- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Democratic Party-financed operative Christopher Steele secretly made false felony charges against President Trump associates that weren’t included in his infamous public dossier, according to an analysis of a State Department internal memo.

Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence officer, produced the 35-page dossier for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign that contained at least 12 charges of Trump-Russia conspiracies. A review by The Washington Times, comparing the dossier with special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, found none was substantiated and most were debunked.

Mr. Steele met privately at the State Department with Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016, during his dossier writing from June to December 2016. Ms. Kavalec memorialized the meeting in handwritten and typed memos.

In his briefing, Mr. Steele went beyond his dossier to lodge additional collusion charges against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager during that summer.

Mr. Mueller’s final report, delivered on March 22, said there was no conspiracy by Trump aides to help either Russian computer hacking or social media trolling against Mrs. Clinton. The conclusion destroyed Mr. Steele’s core conspiracy charges against the president.

The State Department session illustrated the wide access Mr. Steele gained to peddle his charges within the Obama administration as he was handled by the Clinton opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

In addition to the State Department, Mr. Steele met with more than a half dozen journalists and had direct lines of communication to the Justice Department and the FBI. The FBI used the dossier to obtain at least one yearlong wiretap on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page and to brief the Obama White House.

Among his outside-the-dossier charges is the Alfa Bank computer story. Mr. Steele told Ms. Kavalec that Manafort operated a secret communications link to Alfa, Russia’s largest commercial bank. It marked the first time Mr. Steele is known to have pushed the Alfa-Trump conspiracy, which has been promoted by liberal news sites but debunked by cybersecurity specialists.

Alfa’s oligarch owners, led by Petr Aven, are confidants of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Aven, a billionaire economist and author who circulates freely in Western society, has sued Mr. Steele for defamation in Washington because the dossier claimed he paid cash bribes.

Said the Kavalec memo: “Peter [sic] Aven of Alfa Bank has been the conduit for secret communications between the Kremlin and Manafort; messages are encrypted via TOR software and run between a hidden server managed by Alfa Bank.”

The memo states that Mr. Steele has written a separate paper on the supposed server.

The FBI investigated the server conspiracy theory. The Mueller report contains a section on Mr. Aven. No server is mentioned. The report said Mr. Aven knew no one in the Trump campaign, including Manafort. He attempted to contact the presidential transition team through a middleman to discuss sanctions against Russia but never succeeded, the report said.

The cyberdata fueling the Alfa speculation actually came from a marketing spam server in Pennsylvania, according to cyber investigators.

Fusion GPS and its co-founder, Glenn R. Simpson, have pushed the server theory for months. The effort succeeded in having articles published in Slate.com right before the Nov. 8 election and in The New Yorker last year.

In another new charge, Mr. Steele told Ms. Kavalec that Manafort owes $100 million to “Russians.” Manafort’s supporters say there is no such debt, and the Mueller report cleared him of election conspiracy. Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud related to his political consulting business in Ukraine.

Mr. Steele made another charge to Ms. Kavalec. He alleged that Mr. Page, the volunteer wiretapped by the FBI, was involved in a platform debate on Ukraine at the Republican National Convention.

One delegate wanted candidate Trump to commit to lethal defense weapons for the Russian-invaded country. A compromise was reached. New language committed Mr. Trump to all appropriate assistance to Ukraine’s armed forces.

Trump aides say Mr. Page wasn’t involved in the compromise. The Mueller report provides a Ukraine platform timeline, and Mr. Page isn’t mentioned.

The Kavalec memo says Mr. Steele began his Trump investigation in June “at the behest of an institution he declined to identify that had been hacked.”

That would mean Mr. Steele knew from the start that he was working for the Democratic Party, which announced in mid-June that Russian military intelligence units had penetrated its computers.

Mr. Steele wanted his allegations to become public before the Nov. 8 election, he told Ms. Kavalec.

The Kavalec memo repeats some of Mr. Steele’s dossier charges, such as claims of a secret videotaping by Russian intelligence of Mr. Trump with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room. The Mueller report suggested that no such video exists.

Mr. Steele also repeated his allegation that Manafort was a campaign go-between with the Kremlin. Mr. Mueller found no evidence. Manafort’s attorney said his client had no contacts with the Russian government.

Ms. Kavalec’s written notes suggest that Mr. Steele told her he had briefed the news media. The notes say, “NYT WP have.”

Mr. Steele, in fact, had met with reporters in September from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The Kavalec memos were obtained by the conservative group Citizens United through open-records litigation and were first reported by The Hill newspaper.

Whether Ms. Kavalec provided her typed and handwritten memos to the FBI would be significant. Later in October, the FBI won court approval to place a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap on Mr. Page. The authority meant the FBI could read his text messages and emails as well as listen to his phone calls.

Agents also could go back to the time he was a campaign volunteer and visited Moscow to deliver a commencement speech. Mr. Steele alleged that Mr. Page met with two Putin cronies there and discussed bribes for sanctions relief. Mr. Page denies this.

After a year of spying on Mr. Page, the FBI filed no charges against him.

The FBI’s FISA application relied heavily on the Steele dossier. The FBI presented as corroboration a September article in Yahoo News that recounted exact details on Mr. Page that were in the dossier.

The FBI told the federal judge that the Yahoo News story didn’t come from Mr. Steele because he told agents he had not spoken to reporters.

It is now known that statement isn’t factual. Mr. Steele was the Yahoo News source.

Did the FBI, before preparing its warrant application, receive the Kavalec handwritten notes that mentioned two newspapers? The issue is the subject of congressional inquiries.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last year sent a letter to the Justice Department asking it to investigate Mr. Steele for lying to the FBI.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been investigating whether the FBI followed proper procedures in obtaining FISA warrants.

Republicans say it is improper to rely on partisan opposition research of one political party to spy on the other.

Attorney General William Barr on Monday appointed John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to investigate how the Obama Justice Department and FBI opened the probe into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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