Newly declassified footnotes from a government report, first obtained by CBS News, show that despite multiple warnings about Russian targeting and the potential for disinformation, the FBI relied on the controversial Steele dossier to secure surveillance warrants for a Trump campaign aide before and after the 2016 election.
Among the revelations, a 2017 U.S. intelligence community report indicated that two individuals "affiliated" with Russian intelligence knew of former British spy Christopher Steele's "election investigation" in early July 2016, three months before the FBI would begin citing the dossier.
"..[A]n early June 2017 USIC (US Intelligence Community) report indicated that two persons affiliated with RIS (Russian Intelligence Services) were aware of Steele's election investigation in early July 2016," the footnote said. "The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us he was aware of these reports, but that he had no information as of June 2017 that Steele's election reporting source network had been penetrated or compromised."
The FBI first sought a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Trump campaign aide Carter Page in October 2016, and relied in part on material from Steele.
The timing is notable because the June 2017 intelligence report was known to the FBI in the earliest days of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, which was opened weeks earlier, in May. The bureau had been tipped off that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had said that the campaign might get help from Russia on damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Steele has insisted that his information was unverified. The New York Times noted last year that in a lawsuit deposition about the dossier, "Asked whether he took into account that some claims might be Russian fabrications, [Steele] replied, 'Yes.'" Steele was also asked during the deposition whether he warned Fusion GPS "that a central problem when you are a Russian intelligence expert is disinformation and the Russians have a long history and advanced capability in disinformation?"
The Times noted that the FBI "considered whether Russia had polluted the stream of intelligence, but did not give it much credence," citing a former official.
Another newly declassified footnote speaks directly to Steele's sources, though some sections are still redacted.
Footnote 347 says that the FBI "received information in early June 2017 which revealed that, among other things, there were (redacted) personal and business ties between the sub-source and Steele's primary Sub-source; contacts between the sub-source and an individual in the Russian Presidential Administration in June/July 2016; (redacted) and the sub-subsource voicing strong support for candidate Clinton in the 2016 US elections. The Supervisory Intel Analyst told us that the FBI did not have (redacted) on any other Steele sub-source."
Footnote 342, also states that Steele's firm, Orbis, may have been singled out by the Russians. "In late January 2017, a member of the Crossfire Hurricane team received information (redacted) that RIS (Russian Intelligence) may have targeted Orbis (redacted) and research all publicly available information about it (redacted)." Crossfire Hurricane is the code name for the FBI's investigation into any links between Russian officials and associates of the Trump campaign.
Another set of footnotes declassified last week, at the request of Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, also revealed there were other warnings about a possible, even likely, compromise of Steele's election research for the DNC. The dossier, which Steele put together for the Washington opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was funded by the Democratic National Committee, contained salacious and unverified information about then-candidate Donald Trump.
Those footnotes also indicated that warnings about the FBI's Russia probe became more pronounced over time.
Footnote 350 reads in part, "The (redacted) 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 US foreign relations."
Footnote 302 is related to the FBI's efforts to verify information contained in the Steele dossier.
"According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, Person 1 had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS (Russian Intel)......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."
The December report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz examined the FBI's investigation into alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as the FBI's four surveillance warrants for Page.
Horowitz concluded the FBI was justified in launching the investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, although he found 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the FBI's handling of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applications to surveil Page.
But some of Horowitz's findings were disputed by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a broader investigation. At the time, Durham said "we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."
After the release of the Horowitz report, Steele's attorneys disputed some of the findings and said that they had only been given "highly redacted portions of the draft report for review and comment." CBS News has reached out to his lawyers for further comment and will update this report as more information becomes available.
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