Sen. John McCain’s new book reveals that he gave a copy of the Steele dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey in late 2016. McCain was first told about the existence of the dossier in November at the Halifax International Security Forum. That’s where he encountered a former British diplomat named Sir Andrew Wood. After hearing about it, a director at the McCain Institute flew to London to meet Steele. From the Daily Beast:
McCain recounts how he put the dossier in a safe in his office and called Comey’s office to request a meeting: “I went to see him at his earliest convenience, handed him the dossier, explained how it had come into my possession.”
“I said I didn’t know what to make of it, and I trusted the FBI would examine it carefully and investigate its claims. With that, I thanked the director and left. The entire meeting had probably not lasted longer than ten minutes. I did what duty demanded I do,” McCain concludes.
McCain has admitted to doing this before, more than a year ago. He’s taken a lot of flack for it but it’s not clear whether his involvement actually mattered if only because Steele had other connections to the FBI who had already seen the dossier weeks before the McCain handoff.
Steele and Fusion GPS were shopping the dossier to reporters before McCain ever heard of it. The first mention of it appeared in a piece for the progressive magazine Mother Jones at the end of October. Meanwhile, Steele had also taken it upon himself to share the dossier with the FBI. Here’s what the Washington Post reported in February:
In the fall of 2016, a little more than a month before Donald Trump was elected president, Christopher Steele had the undivided attention of the FBI.
For months, the British former spy had been working to alert the Americans to what he believed were disturbing ties Trump had to Russia. He had grown so worried about what he had learned from his Russia network about the Kremlin’s plans that he told colleagues it was like “sitting on a nuclear weapon.”
He was now being summoned to Rome, where he spent hours in a discreet location telling four American officials — some of whom had flown in from the United States — about his findings…
Sir Andrew Wood, a British former diplomat and friend of Steele, said he urged him in the fall of 2016 to alert the authorities. “The right sort of people” needed to be told, Wood said he told Steele. “My opinion was, ‘You don’t have a choice. At least, you don’t have an honorable choice.’ ”
The Post story goes on to say that Steele’s decision to talk to reporters created a rupture of his relationship with the FBI at which point his friend Andrew Wood helped connect him to John McCain. So McCain finally handed a copy of the dossier to Comey in early December, but as the Post reports he was only, “passing along information that Steele had provided to the FBI earlier in the year.”
Did getting the same material from John McCain matter to the FBI by December? Possibly but by this point, the FBI had already applied for a FISA warrant on Carter Page more than a month earlier. And the decision to brief Trump on the dossier in January was supposedly made not by Comey himself but by DNI Clapper.