Bret Baier’s interview of James Comey is already being described as a disaster for Comey by some on Twitter. Having watched the first half, I think Comey was doing okay for the first few minutes or so but he went completely off the rails when asked about funding for the Steele dossier.
“When did you learn that the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign had funded Christopher Steele’s work?” Baier asked.
“I still don’t know that for a fact,” Comey replied.
“What do you mean?” Baier said, genuinely confused for the first time in the interview.
“I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded it. I knew it was funded first by Republicans,” Comey said.
“But that’s not true,” Baier interjected.
“I’m sorry?” Comey said.
“That’s not true that the dossier that Christopher Steel worked on was funded by Republicans,” Baier said.
“My understanding was his work started, funded by, as oppo-research funded by Republicans,” Comey said.
At this point, Baier cut him off and tried to correct him. “So, Free Beacon said that they had Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS on a kind of a retainer but they did not fund the Christopher Steele memo or the dossier. That was initiated by Democrats.”
“Okay, my understanding was the activity was begun, that Steele was hired to look into was first funded by Republicans, then picked up, the important thing was, picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump,” Comey said.
“So you still to this day don’t know that it was funded by the DNC or the Clinton campaign?” Baier asked.
“I’ve read that in the media but I don’t know for a fact and didn’t know while I was at the FBI who, which exact opponent of the President’s funded that.” Comey replied.
Needless to say, Comey is incorrect about this. Baier is correct that the Free Beacon funded some oppo-research on Trump through Fusion GPS, but Steele was not hired until after the Clinton campaign began funding that research and the Free Beacon had ceased its funding. Here’s what the Free Beacon wrote about this last October:
All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier. The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele.
Comey is acting as if something everyone has known about for the last six months is still confusing to him, possibly, so he can say it didn’t matter. His ignorance on this point seems a bit too studied given that everyone else has known who funded the dossier for six months. Is it a coincidence that this gets to the core of the complaints many Republicans have about the FISA memo, i.e. that it failed to clearly identify Trump’s opponent as the funder but merely indicated in a footnote that it might be oppo-research? It seems to me Comey is trying a bit too hard to say this didn’t matter.
Here’s the interview queued up to the portion quoted above: