reached out to Andrew McCabe, the then-deputy director of the FBI. “I went to his office to provide the information, and Lisa Page was there,” Ohr recalled, referring to the FBI attorney who exchanged anti-Trump text messages with Strzok while both worked on the Trump-Russia probe. “So I provided the information to them.”
Despite the testimony, Horowitz relied on an entry in Ohr’s calendar to determine the meeting didn’t occur on October 18. McCabe had to resign from the department for lying about his contacts with the media and “did not remember Ohr calling him to set up the meeting or how it came to be scheduled.”
‘’According to the official narrative, while top-ranking FBI officials shared and discussed the Steele dossier with everyone but Crossfire Hurricane team members, the counterintelligence division decided to investigate the Trump’s campaign’s potential ties to Russia on July 31 based on an unrelated tip from Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat. At a London bar in May, campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos reportedly told Downer that Russia had offered to help the Trump campaign by anonymously releasing information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Although there was no evidence that the Trump campaign had pursued, received, or used this undefined material, FBI officials deemed this rumor sufficient grounds to investigate the campaign for potential involvement in Russia’s alleged theft of DNC emails published by Wikileaks.’’ TGP reported.
Peter Strzok said, “Papadopoulos had somehow learned about the hacking operation before the public did and had advance knowledge of the Russian plan to use that information to hurt Clinton’s campaign. Even the FBI hadn’t known about it at that time.”
Papadopoulos’ supposed “advance knowledge” about Russia’s alleged “hacking operation” turned out to be non-existent in 2016.
The FBI heard that Papadopoulos, in his conversation with Downer, suggested that “the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” (emphasis added) that it could “assist” the Trump campaign “with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama).”
The FBI docs learn that the ‘’suggestion’’ was unclear and that the Russian help could entail material acquired publicly. Not emails hacked from the DNC, which were “not mentioned in the E.C.” The FBI also acknowledged that it had no evidence concerning the Trump camp’s receptivity to the “suggested… suggestion”: It was “unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer,” the E.C. stated, and that Russia could act “with or without Mr. Trump’s cooperation.”
‘An Insufficient Basis’ for the Probe’s Supposed Predicate
The Crossfire Hurricane team didn’t bother to contact the campaign volunteer whose suggestion triggered it. The FBI expanded the probe to many other figures around Trump.
The FBI opened parallel probes of campaign volunteer Carter Page, campaign adviser Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort.
Horowitz said that Strzok described “the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane” as an effort “to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia” (emphasis added) that Papadopoulos had “suggested.”
“Lacking any evidence — and admitting such in their own opening document — the team, nevertheless, proceeded to simply speculate who ‘may have’ accepted the Russian offer and subsequently opened up full investigations on four Americans,” Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director for intelligence and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), opined in Congressional testimony in 2020. “This is unconscionable and a direct abuse of FBI authorities.”
‘’According to Papadopoulos, the FBI “initially considered seeking FISA surveillance of Papadopoulos” but quickly determined that it had “an insufficient basis” to do so, Horowitz found. But if the FBI felt that it had “an insufficient basis” to spy on Papadopoulos, how could the FBI deem him to be a sufficient basis for investigating and spying on members of the campaign that he worked for? ‘’
The FBI used the Steele dossier to ask for surveillance warrants on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, so the bureau made 17 “factual misstatements and omissions” to the FISA court.
‘’ When the FBI briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on using the Steele dossier in 2018, it told similar falsehoods while presenting the Clinton contractor as credible. According to the FBI’s prepared talking points, the Senate was erroneously told that Steele’s main source, Danchenko, “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier.” Danchenko, the FBI additionally claimed, also “maintains trusted relationships with individuals who are capable of reporting on the material he collected for Steele.” The FBI also said that its discussions with Danchenko “confirm that Steele did not fabricate the dossier.”’’ TGP reported.
However, the FBI concealed that Danchenko told the agents that corroboration for the dossier’s claim was zero
and that he has no idea where claims sourced to him came from.
FBI claimed that it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The FBI tactics have failed, and the memo was released two days later.
“U.S. investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier,” a CNN headline proclaimed in February 2017, weeks after the dossier’s publication. The FBI is “continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier, and, at its core, a lot of it is bearing out,” an unidentified “intelligence official” told The New Yorker later that month.’’
Durham’s Dissent Could Become a Political Flashpoint
We did not find information in FBI or Department E.C.s [Electronic Communications], emails, or other documents, or through witness testimony, indicating that any information other than the [Friendly Foreign Government] information” – Australia’s tip from Downer — “was relied upon to predicate the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Horowitz report stated.
Durham is not limited to one department nor its employees’ voluntary testimony.