Catherine Herridge has a quite a scoop on this Friday afternoon. Newly unredacted footnotes from Inspector General Horowitz’ report on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation reveal that the FBI was aware portions of the Steele dossier had been assessed to be likely Russian disinformation. In addition one footnote, which remains redacted for security reasons, indicates a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team knew that there had been “previous attempts by a foreign government to penetrate and research a company or individuals associated with Christopher Steele.”
#FISA Developing @CBSNews obtains April 2 letter responding to @SenRonJohnson and @ChuckGrassley over four key footnotes IG Horowitz FISA report. Three declassified with minimal redactions, and fourth footnote blacked out citing “unique and significant concerns. Specifically,
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) April 10, 2020
…the redacted information refers to information received by a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team regarding possible previous attempts by a foreign government to penetrate and research a company or individuals associated with Christopher Steele." READ #MyHighlighter pic.twitter.com/Y4imYy6V9E
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) April 10, 2020
Again, the bit about attempts by foreign governments to penetrate a company associated with Steele comes from the still redacted footnote (#342). But what has been revealed in the newly unredacted footnotes is pretty striking. Here’s how footnote 350 looked in the original release of the report:
Here’s the mostly unredacted version as published by Herridge:
It reads in part:
We identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from _____ indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting. A _____ 2017, report relayed information from ______ outlining an inaccuracy in a limited subset of Steele’s reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen. The ________ stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations… A _____ report dated ______ 2017, contained information about an individual with reported connections to Trump and Russia who claimed that the public reporting about the details of Trump’s _____ activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false and that they were the product of RIS “infiltrat[ing] a source into the network” of a ______________ who compiled a dossier of information on Trump’s activities. The ________ noted that it had no information indicating that the individual had special access to RIS activities or information.
One thing to notice is that both of these reports mentioned in the footnote were in 2017. The months are still redacted so we can’t say exactly when. That’s too bad because it would be interesting to know how the dates line up with the various FISA applications and renewals, and with the launch of the special prosecutor’s investigation.
This is not the first time that the possibility the Steele dossier included Russian disinformation has been broached. In fact, the NY Times published a story almost a year ago, before the IG’s report was released, noting this possibility couldn’t be ruled out.
Interviews with people familiar with Mr. Steele’s work on the dossier and the F.B.I.’s scramble to vet its claims suggest that misgivings about its reliability arose not long after the document became public — and a preoccupation of Trump opponents — in early 2017. Mr. Steele has made clear to associates that he always considered the dossier to be raw intelligence — not established facts, but a starting point for further investigation…
How the dossier ended up loaded with dubious or exaggerated details remains uncertain, but the document may be the result of a high-stakes game of telephone, in which rumors and hearsay were passed from source to source…
Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.
Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said…
Last year, in a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Buzzfeed, Mr. Steele emphasized that his reports consisted of unverified intelligence. Asked whether he took into account that some claims might be Russian fabrications, he replied, “Yes.”
Now we know that the Crossfire Hurricane team not only couldn’t rule out this possibility, they had an assessment saying it likely contained disinformation and another report saying Russian intelligence had put “a source into the network” that the dossier relied on for its claims. But there’s even more:
…In addition, in late December 2016, Department Attorney Bruce Ohr told SSA 1 that he had met with Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS) and that Simpson had assessed that Person 1 was a RIS (Russian intel) officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.” @CBSNews #MyHighlighter pic.twitter.com/xJxv04zPSI
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) April 10, 2020
Senator Chuck Grassley has published a statement about the unredacted footnotes on his website:
The “central and essential” evidence used to justify invasive surveillance of an American citizen in the FBI’s probe into Russian interference was, itself, an example of Russian interference, according to once-secret footnotes declassified at the urging of two U.S. Senators. The footnotes, part of the Justice Department Inspector General’s postmortem of the FBI’s flawed operation to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page, were released just hours after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) renewed their push for transparency. The senators expect a fuller declassification in the coming days.
The footnotes reveal that, beginning early on and continuing throughout the FBI’s Russia investigation, FBI officials learned critical information streams that flowed to the dossier were likely tainted with Russian Intelligence disinformation. But the FBI aggressively advanced the probe anyway, ignoring internal oversight mechanisms and neglecting to flag the material credibility concerns for a secret court. Despite later intelligence reports that key elements of the FBI’s evidence were the result of Russian infiltration to undermine U.S. foreign relations, the FBI still pushed forward with its probe. It would eventually spill over into the years-long special counsel operation, costing taxpayers more than $30 million and increasing partisan divisions – all based on faulty evidence. In the end, the special counsel concluded that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia.
“For years, the public was fed a healthy diet of leaks, innuendo and false information to imply that President Trump and his campaign were part of a Russian conspiracy to spread disinformation. The FBI’s blind pursuit of the investigation, despite exculpatory and contradictory information, only legitimized the narrative. The mounting evidence undercutting this narrative should have stopped the investigation early in its tracks. Instead, it took several years and millions in taxpayer dollars to conclude that the allegations were baseless,” Grassley and Johnson said.
“Had FBI leadership heeded the numerous warnings of Russian disinformation, paid attention to the glaring contradictions in the pool of evidence and followed long-standing procedures to ensure accuracy, everyone would have been better off. Carter Page’s civil liberties wouldn’t have been shredded, taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have been wasted, the country wouldn’t be as divided and the FBI’s reputation wouldn’t be in shambles.
“It’s ironic that the Russian collusion narrative was fatally flawed because of Russian disinformation. These footnotes confirm that there was a direct Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, and there were ties between Russian intelligence and a presidential campaign – the Clinton campaign, not Trump’s.”
The IG report detailed how the FBI’s application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Page relied heavily on an unverified dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Fusion GPS, which was conducting opposition research for the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. According to Footnote 302, in October 2016, FBI investigators learned that one of Steele’s main sources was linked to the Russian Intelligence Service (RIS), and was rumored to be a former KGB/SVR officer. However, the FBI neglected to include this information in its application, which the FISA court approved that same month. Two months later, investigators learned that Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, told a Justice Department attorney that he assessed the same source “was a RIS officer who was central in connecting Trump to Russia.” In January, the FISA warrant was renewed.
Footnote 350 states that, in 2017, the FBI learned that intelligence reports “assessed that the referenced subset [of Steele’s reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen] was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”
That same footnote states that a separate report, dated 2017, “contained information … that the public reporting about the details of Trump’s [REDACTED] activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false, and that they were the product of RIS ‘infiltra[ing] a source into the network’ of a [REDACTED] who compiled a dossier of information on Trump’s activities.”
The surveillance warrant against Page was renewed two more times – in April and in June of 2017 – raising questions about when exactly the FBI received and reviewed these new intelligence reports, and what it did with them. Grassley and Johnson expect the footnotes to be further declassified in the coming days.
The Russians must have been beside themselves with glee having this stuff drummed into Americans on MSNBC every night.