The FBI formally admonished ex-British spy Christopher Steele in early 2016 before he began investigating candidate Donald Trump, according to new documents.
Mr. Steele signed the admonishment and then on at least two occasions violated the rule for confidential human sources, or CHS, by talking to the news media.
News of the verbal admonishment is contained in 70 pages of mostly redacted FBI documents on what Mr. Steele reported as a CHS, how much he was paid and how he met his demise as a key bureau undercover source.
The documents were obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which went to court to obtain them.
Totally redacted pay request forms show 11 payments in 2016, but don’t reveal his project. Mr. Steele, a Kremlin expert who runs Orbis Business Intelligence in London, had a previous FBI association and the payments could have been for other work.
If the money was for Trump-related spying or Russia intelligence, then Mr. Steele was collecting from two sources: the bureau and the Hillary Clinton campaign/Democratic Party. They hired Fusion GPS to run Mr. Steele as a source for Trump opposition research.
DOCUMENT: Christopher Steele reprimanded by FBI
The sparse documents’ most significant disclosure is that Mr. Steele was on Feb. 2, 2016, read an admonishment. FBI guidelines for confidential sources refers to admonishment as instructions.
Judicial Watch suggested the admonishment was for some unknown misconduct. The document is heavily redacted.
The un-redacted part states, “verbally admonished the CHS with CHS admonishments, which the CHS fully acknowledged, signed and dated. The signed CHS AGG [attorney general guidelines] admonishments form is attached.”
After the admonishment, Mr. Steele went on to play a pivotal role in leveling charges that fueled the probe into President Trump and helped lead to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
By the end of April, Mr. Steele was hired by the Democrats. By June, he was churning out memos that accused the Trump campaign of an “extensive conspiracy” with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election.
In September, he briefed a number of reporters in Washington. The act on its face appears to violate the FBI’s insistence that a human source remain confidential. Congressional investigators say Mr. Steele lied to the FBI by denying he had spoken to any reporters.
He fed a steady diet of collusion charges to the FBI. In October 2016, the FBI wrote an application to a judge to wiretap volunteer Carter Page. The dossier, which alleged Mr. Page met with shady Kremlin figures in Moscow, made up the bulk of the evidence to a judge that Mr. Page acted as a foreign agent for Russia.
Mr. Page, an investor who lived in Moscow and has many Russian contacts, calls Mr. Steele’s charges a fabrication. He has not been charged.
On his book tour this year, fired FBI Director James B. Comey, a persistent Trump critic, vouched for Mr. Steele.
Of the dossier, he told ABC News, “This guy, who’s credible, says these things are true. Okay. That means we should try and replicate that work to see if we can develop the same sources.”
Thus, the dossier became the FBI’s anti-Trump guide.
The FBI continued to cite Mr. Steele in three subsequent wiretap renewals stretching for a year. The court-approved surveillance allowed them to view all of Mr. Page’s previous electronic messages.
By that time, not only had Mr. Steele been admonished but eventually he was outright fired by the FBI in November 2016 for violating the rules.
Mr. Steele in late October had become so frustrated in not being able to stop the Trump candidacy that he went to the liberal Mother Jones magazine and spilled all of his charges as an unnamed intelligence source.
Alarmed by the article, his FBI handlers deemed him “not suitable for use as a CHS.”
The firing document states, “At that time, handling agent advised CHS that the nature of the relationship between the FBI and CHS would change completely and that it was unlikely that the FBI would continue a relationship with the CHS. Additionally, the handling agent advised that CHS was not to operate to obtain any intelligence whatsoever on behalf of the FBI.”
The fact the FBI blackballed him from the Trump probe raises another question.
That fall, Fusion GPS established a backchannel flow of anti-Trump information to then-Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked at Fusion, to FBI agent Peter Strzok. He headed the probe and greatly disliked Mr. Trump, his internal messages show.
The question is, did Mr. Steele continue to funnel his Trump charges to the FBI after it told him to cease?
In 2017, Daniel Jones, an ex-senior intelligence staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told the FBI that his firm had been given $50 million by political donors to continue investigating Mr. Trump. He said he hired Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele.