Christopher Steele, author of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, misled the FBI into making false assertions to a judge to gain a wiretap on a Trump campaign volunteer, according to a Senate document released Tuesday evening.
The disclosure promises to tarnish further an FBI that was already under fire from Republicans for hiding the dossier’s Democratic financing.
The chain of events has to do with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant issued by a judge on Oct. 21, 2016, to spy on Carter Page.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, released a criminal referral on Mr. Steele that shows the FBI believed it had corroboration for the ex-British spy’s dossier when it did not.
The discredited dossier, the referral said, was the main piece of evidence cited by the FBI in the FISA application. Mr. Steele accused the Trump campaign of colluding with the Kremlin, with Mr. Page taking part. All involved deny the charges.
Mr. Grassley’s referral, asking the Justice Department to look into possible criminal charges against Mr. Steele, reports that a Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo News story reporting the same information was cited by the FBI to the judge as corroboration.
The FBI did this because Mr. Steele denied being Yahoo News’ source, when in fact he was. The FBI did not have corroboration, just the dossier and a news story based on that very dossier.
Even worse, the FBI tried to protect Mr. Steele’s credibility before the judge because it had not verified the dossier and used the former British spy’s reputation as the selling point.
To this day, the FBI has not verified his charges, some of which are very salacious and quickly became the stuff of public conversation when BuzzFeed printed the dossier.
“The application attempts to explain away the inconsistency between Mr. Steele’s assertions to the FBI and the existence of the article, apparently to shield Mr. Steele’s credibility on which it still relied for the renewal request,” said the referral, also signed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
The referral quoted directly from the FBI application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
“Given that the information contained in the September 23 news article generally matches the information about Page that [Steele] discovered doing his/her research [redacted] the FBI does not believe that [Steele] directly provided this information to the press,” the FBI told the court.
This statement to the FISC judge turned out to be wrong.
What’s more, the FBI continued to seek 90-day wiretap renewals based not on corroborating the dossier, but relying on Mr. Steele’s reputation, even after he misled agents.
“After all, the FBI already believed Mr. Steele was reliable, he had previously told the FBI he had not shared the information with the press — and lying to the FBI is a crime. In defending Mr. Steele’s credibility to the FISC, the FBI had posited an innocuous explanation for the September 23 article, based on the assumption that Mr. Steele had told the FBI the truth about his press contacts. The FBI then vouched for him twice more, using the same rationale, in subsequent renewal applications,” the Grassley-Graham document says.
The FBI planned to pay Mr. Steele, a partisan who hoped to sink the Trump campaign, to continue to investigate President Trump. But Mr. Steele then gave a interview to Mother Jones magazine and he was fired.
Mr. Grassley has been investigating FBI abuse in obtaining the warrant and wants a criminal investigation into Mr. Steele for lying to the bureau.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, reported Friday that the FBI never told the FISC judge that the dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
The application has a footnote that refers only to possible political backing.
The Grassley referral also disclosed for the first time that Mr. Steele wrote a memo on Oct. 19, showing that Mr. Steele received anti-Trump information from Clinton associates funneled through the State Department.
Mr. Grassley is investigating the roles of Clinton operators Sid Blumenthal and Cody Shearer.