New Steele evidence strengthens Durham prosecution as frustration over inaction grows
A British court decision unmasks new evidence of FBI abuses in the Russia collusion probe.
It was in London that the whole Russia collusion caper began four years ago, so it seems only fitting that as the discredited probe enters its final phase that damning new evidence of the FBI’s failures would emerge back in England.
This week when a British judge ruled against the former FBI human source Christopher Steele, the decision delivered more than an order for the former spy’s company to pay damages to two Russian businessmen maligned by his dossier.
It also introduced new incontrovertible evidence that bolsters Attorney General William Barr's and U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into whether the FBI engaged in misconduct and criminally deceived the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to win permission to spy on the Trump campaign.
Buried in Justice Mark Warby’s ruling were several new pieces of evidence that answer long lingering questions about just what the FBI knew, and when it knew it.
For instance, Congressional Republicans have long questioned when exactly the FBI knew that Steele’s dossier was a product ordered up for the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party. After all, the bureau never revealed the connection to the FISA court despite its central relevance to the motives of the dossier.
Warby’s lengthy ruling unearthed a gem of new evidence to answer the question: Steele kept his own notes of what he told FBI agents the first time he met them on July 5, 2016 in London to discuss his anti-Trump Russia research.
And, Warby revealed, the notes make clear that Steele told his FBI handlers from the get-go that the dossier’s “ultimate client were (sic) the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign.”
So the FBI knew immediately that the dossier it used to justify a FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign was a political opposition research product designed to help Clinton defeat her Republican opponent and did not divulge the connection.
That’s not all that Warby’s decision provided to American investigators.
The ruling discloses that officials at the State Department where Hillary Clinton had served as secretary of state were uniquely involved in Steele’s efforts to bring the dossier to attention, including Mrs. Clinton’s former Russia expert Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland, Clinton's successor as secretary of state John Kerry and Joe Biden’s former national security adviser Tony Blinken.
Steele “elaborated, by explaining that his understanding in July 2016 was that the FBI officer he met had cleared his lines with the Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland,” the judge disclosed.
And after Trump won the election, the judge added, Steele disclosed he gave copies of his dossier to longtime Clinton friend Strobe Talbot in hopes it would get to the top of the State Department.
Talbott “said that he was due to meet a group of individuals at the State Department, and asked Mr Steele to share a copy of the Dossier with him, with a view to him being able to discuss the national security issues raised with these individuals,” the court revealed.
“Mr Steele agreed. He did so on the understanding that Mr Talbott had been speaking to the US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Ms Nuland, who knew of the Dossier and its broad content; and that the individuals whom Mr Talbott was due to meet included the then US Deputy Secretary of State, Tony Blinken,” the court added.
The British evidence continues, noting that Steele openly admitted he was leaking to the news media while working for the FBI.
“Mr Steele admits briefing journalists about Orbis’ work, and the documentary evidence and cross-examination make it clear that, in and after late September 2016 he was heavily and enthusiastically involved in doing so,” the judge wrote.
Remarkably, one of the media outlets that Steele talked with was used by the FBI in the FISA warrant as independent corroboration for his dossier when in fact it was circular reporting.
Finally, Steele admitted in the court proceedings that he did little to verify information he got from sources and gave to the FBI unfiltered and unvetted. In fact, the court dissected just one of the many memos that made up Steele’s dossier and found five factually inaccurate, unverified statements.
Warby even admonished Steele for passing along allegations such as bribery without doing due diligence, saying such allegations “clearly called for closer attention, a more enquiring approach, and more energetic checking.”
That admonition clearly extended to the FBI, who certified to the FISA court that evidence it plucked from Steele’s dossier to support the FISA warrant was “verified.” It was not. And determining it wasn’t verified proved easy, as the judge showed. Steele readily admitted it when questioned.
A growing number of President Trump's defenders are growing frustrated that Durham’s investigation hasn’t produced a single prosecution after a year of investigation. Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley decried Durham's lack of action as “SAD, SAD, SAD” in a tweet earlier this week.
“The deep state is so deep that [people] get away [with] political crimes/Durham [should] be producing some fruit of his labor,” the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared.
The Justice Department inspector general has already identified 17 major failures of the FBI in compiling the FISA warrant applications, including false information, falsified documents, and omissions of exculpatory evidence.
The FISA court has likewise confirmed that it was, in fact, misled by the FBI.
And now from Britain, where the first and now-disproven allegations of Trump-Russia collusion surfaced in summer 2016, we have been given compelling evidence the FBI withheld information it knew was relevant.
Steele admitted to the FBI his ultimate client was Clinton. He admitted he was leaking to the news media. He admitted he didn’t do much to verify his raw allegations. And he admitted he was working political figures in the Clinton sphere to get his allegations into circulation.
Such actions have already been deemed to be negligent by prior watchdog reviews. But now Durham has fresh evidence that goes to the issue of intent. The FBI had prior knowledge about these problems and didn’t come clean to the court as required by law and duty.
If Durham is building a case that FBI officials conspired to defraud the FISA court and Congress, his team just got some new exhibits from across the Atlantic Ocean.