The FBI could not verify a Christopher Steele dossier item that fed off an explosive New York Times report on Ukraine and hidden cash during the 2016 election, a newly declassified bureau document shows.
Mr. Steele wrote that ex-Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych directly told Russian President Vladimir Putin he authorized kick-backs to Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Days before Mr. Steele wrote that item for the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Times reported there was a “black ledger” showing the payments.
“Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief,” blared the Aug. 14, 2016 headline. Five days later, Manafort resigned.
The FBI’s inability to confirm Mr. Steele’s Putin angle is contained in a FBI spread sheet created to keep a running score of the ex-British spy’s various claims against President Trump and how they panned out.
In one column on each page, the document lists the various allegations from Mr. Steele, the Democratic Party-financed investigator who wrote the discredited anti-Trump dosser. In a second column is the FBI’s “corroboration/analysts notes.”
The FBI turned over the spreadsheet to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The New York Times Aug. 14 story rattled the Trump campaign. The Times said Manafort is listed as the recipient of $12 million from the Russian-backed Party of Regions, according to a ledger.
The FBI spreadsheet quotes from Mr. Steel’s Aug. 22 dossier memo: “Ex-Ukrainian President YANUKOVYCH confides directly to Putin that he authorized kick-back payments to Manafort, as alleged in western media. Assures Russian President however there is no documentary evidence/trail.”
Mr. Steele also wrote, ” [REDACTED] recent meetings between President Putin and ex-President Yanukovych of Ukraine. This had been held in secret on 15 August near Volgograd, Russia and the western media revelations about Manafort and Ukraine had featured prominently on the agenda.”
The FBI “corroboration” column says, “Unable to verify meeting between Putin and Yanukovych or the date/place of meeting as of 11/14/2016.”
In other words, three months after Mr. Steele told of such a meeting, the FBI could find no evidence.
Mr. Steele and associates spread the dossier to the American news media, FBI, Justice Department, State Department, and Obama White House — all with the aim of crippling Donald Trump.
The black ledger’s link to Manafort was never confirmed. He denied receiving the money. Ledger signatures did not match his, according to his attorney.
Manafort was convicted of concealing from the IRS payments from Ukraine’s Party of Regions, but not supposed ledger money.
Overall, the FBI spreadsheet told the same story — no confirmation listed for Mr. Steele’s most stunning allegations, such as an “extensive conspiracy” between the Kremlin and Trump campaign to interfere in the election.
CBS News correspondent Catherine Herridge first obtained the speed sheet.
Mr. Steele’s main dossier source, Russian national Igor Danchenko, ultimately repudiated the information he gleaned from a group of friends in Moscow.
The spreadsheet often relies on “open source” news stories to try to verify Mr. Steele’s many claims, gossip and insider anecdotes.
In the end, former FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who led the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into President Trump, told the Atlantic the dossier sent him on “wild-goose chases.” He called it “inaccurate” and “disinformation.”
The FBI was unable to verify another explosive Steele claims: that Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen secretly traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Putin operatives and arrange hush money to computer hackers.
“The Crossfire Hurricane Team has been unable to verify travel by Cohen to the Czech Republic in August, 2016,” the spread sheet says.
Ultimately, the FBI concluded such a trip never took place. Cohen denied it immediately on the dossier’s publication in BuzzFeed on Jan. 10, 2017.
The Prague story was provided to Mr. Steele by Mr. Danchenko based on information from an associate.
Intelligence agencies told the FBI the tale was the product of Kremlin disinformation.