On Oct. 28, 2013, President Barack Obama and James Comey participate in the installation ceremony for Mr. Comey as FBI director at the bureau’s Washington headquarters. PHOTO: CHARLES DHARAPAK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A key focus of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of the Russia collusion investigation into the Trump campaign has been to determine the time frame of exactly when the FBI received former British spy Christopher Steele’s now-discredited dossier, financed by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee through Fusion GPS.
FBI agent Peter Strzok acknowledged in his testimony before Congress that he relied on the dossier’s content but was unwilling to say when he received information contained in its pages. Former FBI Director Jim Comey, in his memoir “A Higher Loyalty” insisted that the FBI opened the collusion investigation on July 31, 2016, and denied having seen any dossier materials before that time. Comey has always insisted that George Papadopoulos’ loose lips were the reason for the investigation into what we now know were drummed up links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Now, however, according to a report from The Washington Times, Durham seems to be investigating whether or not the dossier showed up in the hands of FBI agents before July 31. And it all hinges on the testimony of one Rome-based FBI agent named Michael Gaeta who met with Glenn Simpson in London in early July.
There is evidence that dossier material arrived before July 31.
⦁ Mr. Steele beseeched Rome-based FBI agent Michael J. Gaeta to visit London in early July 2016 to hear his sensational allegations against candidate Trump. Mr. Gaeta won trip approval from Victoria Nuland, who was assistant secretary of state.
Mr. Gaeta arrived at Mr. Steele’s Orbis Business Intelligence office in London on July 5 and was greeted with horror stories. Mr. Steele handed him dossier pages. FBI practice would be for Mr. Gaeta to fill out a Form 302 containing Mr. Steele’s charges and circulate it to headquarters in Washington.
⦁ That same month, Ms. Nuland has said, she was given several dossier pages. She said she instructed staff to give the documents to the FBI.
“The dossier, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview,” Ms. Nuland said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate. And that was our reaction when we saw this. It’s not our — we can’t evaluate this.”
⦁ In testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, said he gave Mr. Steele permission in early July to start talking to the FBI. Mr. Simpson was a paid Clinton campaign agent and handled Mr. Steele.
“And by approximately early July, like 1st or 2nd, I had given my assent to him doing it as a professional obligation or a citizenship obligation. And then that’s when he did it, sometime around the Fourth of July,” Mr. Simpson testified.
Answer: “I think he said he was going to, and then later he told me he did.”
A 113 page transcript of an interview with Mr. Gaeta by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence apparently exists and is in the hands of investigators. They are said to be working out how they can release it to the public. It’s so secretive, in fact, that Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton indicated to the Times that even he was unable to retreive any information from Gaeta’s testimony.
“They are giving us nothing on Gaeta. Unusually secretive on him and the whole cabal,” Mr. Fitton told The Times.
If it comes out that the discredited dossier — paid for by the political opponent of Donald Trump — was in fact used to start the investigation into whether or not Trump was colluding with the Russians, the whole ball game could change, not only from a public perception perspective, but from a “justification for indictments” perspective.
And if that happens, it will be fascinating to watch the players begin to point their fingers at each other. Stay tuned…