Fired FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that he never told Donald Trump that the dossier on which his bureau relied to investigate the president was financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign.
Promoting his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey talked to ABC News about his seminal moment with President-elect Trump at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017. He informed Mr. Trump about the dossier’s most salacious unproven charge — that in 2013 the future president entertained prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
Mr. Comey presented the allegation to Mr. Trump as an intelligence report, keeping him in the dark about it being a piece of opposition research by ex-British spy Christoper Steele. Mr. Steele had told a Justice Department contact during the election that he was “desperate” to destroy the presidential candidate.
Republicans have blasted the FBI for relying on the dossier’s discredited charges to investigate scores of Trump associates.
Trump supporters say that if Mr. Comey had been forthcoming on Jan. 6 the White House from the start would have been in a better position to defend itself against dossier allegations of Russian collusion. To this day, they remain unconfirmed publicly. Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey the following May.
Mr. Comey also did not tell the president that the Democratic Party dossier had been used by the FBI to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump volunteer Carter Page. In fact, later that month, the FBI again used the dossier to garner a second of four court-approved wiretap warrants on Mr. Page, who denies all the dossier charges against him.
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The dossier went on to become a favorite talking point for the liberal news media and for Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, without a hint the supposed dirt was paid for by the DNC and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. The dossier has guided the FBI investigation under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later, that Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, used subpoenas to force the DNC to reluctantly admit it funded the project and paid Mr. Steele through the investigative firm Fusion GPS.
Mr. Nunes has pursued an investigation into the FBI hierarchy, including Mr. Comey’s tenure, that has exposed what the congressman considers rampant surveillance abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Over Mr. Schiff’s objections, the committee’s majority Republicans concluded last month that there was no Trump-Russia election collusion.
Mr. Comey has emerged as another strident critic of Mr. Trump among former Barack Obama intelligence chiefs. In the ABC News interview, he implied that his marriage was better than Mr. Trump’s and cast the president as a mafia boss.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan have landed contracts with two anti-Trump networks, CNN and MSNBC respectively. They have used those platforms to unleash harsh criticisms. Mr. Clapper says Mr. Trump is an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin and predicted the president’s downfall.
Conservatives consider the two part of an Obama “deep state” determined to destroy the Trump presidency through the Washington news media.
ABC on Friday released segments of the Comey interview with George Stephanopolous to air Sunday night on “20-20.”
Mr. Comey defended his decision to hide the dossier’s Democratic Party origins by saying, “because it wasn’t necessary for my goal.”
His decision meant that Mr. Trump was listening to a charge about prostitutes and how the Russias may have compromising information in him without knowing the supposed incident was sourced to the Democratic Party.
Had he been told, it likely would have changed the president-elect’s reaction to Mr. Comey, his supporters say.
“I started to tell him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013 during the visit for the Miss Universe pageant and that the Russians had filmed the episode, and he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’” Mr. Comey told Mr. Stephanopoulos.
This charge came directly from the dossier.
“And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically, I didn’t answer that, and I just moved on and explained, ‘Sir, I’m not saying that we credit this, I’m not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important that you know.’”
“I said … ‘I’m not saying that I believe the allegations, I’m not saying that I credit it,’” Mr. Comey said. “I never said, ‘I don’t believe it,’ because I couldn’t say one way or another.”
“I honestly never thought this words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” he said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Several Republican congressional sources told The Washington Times that Mr. Comey did a disservice to the incoming president by withholding the dossier’s partisan nature.
Kellyanne Conway, a close Trump adviser, said on “Fox and Friends” Friday that “of course” Mr. Comey should have informed the president.
She lauded Mr. Stephanopoulos statement to the former FBI director: “Don’t you think the president-elect had a right to know?”
Four days after Mr. Comey’s brief private moment Jan. 6, BuzzFeed posted Mr. Steele’s entire 35-pages. CNN reported that day about the Comey briefing, giving the dossier legitimacy as a news story. The CNN story did not disclose the Democratic Party angle, instead presenting the allegation as an intelligence report that said Mr. Trump could be blackmailed by the Kremlin.
Republicans charge that the CNN story came from Mr. Clapper, who denies the charge.
Mr. Nunes’ final Russia collusion report implies that Mr. Clapper misled the committee when interviewed about his media contacts.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, has sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz laying out a list of issues to be investigated in the Russia-Trump probe. One item is whether Mr. Comey set up the president by leaking the Jan. 6 briefing to CNN.
Mr. Comey has acknowledged leaking his private anti-Trump memos to the New York Times via a middleman.
Said a Congressional source involved in the Russia investigations: “The fact that Comey withheld from Trump the fact that the Steele dossier was opposition research funded by the DNC and the Hillary campaign is stunning, and Comey’s excuse for not telling him is ludicrous. As everyone now knows, the FBI and DOJ also hid this information from the FISA court. This is a pattern of deception at the highest levels of our government, and it’s absolutely indefensible.”