Real Clear Investigations’ (RCI) Eric Felten discovered a previously unnoticed footnote buried deep inside the DOJ Inspector General’s December report on FISA abuses. An FBI team in Rome disclosed some of their “most closely held secrets” to former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele. This meeting was held on October 3, 2016, one month before the election. It lasted for nearly three hours.
Felten reports that, “eager to maintain Steele’s cooperation,”
U.S. taxpayers the FBI team paid Steele $15,000 for showing up.
The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz details how a team of FBI agents in early October 2016 shared with Steele extensive classified materials, just weeks before the bureau cut off ties with him for leaking his own research to the media. The secrets included foreign intelligence information still considered so sensitive that the IG’s report refers to it even now only as coming from a “Friendly Foreign Government.”
The IG report indicates that the FBI knew the following:
1. Steele was providing information to Fusion GPS owner Glenn Simpson.
2. “Democratic Party associates” were funding his Fusion GPS work.
3. The “ultimate client” was the Clinton campaign. and that Hillary Clinton knew about his work.
Shortly after the meeting, Steele shared what he’d learned with Simpson. We know that because Simpson wrote about it in his recently published book, “Crime in Progress.”
According to Felten, “The FBI’s disclosures to Steele — described on pages 114-115 and in footnote 513, and supported on pages 386-390 and footnotes 252 and 513, deep in Horowitz’s report – were violations of laws governing the handling of classified material, according to the Inspector General and experts in national security law who spoke with RCI.”
At that stage of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, only a handful of top FBI officials and agents even knew of its existence. Yet, agents told Steele all about it.
In October 2016, the FBI was focused on George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn, and according to the report, all four cases were officially labeled “Sensitive Investigative Matters” (SIM).
FBI witnesses told the Inspector General that because the investigation involved “an ongoing presidential election campaign” the bureau took the further step of designating Crossfire Hurricane a “prohibited” case file. When an investigation is “prohibited,” its files can be accessed only by those who are officially working the case.
The other bureau jargon used by the Crossfire Hurricane team was to call the investigation “close-hold.” The goal, according to the Inspector General, was to “ensure information about the investigation remained known only to the team and FBI and Department [of Justice] officials.”
If the FBI went to such lengths to conceal their investigation from their colleagues, why did they share it with Steele, “a partisan operative and private foreign citizen?”
Steele had met FBI agent Michael Gaeta, whom the IG report refers to as “Handling Agent 1,” in 2010 while working on the FIFA (soccer’s international governing body) case. Felten reports that Steele met with Gaeta in London on July 5, 2016 to pitch his “dossier” to the FBI. Clearly, Gaeta liked what Steele had to sell.
The IG report identifies the other FBI agents who participated in the October 3 meeting as “Case Agent 2,” a “Supervisory Intel Analyst,” and an “Acting Section Chief.”
Felten notes that “much of the public reporting regarding this meeting has focused on the information Steele shared with the FBI – and the many reasons agents should have doubted its credibility. But largely neglected has been the opposite side of the equation – what the FBI told Steele. The Inspector General reports that the bureau revealed to him much of the highly classified information that it had gathered regarding alleged Trump-Russia links.” Felten reports:
But by the fall, the Crossfire Hurricane team was so eager to lock in access to Steele’s ongoing “reporting” that they were willing to offer the former spy inducements. Steele said the FBI didn’t want him to share his election intelligence with other U.S. government agencies or with any of his private clients except for Fusion GPS. Gaeta said it was a reasonable request given that Steele “was now being offered compensation to go forward from the United States government” — compensation such as the $15,000 he had been told he would be paid for attending the meeting in Rome. More significantly, Steele received highly classified information.
Felten spoke to Sean Bigley, an attorney who specializes in national security law, who told him, “Sharing classified information with anyone not authorized to receive it is a crime. But sharing classified information with a non-U.S. citizen not authorized to receive it is also the very definition of harm to national security.”
Bigley added that, “The idea that the FBI is gratuitously sharing classified information with a foreign informant is rather extraordinary. If one of my clients did this, they would be stripped of their security clearance, out of a job, and probably facing indictment.”
Finally, it’s worth noting that former FBI officials and agents are given the choice between having their prior security clearances reinstated for the interviews with the OIG or not. The IG report says that both former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI General Counsel James Baker “chose not to request that their security clearances be reinstated for their OIG interviews. Therefore, we were unable to provide classified information or documents to them during their interviews to develop their testimony, or to assist their recollections of relevant events.” This had the effect of limiting the scope of their interviews.
Investigative journalist Lee Smith appeared on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” on Friday night to discuss Felten’s report. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was guest-hosting. Smith emphasizes the importance of Felten’s piece.
Smith says that by providing this information to Steele, who then gave it to Glenn Simpson, “a Clinton operative, in effect, Christopher Steele is the liaison now between the FBI and the Clinton campaign.”
Chaffetz tells Smith, “We don’t know if Durham is looking at this.” (Of course he is.) “Money is flowing. Tax-payer money.”
The two discuss the $15,000 the FBI has paid Steele just to attend the meeting in Rome, not to mention what they are paying for his intelligence. They are paying money to this operative for opposition research. Chaffetz says “Glenn Simpson’s involved. He’s part of Team Clinton and what the DNC research is doing. And then it gets even worse because that is then the information they use for this FISA warrant.”
Exactly, that’s the question that needs to be answered right here. We need to find out exactly why that information was provided to Christopher Steele. We’ve known for a long time, of course, that Steele and the Clinton campaign was providing information to the FBI. It now appears that the FBI was giving information to the Clinton campaign as well.
Was that in order to direct the FISA, so that they could obtain the spy warrant?
Chaffetz then plays a clip of Andrew McCabe telling CNN viewers in December that the problem is that too much responsibility was given to low level FBI agents and supervisors. Chaffetz notes that is exactly the opposite of what happened. (McCabe isn’t exactly known for his candor.)
Smith explains, “We know that this went up to extremely high levels. We know from the IG report people who were involved, people who apparently signed off on sharing this information with Steele include Peter Strzok and Bill Priestap. So this goes up extremely high. (This exchange can be viewed in the video below.)
Read Felten’s whole report here.
(Relevant segment begins at 21:55.)