British ex-spy Christopher Steele spread other accusations against President Trump not included in his well-publicized election dossier, according to the Justice Department’s recent report on FBI misconduct.
The report by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz shows at least three little-noticed Steele assertions that went to Crossfire Hurricane, the bureau’s Trump probe headquarters. And like 13 of his dossier’s accusations of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, those three didn’t pan out either.
The three allegations had to do with supposed Trump campaign cash from Moscow via Azerbaijan, a Russian intelligence officer, and a purported intervention by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the next secretary of state.
Mr. Steele was hired in June 2016 by Fusion GPS with money from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
In September, he met with a gaggle of Washington reporters to spread his contentions that Mr. Trump was a Kremlin spy and that the Trump campaign was aiding Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election.
In October, he returned to Washington for more dossier spreading to reporters, the State Department and the FBI.
He had first met an FBI handler in early July at his Orbis Business Intelligence in London. In October, he met a group of agents and an intelligence analyst in Rome as the FBI was writing a warrant to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page using Mr. Steele’s evidence.
Meanwhile, Mr. Steele met with and communicated with Bruce Ohr, at the time the fourth-ranking Justice Department official, who then ferried his anti-Trump accusations to the FBI hierarchy.
In December, with Mr. Trump the president-elect, Mr. Steele switched strategies and targeted Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. The senator received a dossier copy and hand-delivered it to FBI Director James B. Comey. McCain aide David Kramer began anew to distribute Mr. Steele’s claims to news outlets, one of which, BuzzFeed, posted the entire 35-page report.
Mr. Horowitz, whose report chastised the FBI for filing an inaccurate surveillance warrant on Mr. Page, pieced together the Steele timeline and found some new claims.
Mr. Steele provided the FBI in Rome the name of a Russian intelligence officer whom he said may be the handler for Mr. Page, a name that Mr. Steele also told Mr. Ohr.
If true, this would bolster Mr. Steele’s reporting that Mr. Page, while on a trip to Moscow in July 2016, met with two Kremlin insiders and discussed taking bribes in exchange for relief from U.S. economic sanctions should Mr. Trump become president.
But that supposed meeting was never substantiated and neither was the Steele supposition that Mr. Page had a Russian handler.
The FBI told the IG that “Steele’s allegations about the Russian national were investigated, but no information was uncovered to substantiate the allegations.”
As it turns out, Mr. Page was an operational source for the CIA who provided information on this Russian to the agency.
Secretary of state
Mr. Ohr received a thumb drive from Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, and Mr. Ohr testified about the package to a House joint task force. But the full contents have never been disclosed.
The FBI denied a Freedom of Information Act request from The Washington Times.
The Horowitz report said the drive contained more Steele dossier memos.
There was also a document the Crossfire Hurricane team had never seen, the IG said.
That document, the report said, “recounted that a senior official in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had reported that a rumor was circulating that President-elect Trump’s delay in appointing a new Secretary of State was the result of an ‘intervention’ by Putin and the Kremlin, and that they had requested Trump appoint a ‘Russia-friendly’ figure who was prepared to lift sanctions against Russia.”
This Steele assertion, like his others, was not verified.
The third allegation is that Mr. Trump received illicit campaign cash from an Azerbaijani family, the IG report said.
This information came to Mr. Steele not from his prime source inside the Kremlin but from two longtime Hillary Clinton operatives and liberal former journalists, Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer.
The Blumenthal-Shearer operation meant that Democratic Party operatives were not only using Russia dirt from Mr. Steele, but from Mrs. Clinton’s own stable of activists.
The chain of custody went this way: Mr. Shearer collected his anti-Trump data from a Turkish businessman and a source inside Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Mr. Shearer gave the report to Mr. Blumenthal, who had a friend at the State Department.
That friend was Jonathan Winer, a former adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Winer gave the Shearer dossier to Mr. Steele who in turn passed it on to the FBI.
Mr. Steele said the Shearer reporting was “remarkably similar” to his.
“Trump’s compromise by the FSB, and the Kremlin’s funding of the Trump campaign by way of the Azerbaijani family,” is the way the IG report described the Shearer accusation.
Mr. Trump had a brief business relationship with Azerbaijani billionaire Aras Agalarov. He hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, then owned by Mr. Trump and NBC Universal, in Moscow. The next year. Mr. Agalarov’s Crocus Group real estate development firm and Mr. Trump discussed a licensing deal for Trump complex in Russia, but the discussions died.
Like the dossier, the Azerbaijani angle remains unverified. There is no hint of such payments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and his team’s two years’ worth of FBI investigating any links between Mr. Trump, his allies and Russia.
On Oct. 11, there was a sort of State Department summit with Mr. Steele flying into Washington to meet Mr. Winer and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. Her boss, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, was to have attended, but Mr. Steele’s flight was late and she left the room before he arrived.
He briefed the two on his dossier claims in the conversation, about which Ms. Kavalec testified to the Horowitz team:
“She stated that during the meeting Steele expressed frustration that the FBI had not acted on his reporting and explained that when he first offered information to the FBI, he found a lack of interest,” the report reads.
Mr. Steele likely did not know at the time that the FBI was preparing a wiretap warrant on Mr. Page based almost solely on his dossier.
When Mr. Winer learned in early 2018 that he was being scrutinized by Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and then-chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post.
“Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports,” he wrote. “He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature. What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources.”
A Washington Times analysis of the Steele dossier found 13 separate Trump-Russia collusion claims that were refuted by the Mueller report. There was no grand conspiracy.
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