The FBI on Friday released a two-page document that sheds some light on what former FBI Director James Comey briefed to President-Elect Donald Trump and President Obama regarding the infamous Steele dossier.
The document, first reported by Politico, asserts that Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, was working “on behalf of private clients” in his investigation of Trump’s possible ties to Russia. His dossier contained “highly politically sensitive information,” according to the summary.
Steele, who is not identified by name in the heavily-redacted document, is also described as collecting information “from a layered network of identified and unidentified subsources, some of which has been corroborated in the past.”
Those characterizations are likely to draw the attention of Republicans, many of whom have accused the FBI of relying too heavily on Steele’s unverified reporting in its investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Steele was ultimately working for the Clinton campaign and DNC, not a private client. And Steele’s use of some “unidentified” sources could raise questions about his collection methods.
A former MI6 officer, Steele was hired in June 2016 to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. His immediate employer was Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was working for Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Steele, who is unable to travel to Russia because of his past work there, relied on intermediaries to obtain information about Trump and his advisers.
Republicans have blasted the FBI for failing to disclose who hired Steele to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in applications to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The applications for the warrants note that Steele was working for someone who opposed Trump’s campaign, but did not identify Fusion GPS, the Clinton team or DNC. Comey and Democrats have argued that it was only important for surveillance court judges to know that the information about Trump was coming from someone who opposed his campaign.
The two-page summary, which Politico obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is heavily redacted and does not reveal many details about what Comey told Trump during their now-infamous Jan. 6, 2017, meeting at Trump Tower.
Comey visited Trump with three other intelligence community chiefs, but stayed behind to speak with the president-elect about Steele’s report. Comey has said that he told Trump about Steele’s claim that the Kremlin had blackmail material on Trump. The dossier claims that the Russian government has video of Trump with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel in 2013. Trump has vehemently denied it, and no evidence has come forward supporting the allegation.
Trump was only in Moscow for one night during the trip in question. People with him on the trip have said that he had a very narrow window of opportunity to engage in the conduct alleged by Steele because he was in his hotel room for only around five hours.
The FBI document also reveals that Steele had been compensated by the bureau “for the previous reporting over the past three years.”
The summary also noted that Steele’s dossier “appears to have been acquired by multiple Western press organizations starting in October.”
Steele and Fusion GPS met at least as early as September 2016 with reporters from several news outlets. Page, the former Trump campaign aide who is discussed throughout the dossier, has said he first received a media request about the dossier’s allegations on July 26, 2016. The reporter, who worked for The Wall Street Journal, asked Page whether he met in Russia earlier that month with Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin, two Kremlin insiders.
Unknown to Page at the time, the claim about the two Igors is made in a memo that Steele added to the dossier on July 19, 2016. Steele has repeatedly claimed he has never met Sechin or Diveykin.
The FBI officially cut ties with Steele on Nov. 1, 2016, over his contacts with the press. He was a source for an Oct. 31, 2016, article published by Mother Jones. The FBI continued receiving information from Steele, however, through Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. Ohr, whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, met numerous times with Steele after the 2016 election. He briefed the FBI on his interactions with Steele at least a dozen times.