Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone has been a pretty harsh critic of the media’s handling of the Russia collusion investigation and has recently been vocal about how the Horowitz report undercuts many of the claims made by the media about the Steele dossier, the Nunes memo, etc. Tuesday, Taibbi published a piece looking at some of the loose ends from the IG report that still haven’t been sufficiently explained.
One of those loose ends has to do with footnote 461. In the midst of a discussion about the development of Crossfire Hurricane and specifically Andrew McCabe’s approval of the use of human sources to contact Carter Page, the report contains this footnote (from page 310 of the report):
The only express direction we found that McCabe gave regarding the use of a CHS concerned a former FBI CHS, who contacted an FBI agent in an FBI field office in late July 2016 to
report information from “a colleague who runs an investigative firm … hired by two entities (the Democratic National Committee [DNC] as well as another individual…[who was] not name[d]) to explore Donald Trump’s longstanding ties to Russian entities.” The former CHS also gave the FBI agent a list of “individuals and entities who have surfaced in [the investigative firm’s] examination,” which the former CHS described as “mostly public source material.” In mid-September 2016, McCabe told SSA 1 to instruct the FBI agent from the field office not to have any further contact with the former CHS, and not to accept any information regarding the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. McCabe told the OIG he did not remember giving those instructions, and could not tell us why he might have done so. We found no evidence that the FBI reopened the former CHS for the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, or tasked the former CHS in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
CHS stands for “confidential human source.” So someone who had worked with the FBI before as a source was calling an FBI field office to report that “a colleague” (who sounds a lot like Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS) had been hired to look into Trump’s connections to Russia. That source gave the FBI a list of people who had turned up in the investigation. Two months later, McCabe instructed that agent not to have any further contact with that source. But when asked why he did this, McCabe claimed he couldn’t remember doing it much less why. Here’s Matt Taibbi’s take:
During testimony last week, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Horowitz if the “investigative firm” in this footnote was Fusion-GPS. Horowitz said he’d have to get back to him.
This footnote raised a few eyebrows on the Hill. Among other things, it seems to imply that the “investigative firm” was connected with the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe at that early juncture in July of 2016. (Why else would McCabe need to insist on not accepting information regarding Crossfire Hurricane?)
It would be interesting to know who this “former FBI CHS” is, why this person felt a need to reach out to the FBI about his colleague’s firm, and why the FBI shut down this source.
First, I think it’s relatively safe to assume the company being described is Fusion GPS. If so, then what colleague of the owner of that firm was a) close enough to the investigation to have a list of names of what it had turned up and b) also a former FBI source. I’m speculating here but one name that comes to mind is Christopher Steele. Steele was hired by Fusion to start working on the dossier in June. By late July, Steele had written the first two documents that would eventually become known as the dossier. The second one included the allegations about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and mentioned Carter Page. According to reports, Steele gave those first two reports to an FBI agent in Rome:
The F.B.I.’s Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad—“Move Over, Mafia,” the bureau’s P.R. machine crowed after the unit had been created—was a particularly gung-ho team with whom Steele had done some heady things in the past. And in the course of their successful collaboration, the hard-driving F.B.I. agents and the former frontline spy evolved into a chummy mutual-admiration society.
It was only natural, then, that when he began mulling whom to turn to, Steele thought about his tough-minded friends on the Eurasian squad. And fortuitously, he discovered, as his scheme took on a solid operational commitment, that one of the agents was now assigned to the bureau office in Rome. By early August, a copy of his first two memos were shared with the F.B.I.’s man in Rome.
“Shock and horror”—that, Steele would say in his anonymous interview, was the bureau’s reaction to the goodies he left on its doorstep. And it wanted copies of all his subsequent reports, the sooner the better.
Admittedly the dates don’t quite match up. The IG report says the FBI agent received the tip in late July and the Vanity Fair report above says the FBI had it in early August. Not the same but we’re certainly in the same ballpark. And there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Steele had these reports done in July so they could have been turned over earlier. But if so, what’s that business in the footnote about the FBI not reopening this source. Obviously the FBI did deal with Steele months after this. So maybe the source mentioned in the footnote is someone else. If not Steele, who would that be?
If it was Steele, why would McCabe tell the agents not to accept any more intel from him? And why would he later claim not to remember saying that? As we know, McCabe’s record of honesty isn’t very good so I have no problem assuming he’s a) possibly lying and b) has a reason to lie. It would be nice to pin this down and understand what happened here.