Former FBI Director James Comey suffers a momentary attack of fecal incontinence. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
As a prelude, let’s start with a Donald Trump tweet and commentary by CNN’s Chris Cillizza who, if not the dumbest man at CNN, is certainly the most blatantly partisan and stupid.
Officials behind the now discredited "Dossier" plead the Fifth. Justice Department and/or FBI should immediately release who paid for it.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017
The point here is that it is deeply irresponsible for a president of the United States to even flirt with this sort of conspiracy talk. You can love Donald Trump and still believe that the idea that the Russians, the Democrats and the FBI co-funded a dossier designed to discredit Trump’s 2016 campaign is totally bonkers.
Yesterday, the Washington Post verified what many have long suspected, that the Trump dossier compiled for the Russia-linked oppo research and lobbying group, Fusion GPS, was not paid for by shadowy “friends of Hillary Clinton” but rather it was bought directly by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Thus, two parts of Trump’s tweet were validated.
What about the FBI?
We’ve known for a while that the FBI toyed with the idea of paying the dossier author, a long-in-the-tooth ex-British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele, $50,000 for more smut on Donald Trump. A lawsuit revealed the existence of discussions but the FBI has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny that they actually paid Steele. And they actually denied that this happened via leaks:
The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.
The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as U.S. intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating hacks of Democratic Party email accounts.
While Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation.
Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Via your trusted source in news and the home of Chris Cillizza:
The FBI reimbursed some expenses of the former British intelligence operative who produced a dossier containing allegations of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, people familiar with the matter said.
The short-lived arrangement before the US election ended abruptly in part because of the frustration of Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy, that the FBI wasn’t doing enough to investigate the Trump-Russia ties. [editor’s note: let the record show that for the first time in the history of mankind that a consultant bailed on a deep-pocketed, paying client because he didn’t like the direction his client was moving.]
The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that the FBI and Steele had sought to reach a payment arrangement.
An official familiar with the discussions said the FBI didn’t hire Steele as an informant, but that the arrangement instead allowed for expenses to be paid. It couldn’t be learned how much he was paid and for how long.
We don’t know how Steele was paid, either directly or via Fusion GPS. Regardless, we now have a situation where the FBI used Steele’s dossier to obtain FISA warrants on Carter Page and Paul Manafort. We don’t know if they knew he was working for the Clinton campaign, if they didn’t it would be mindboggling, but I’m not discounting the possibility. Trey Gowdy was more blunt:
“I don’t know why anyone — from [California Rep.] Adam Schiff, to Vanity Fair, to Rachel Maddow — would not be curious whether or not the world’s premier law enforcement agency relied upon a dossier in connection with an investigation without vetting it,” Gowdy told TheDC on Friday.
If they did know? Well, this is what Charles Grassley has to say:
“The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.”
Indeed. And what does it mean when the Trump dossier was a joint venture of the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the FBI?