Transparency thwarted? Two weeks after Trump declassified Russia memos, most aren't released
Remaining documents illuminate handling instructions for informants Steele and Halper, State Department's role in false narrative.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
More than two weeks after Donald Trump officially declassified the evidence, the vast majority of documents detailing FBI and Justice Department failures in the now-discredited Russia collusion investigation remain out of public view in a delay that has thwarted the former president's goal of sweeping transparency.
Multiple officials tell Just the News that the documents yet to be released include:
- less redacted versions of the flawed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants that allowed the FBI to target former Trump adviser Carter Page and the Trump campaign for a full year without producing any evidence of wrongdoing.
- the confidential human source handling documents for informant Stefan Halper showing the specific requests the FBI gave to Halper to spy on Trump campaign officials and the cover story used to justify his contacts with Trump officials during the election.
- the confidential human source handling documents for informant Christopher Steele, including what he told the FBI at his first meeting on July 5, 2016, when he first approached agents about the dossier.
- a spreadsheet used to assess the many allegations Steele provided in his infamous dossier showing most were uncorroborated, debunked or traced to open-source Internet rumors or unreliable sources.
- hundreds of digital messages exchanged on the FBI's internal chat network among the most senior officials in the Crossfire Hurricane probe, including fired Director James Comey, fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, fired lead agent Peter Strzok, former bureau lawyer Lisa Page and others.
Just the News was able to obtain about 15% of the thousands of pages of declassified documents, from a hodgepodge network of White House officials who worked on the declassification, law enforcement and intelligence officials who got their own versions of the declassified documents, and members of Congress who were given copies of some memos in the final days of the Trump presidency.
Just the News has posted all of those documents, which include explosive revelations like:
- Four days before the FBI secured a surveillance warrant against him in October 2016, Page repeatedly knocked down the key allegations at the heart of the Russia collusion investigation while unwittingly talking to a government informant who was wearing a wire.
- As deputy director and acting director, McCabe was repeatedly pressured by FBI officials and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to step aside from the Russia and Clinton email probes because of a perceived conflict of interest.
- Efforts by Hillary Clinton supporters to craft the Russia collusion narrative to vilify Trump began earlier than previously reported, in April 2016, and eventually involved an "indiscreet" effort to buy foreign video footage that made even Steele uncomfortable.
- In a 2017 tell-all interview with agents, Steele admitted to the FBI that he leaked the Russia collusion story during the height of the 2016 election to help Clinton overcome her lingering email scandal and because he believed Trump's election would be bad for U.S. relations with his home country of Britain.
The remaining documents, according to sources who have seen them, provide more details showing just how far the FBI went to deceive the FISA judges in an effort to keep surveilling Page and that the FBI's true target for surveillance was the larger Trump campaign.
For instance, an August 2016 tasking document for Halper, one of the informants, made clear the FBI's real focus of the investigation was to determine whether "anyone in the Trump campaign is in a position to have received information either directly or indirectly from the Russian Federation regarding the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton," according to a source who took verbatim notes from one of the documents.
Those documents also show Halper was asked to potentially contact or monitor Trump campaign figures far beyond Page and George Papadopoulos, the two figures publicly acknowledged in the past.
Among the names that show up in the FBI's operational plan are former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, former Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis and eventual White House adviser Peter Navarro, according to sources interviewed by Just the News.
The less redacted FISA warrants show, according to sources, that as the FBI failed to develop any evidence that Page was working for Russia — and in fact had worked as an asset for the CIA — it offered the FISA court unusual justifications for continuing to spy on him, including that he espoused foreign policy views deemed favorable to Russia and might be writing a book, two clearly First Amendment-protected activities.
Also, the internal messages between senior FBI officials on the Russia probe, according to the sources, reveal that McCabe had direct contact with reporters from major news organizations like the New York Times and CNN even as his deputies, like Strzok, viewed the Russia reporting of those organizations as significantly flawed.
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