BuzzFeed has hired a team led by former FBI and White House cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante tasked with trying to verify aspects of the dossier it published last year detailing President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, Foreign Policy reported Monday.
Mr. Ferrante and his colleagues at FTI Consulting have quietly worked for the past six months or so attempting to corroborate claims contained in the salacious Trump dossier on behalf of BuzzFeed, four sources familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy.
FTI was initially commissioned to verify certain aspects of the dossier as they related specifically to a libel lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive implicated therein, but has since broadened the scope of its probe to include additional material, the sources said.
No longer limited to just the Gubarev suit, Mr. Ferrante’s team has traveled the globe attempting to retrieve documents and interview witnesses in various countries capable of potentially validating claims contained in the explosive but largely unverified dossier, Foreign Policy reported.
Compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steeler for Fusion GPS, a D.C.-based research firm, the dossier alleges illicit ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign, as well as accusations of sexual misconduct involving Mr. Trump and a Moscow hotel room, among other matters.
The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Russia interfered in the 2016 race in order to boost Mr. Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and officials in a Department of Justice special counsel’s office and several Senate and House committees are currently investigating allegations of possible collusion between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s campaign, including claims contained in the dossier.
While not the only one underway, FTI’s investigation could ultimately become the first to publicly uncover evidence corroborating the dossier’s claims, particularly given the secretive nature of special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe, Foreign Policy reported. Mr. Trump and has defenders have repeatedly decried Mr. Mueller’s probe as a witch hunt, but FTI’s investigation, on the other hand, could potentially “establish outside veracity of dossier allegations,” said one of its sources.
Mr. Ferrante joined the FBI in 2005 and served as chief of staff of the bureau’s Cyber Division prior to joining the National Security Council a decade later, where he advised both the Obama and Trump administration on domestic and international cybersecurity threats before leaving for FTI in April.
Both FTI and Mr. Ferrante declined to comment, Foreign Policy reported.
“We can’t comment on the specific legal tools used to defend BuzzFeed’s First Amendment rights in this case,” said BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal.
Fusion GPS began investigating Mr. Trump after being first hired by The Washington Free Beacon and then eventually the Democratic National Committee. A controversial memorandum released this month by Republican members of the House Intelligence Panel argued that authorities used uncorroborated information contained in the dossier to authorize surveillance targeting a member of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Democratic members of the House panel have called the memo flawed and are currently fighting for the release of their response.
Russia has denied meddling in Mr. Trump’s election, and the White House and Kremlin have denied colluding.