'A Trap?' Clinton's Russia collusion research started much earlier, made Steele nervous
First dossier written in April 2016, efforts included buying possible foreign video footage, declassified FBI memos state.
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Efforts by Hillary Clinton supporters to craft the Russia collusion narrative to vilify Donald Trump began earlier than previously reported and eventually involved an "indiscreet" effort to buy foreign video footage that made even dossier author Christopher Steele uncomfortable, according to newly declassified FBI memos.
Steele's own account to FBI agents in September 2017, obtained by Just the News, provides the clearest proof to date that Team Clinton built the now-debunked Trump-Russia storyline to distract from her own scandals over Russia money and mishandled classified secrets on her private email server.
Steele himself even admitted part of his motive for leaking the Russia collusion story in fall 2016 was to counteract the lingering email scandal he feared was hurting Clinton's chances of winning the election. He also pinpointed the earliest known research designed to tie Trump to a Russian plot ultimately proven not to exist.
Steele told agents during a September 2017 debriefing that longtime Clinton associate Cody Shearer wrote an earlier Russian dossier with unverified, salacious claims about Trump in April 2016. Shearer, he recounted, eventually routed it through a senior State Department official named Jonathan Winer to Steele, who then gave it to the FBI.
"This is the CODY SHEARER and JON WINER report," Steele told FBI agents when asked about an Oct. 19, 2016 memo included in his compilation of documents that became known as the Steele dossier. "STEELE advised that this was not an ORBIS report. STEELE received this report from JON WINER.
"The report pre-dates the dossier, and was produced circa April 2016. STEELE advised that SHEARER was an associate of SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL."
You can read that portion of the document here:
Shearer and Blumenthal, two former journalists, have been longtime Clinton family associates and operatives whose associations with the the former first family have triggered past controversies, from Bosnia in the 1990s to Libya in the 2010s. Shearer is the brother-in-law of Strobe Talbott, Bill Clinton's former deputy secretary of state.
It has been known since 2018 that Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama era, was friends with Steele and the two exchanged documents, including a memo from Shearer. Winer acknowledged as much in a Washington Post op-ed at the time.
But Steele's debriefing memo for the first time reveals the Shearer research was actually written in spring 2016, three months before Steele first approached the FBI with his anti-Trump dossier. And he revealed Shearer continued to seek Russian dirt on Trump into 2017, including video footage that Steele believed might have been a disinformation trap.
Steele alleged to the FBI that Shearer was negotiating with a Turkish businessman and an Azeri figure and "actively discussing a deal for the tapes" that included money and even a possible defection by a Russian FSB officer. The former MI6 agent said the operation made him uneasy because Shearer was "not acting discreetly."
"STEELE advised that he wished to keep this interaction 'at an arm's length' as he does not want to fall into a trap," the declassified FBI memo reported. "STEELE opined that this could be genuine, or a fabrication or a set-up, suggesting that it could involve a faction of the Democratic Party."
Steele told the FBI he believed "WINER was aware of the situation, and was the one who informed Steele about it."
Winer declined comment when reached by phone. Contact information for Shearer was not available in public records searched by Just the News. Steele did not return a message to his company Orbis seeking comment.
In his 2018 op-ed, Winer acknowledged his contacts with Steele and Shearer and said he became aware the information he had passed along had made it to the FBI, but he stressed he did not know if it was accurate.
"I am in no position to judge the accuracy of the information generated by Steele or Shearer," Winer wrote. "But I was alarmed at Russia's role in the 2016 election, and so were U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials. I believe all Americans should be alarmed — and united in the search for the truth about Russian interference in our democracy, and whether Trump and his campaign had any part in it."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller ultimately concluded there was no evidence Trump and his campaign or any other American colluded with Russia to hijack the 2016 election.
Shearer's ties to the Clintons have created past controversies. Back when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, he and Blumenthal worked with an ex-intelligence officer to create private intelligence memos about Libya that captured congressional investigators' attention.
And back when Bill Clinton was president, the State Department inspector general investigated Shearer and concluded he had engaged in "unauthorized freelance diplomacy" in Bosnia that caused "temporary diplomatic damage" before being fixed by State officials, according to a document the right-leaning watchdog group Citizens United obtained in a 2015 open records lawsuit. You can read that report here.