Obama administration officials who used Christopher Steele’s “dossier” to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign may have known it was unreliable, according to The Hill reporter John Solomon.
That would be a violation of protocol, because all evidence submitted to the top-secret FISA court must be certified as accurate by the FBI.
The dossier of opposition research based on unnamed Russian sources funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped trigger the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
A number of Trump-related figures have pleaded guilty or been indicted for process crimes such as lying to investigators, but none have been charged with collusion.
Former FBI Director James Comey called claims made in the dossier “salacious and unsubstantiated.” And the author, Steele, has testified in court that the claims are unverified.
Solomon notes that House Republicans recently added a string of emails between the FBI and the Department of Justice to documents they would like the president to make public.
Solomon said sources told him the targeted documents may provide the most damning evidence to date of potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The evidence has been kept from the majority of members of Congress for more than two years.
They include messages involving Comey, key FBI investigators in the Russia probe and DOJ lawyers.
They were sent just before the FBI got its FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
“The email exchanges show the FBI was aware – before it secured the now-infamous warrant – that there were intelligence community concerns about the reliability of the main evidence used to support it: the Christopher Steele dossier,” Solomon said.
“The exchanges also indicate FBI officials were aware that Steele, the former MI6 British intelligence operative then working as a confidential human source for the bureau, had contacts with news media reporters before the FISA warrant was secured.”
Steele was fired Nov. 1, 2016, after the FBI secured the warrant, based on claims he had unauthorized contacts with the media, Solomon noted.
“But the FBI withheld from the American public and Congress, until months later, that Steele had been paid to find his dirt on Trump by a firm doing political opposition research for the Democratic Party and for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that Steele himself harbored hatred for Trump.”
He said: “If the FBI knew of his media contacts and the concerns about the reliability of his dossier before seeking the warrant, it would constitute a serious breach of FISA regulations and the trust that the FISA court places in the FBI. That’s because the FBI has an obligation to certify to the court before it approves FISA warrants that its evidence is verified, and to alert the judges to any flaws in its evidence or information that suggest the target might be innocent.”
Solomon said there’s more trouble with the evidence. The FBI used a Yahoo article as independent confirmation for the Steele dossier. But Steele was the source of the article.
Solomon said: “If the FBI knew Steele had that media contact before it submitted the article, it likely would be guilty of circular intelligence reporting, a forbidden tactic in which two pieces of evidence are portrayed as independent corroboration when, in fact, they originated from the same source.”
A source told Solomon that if the documents are released, the public will have “clear and convincing evidence” that the FISA warrant, the spying on the Trump campaign, and more came about because the judges on the FISA court were deceived.