Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey conceded that when it came to information inside the infamous anti-Trump dossier his FBI “didn’t know whether they were true or false.”
NEW YORK — Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey conceded that when it came to details inside the infamous anti-Trump dossier his FBI “didn’t know whether they were true or false.”
Yet in late October 2016, Comey signed the first of three successful FISA applications to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The second and third were renewal applications since a FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days.
All three applications reportedly cited as key evidence against Page the dossier produced by the controversial Fusion GPS firm which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm. The dossier was authored by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
According to Republican House characterizations, the FISA applications signed by Comey withheld key information raising questions about the dossier, including that it was financed by Clinton and the DNC and had known credibility issues.
Speaking at a CNN town hall event that aired on Thursday night, Comey said the “bureau began an effort after we got the Steele dossier to try and see how much of it we could replicate. That work was ongoing when I was fired.”
Yet aside from the general charge that Russia was seeking to interfere in the election, there were questions about the other dossier claims, he said, seemingly referring to the portions that sought to link Trump campaign officials to Russia.
Some of it was consistent with our other intelligence, the most important part. The Steele dossier said the Russians are coming for the American election. It’s a huge effort. It has multiple goals that I laid out for the audience. And that was true.
There were a lot of spokes off of that that we didn’t know whether they were true or false, and we were trying to figure out what we could make of it.
Bruce Ohr, a career Justice Department official, admitted in testimony released in March that he informed the FBI that the anti-Trump dossier was tied to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Ohr testified that he further warned his FBI superiors that the dossier information was likely “biased” against Trump and that he thought Steele was “desperate that Trump not be elected.”
Ohr revealed that he spoke to the FBI about the role of Fusion GPS in producing the dossier, and informed the agency that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked at the time for Fusion GPS.
Critically, Ohr said that he transmitted all of that information in the time period before the FBI under James Comey certified the FISA application to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former adviser to President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Comey signed the first FISA application in late October 2016.
Ohr’s testimony raises numerous immediate issues for the FBI and separately for Comey.
Comey’s FISA application to conduct surveillance did not specifically state that the FBI had information that Steele was being paid in connection with any U.S. political party, according to House documents and the redacted FISA application itself.
The application also did not say that the FBI was provided with any information that would raise issues of bias concerning Steele. Instead, Comey’s FISA application stated generally that “the FBI speculates” that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump’s campaign — a far cry from informing the court that the dossier utilized as central evidence against Page in the FISA warrant was paid for by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
The phraseology that the FBI “speculates” on possible bias is at odds with Ohr’s testimony that he directly told the FBI about several possible avenues of bias and that he had reason to believe Steele himself was biased.
In other words, Comey may have kept from the FISA court information that would at a minimum raise major questions about the dossier charges that were cited as key evidence against Page in the FISA applications.
The House Intelligence Committee memo released last February documented that Comey’s FISA applications did not disclose the information tying Clinton and the DNC to the dossier.
“Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials,” the memo states.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a rebuttal of the House memo that confirms the key contention that the FBI and DOJ both failed to inform the FISA court that Steele’s dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The Democratic memo quotes a footnote from the FISA application, which says that Steele:
was approached by an identified U.S. person who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. person and Source #1 have a long-standing business relationship.) The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
That footnote, which does not inform the court of the dossier’s ties to the DNC, Clinton campaign or Fusion GPS, was further confirmed when the Trump administration released a redacted versionof the FISA applications last July.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.
Former FBI Director James Comey slammed the “dishonest” and “misleading” memo released by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the White House on Friday, saying it “inexcusably exposed” classified investigations.
The fired-FBI director didn’t seem to be impressed with the long-awaited Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) memo’s contents.
“That’s it?” Comey tweeted. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”
The memo showed alleged government surveillance abuse, and included testimony from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down Monday, that said the FBI and Justice Department would not have sought surveillance warrants to spy on a member of the Trump team without the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
The memo stated that on October 21, 2016, the Justice Department and the FBI “sought and received” a FISA probable cause order authorizing “electronic surveillance” on Carter Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC.) At the time, Page was a volunteer advisor on the Trump campaign.
The Page warrant application required certification from either Comey or McCabe.
According to the memo, the FBI and DOJ obtained “one initial FISA warrant” targeting Page, and three FISA renewals from the FISA court. The statute required that every 90 days, a FISA order on an American citizen “must be renewed.”
The memo stated that Comey signed three FISA applications for Page and McCabe signed one. Trump’s current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also signed at least one FISA application for Page –along with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.
The memo stated, however, that information on the now-infamous anti-Trump dossier compiled by Christopher Steele was “omitted” when seeking a FISA warrant for Page.
“Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials,” the memo released Friday read.
Republicans on the committee released the memo, and addressed their “concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions, involving FISA.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that he has “great confidence in the men and women of this Department. But no Department is perfect.”
“I will forward to appropriate DOJ components all information I receive from Congress regarding this. I am determined that we will fully and fairly ascertain the truth,” Sessions said in a statement to Fox News.
“We work for the American people and are accountable to them and those they have elected. We will meet that responsibility,” Sessions added.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications and approvals targeting former Trump campaign associate Carter Pagehave come under increased scrutiny as investigations of the investigators have heated up.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been looking into alleged FISA abuse since March 2018, and Attorney General William Barr — along with U.S. Attorney John Durham — has launched his own broader inquiry into the actions taken during the Trump-Russia investigation.
The FISA applications targeting Page required the approval of top members of the FBI, the DOJ, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and the current and former government officials involved will likely face tough questions over their actions.
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The October 2016 FISA application and January 2017 FISA renewal were both approved by then-FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
Former FBI Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson testified to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in August 2018 about the “unusual way” that the first FISA request was handled, with approval coming from Yates and then-Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe before it reached her desk, contradicting the normal path that the FISA applications take and leading her to not feel the need to second-guess her higher-ups.
The April 2017 FISA renewal was approved by Comey and by Dana Boente. Boente is the only signatory still remaining in active government service, working as the Trump administration’s top lawyer at the FBI starting in January 2018.
The June 2017 FISA renewal was approved by McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The 412 pages of redacted FISA documents released in 2018 show that the DOJ and FBI made extensive use of an unverified dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele which made a series of allegations regarding Trump and Russia. Steele put his research together in 2016 at the behest of Fusion GPS, which had been hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm. Steele receiving funding from a Democratic presidential campaign was not revealed to the FISA Court.
The FISA court, for its part, approved all four applications and renewals, and the four judges involved were appointed by Republicans.
An FBI supervisory special agent whose name is redacted signed their name on the initial FISA application, saying: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing information regarding Carter W. Page is true and correct.”
Top FBI approval for the initial FISA application came from former FBI Director James Comey, who signed his name under a statement which read, in part, that the “certif[ied] with regard to the [redacted] requested in this verified application targeting Carter W. Page, an agent of the Government of Russia, a foreign power, as follows…” and that he “[execute[d] this certification regarding Carter W. Page in accordance with the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.”
Comey was replaced at the FBI by Director Christopher Wray.
Top DOJ approval for the initial FISA application came from then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who signed it saying that she “f[ound] that this application regarding Carter W. Page satisfies the criteria and requirements for such applications set forth in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and that she “approve[d] the filing of this application regarding Carter W. Page with the Court.”
A still-redacted DOJ lawyer told the FISA Court that the initial application “regarding Carter W. Page satisfies the criteria and requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act… and therefore requests that the Court authorize the activities described herein.”
The initial FISA application was signed by Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose signature attested that “on the basis of the facts submitted in the verified application, there is probable cause to believe that The Government of the Russian Federation (Russia) is a foreign power and Carter W. Page is an agent of Russia.” The FISA warrant granted by Collyer authorized the U.S. government to conduct a wide series of redacted surveillance techniques through January 2017, when the application would need to be renewed.
Collyer was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by then-President George W. Bush in 2003. Collyer joined the FISA Court after being selected by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in March 2013, and she is currently the presiding judge. Collyer’s term goes all the way into March 2020.
The second FISA application, also known as the first FISA warrant renewal, was also signed off on by a redacted supervisory special agent and submitted to the FISA Court by a redacted DOJ attorney.
FBI approval again came from Comey, and DOJ approval again came from Yates.
Yates would become acting attorney general in the early days of the Trump administration, taking over for former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Yates was deeply involved in the DOJ and FBI investigation of then-national security adviser Mike Flynn during the first week or so of the Trump presidency, but was fired by Trump on Jan. 30, 2017, for refusing to enforce — and recommending that the broader DOJ not enforce — Trump’s “travel ban” executive order from Jan. 27, 2017.
She participated in a high-profile Senate hearing in May 2017, but since then, outside of the occasional TV appearance or podcast segment, she has largely demurred on getting involved in national politics, passing on the Georgia governor race and Georgia Senate races. She is now a partner at King and Spalding law firm in Atlanta.
The FISA Court judge who signed off on the second FISA application was Judge Michael Mosman, the George W. Bush-appointed chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon who joined the FISA Courtin May 2013 and will serve on it through May 2020.
The third FISA application was again signed off on by a redacted supervisory special agent and submitted by a redacted DOJ attorney.
FBI approval again came from Comey, who would be fired the following month following a letter from then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which heavily criticized Comey for the way he handled the Clinton emails investigation and which said that “the FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.”
Memos leaked by Comey would leak to a friend who would then leak to the media at least one of his memos detailing conversations he’d had with Trump later in May, testifying to Congress soon after that he’d hoped it would spark the appointment of a special counsel. Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel on May 17, 2017.
Comey has since written an autobiography,A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, and appears semi-regularly on TV, including a recent hour-long town hall on CNN. He is also active on Twitter, where he is known for sharing pictures of himself and critiquing Trump.
He has defended his handling of the Steele dossier and the FISA application in recent weeks.
DOJ approval for the third application came from Dana Boente, who was then the acting attorney general of the United States following then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from any Russia-related investigative matters in March 2017.
Boente is the only signatory still remaining in active government service — now-FBI Director Christopher Wray picked Boente to serve as the FBI’s general counsel in January 2018, where he has served ever since.
Boente replaced Jim Baker, who has said he was personally involved in the approval of at least the first FISA against Carter Page and who has repeatedly defended the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier.
The third FISA application was signed off on by Anne Conway, the George H.W. Bush-appointed senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida who joined the FISA Court in May 2016 and will serve on it through May 2023.
The fourth and final FISA application was once more signed off on by a redacted supervisory special agent and submitted by a redacted DOJ attorney.
FBI approval came from then-Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, who was repeatedly criticized by Trump on Twitter and was eventually fired in March 2018 by Sessions, who cited the DOJ inspector general report and the FBI’s disciplinary office which alleged that McCabe made unauthorized leaks to the media and was less than candid to investigators.
McCabe has made a number of TV appearances since then, where he has attacked Trump and defended the FBI’s actions handling the FISA process. He released his autobiography — The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump — in February 2019.
DOJ approval for the final FISA came from then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose rocky relationship with Trump stemmed from his appointment of Mueller in 2017. McCabe and Rosenstein also clashed over whether Rosenstein’s suggestion about wearing a wire into the Oval Office was serious or not (McCabe said it was while Rosenstein said it was not). In the end, Rosenstein survived his tenure in office, worked with Barr following the completion of Mueller’s investigation to conclude that Trump had not obstructed justice, and was sent off into retirement following a celebration honoring him at DOJ headquarters in early May.
Raymond Dearie, the Reagan-appointed federal judge for the Eastern District of New York who joined the FISA Court in July 2012 and will serve on it into July 2019, signed off on the last application
Barr originally predicted that Horowitz’s investigation of alleged FISA abuse would be completed by the end of June, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.