Serving then as an FBI informant, former British spy Christopher Steele confessed to a State Department official one month before the 2016 election that his Democratic-funded anti-Trump “dossier” was political and faced an Election Day deadline, according to a newly disclosed written account.
The Hill investigative reporter John Solomon said the memo by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec of her Oct. 11, 2016, meeting with Steele had been buried in her files for two and a half years.
“For the first time, we have written proof the U.S. government knew well before the FBI secured the FISA warrant that Steele had a political motive and Election Day deadline to make his dossier public,” he wrote.
Significantly, Steele made the confession 10 days before the FBI used his now-debunked dossier as evidence to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and alleged campaign ties to Russia.
In her typed summary, Solomon reported, Kavalec wrote that Steele’s client, Fusion GPS, “is keen to see this information come to light prior to November 8,” the date of the 2016 election.
The dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. But that fact was not disclosed to the FISA court, and the dossier became a catalyst for an FBI counter-intelligence investigation that led to the Mueller probe. Mueller concluded in his report, released to the public in April, that the Trump campaign did not conclude with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Solomon said a copy of the memo was obtained a few days ago through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United.
He pointed out that Kavalec’s notes were not provided to the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia investigation, according to the panel’s former chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
“They tried to hide a lot of documents from us during our investigation, and it usually turns out there’s a reason for it,” Nunes told Solomon.
Senate and House Judiciary investigators also told Solomon they were unaware of the memos, even though they investigated Steele’s behavior in 2017-18.
Solomon reported a member of Congress transmitted the memos this week to the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz is finishing up a report on his investigation of alleged abuse by the FBI and Justice Department in obtaining the surveillance warrant.
Solomon said the FBI “is doing its best to keep much of Kavalec’s information secret by retroactively claiming it is classified, even though it was originally marked unclassified in 2016.”
Solomon said Sources told him there also are handwritten notes from Kavalec’s meeting, with information about Steele’s political ties that have not been given to Congress.
“There’s a connection to Hillary Clinton in the notes,” said a source who has seen them.
Solomon noted the FBI, under Director Christopher Wray, classified the document as “secret” only a few days ago.
Nevertheless, along with providing written proof the U.S. government knew of the dossier’s political motive before the FBI secured the FISA warrant, it’s now also known that the document was sent to one or more people whose job is so sensitive that their identity had to be protected.
“That means there is little chance the FBI didn’t know about Steele’s political client, or the Election Day deadline, before requesting the FISA warrant,” Solomon wrote.
In addition, Solomon found, Kavalec’s notes shed light on text messages between the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which first revealed the politically-biased nature of the Trump collusion probe.
The two repeatedly messaged each other in October 2016 about efforts to speed the review of the FISA warrant, Solomon noted.
Strzok, for example, texted Page that he was “fighting with Stu for this FISA,” referring apparently to then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stu Evans.
A few days later, Strzok emailed Page he needed some “hurry the F up pressure” to get the FISA approved.
Solomon asked: “If the evidence is good and the FISA request solid, why did the FBI need to apply pressure?”
The real reason, he wrote, “may be the FBI was trying to keep a lid on the political origins, motives and Election Day deadline of its star informant Steele.”
“And that would be the ultimate abuse of the FBI’s FISA powers.”