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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
FBI Declassifies Spreadsheet Used to TRY to Corroborate Steele Dossier
President authorized 'total declassification' of all documents related to the Trump-Russia probe
Mike Emanuel, Brooke Singman
The FBI declassified a spreadsheet that the bureau used in trying to review allegations put forth in the salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier authored by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, which further revealed that the bureau had little corroboration of the claims.
Fox News obtained the document, which spans over 94 pages, and was declassified by the FBI on Oct. 8, as part of the latest directive from President Trump to declassify all documents related to the Trump-Russia investigation.
The document, according to sources familiar, was used in an effort to figure out which Steele allegations the bureau could corroborate.
Set up like a spreadsheet, the document shows information put forth by Steele in the left-hand column, and “Corroboration/Analyst Notes” in the right-hand column.
For example, Steele put forth an allegation that Trump had stayed in the “Presidential Suite” of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, but the spreadsheet notes that “there is no confirmation that Trump stayed here,” and that “there is no ‘Presidential Suite’ currently listed on the Ritz Carlton website.’”
Multiple allegation entries were submitted without any corroboration or analyst notes in the left-hand corner, however, some of the analyst notes revealed that the allegations were put forth by Steele’s “primary sub-source.”
Fox News reported last month that Steele’s primary “source” was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 for suspected contact with Russian intelligence officers.
A source familiar with the document told Fox News that “the FBI is the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world, and this is what they were doing? There is nothing there.”
The document reveals that the FBI relied heavily on news reports – which sources call an overreliance on public reporting, which they said then became "circular."
Also, sources told Fox News there is typically a formal process for the FBI to validate sources like Steele, which involves a separate group. The source told Fox News that it did not appear Steele was vetted in that way.
Steele authored and compiled information for the controversial and unverified anti-Trump dossier on behalf of Fusion GPS – the firm that was hired to conduct opposition research funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through law firm Perkins Coie.
The dossier contains claims about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia that served as the basis for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Meanwhile, Fox News reported in July that the primary source of Steele’s election reporting was not a current or former Russian official, but a non-Russian based contract employee of Steele’s firm. Fox News also reported in July that the information the source provided Steele that served as the basis of the dossier was “second- and third-hand information and rumors at best.”
The committee earlier this summer released a declassified summary of a three-day interview with the source.
The source, according to the committee, told the FBI in interviews in January and March of 2017 that the information contained in the anti-Trump dossier was unreliable.
The document revealed that the dossier was “unsubstantiated and unreliable,” according to sources who reviewed it, and showed that the FBI was on notice of the dossier’s credibility problems, yet continued to seek further FISA warrants renewals for Page.
The document also revealed that Steele’s primary sub-source “disagreed with and was surprised by” how information he gave Steele was then conveyed by Steele in the dossier.
The source also told the FBI, according to committee sources, that Steele “implied direct access to information where the access to information was indirect.”
Meanwhile, in August, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe transmitted a declassified footnote of the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian election interference to Capitol Hill, which noted that Steele had only “limited corroboration” and that he used “identified and unidentified sub-sources” that volunteered “highly politically sensitive information from the summer to the fall of 2016 on Russian influence efforts aimed at the presidential election.”
“We have only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment,” the declassified annex stated.
But the annex noted that Steele's reporting was "not developed by the layered sub-source network.”
"The FBI source caveated that, although similar to previously provided reporting in terms of content, the source was unable to vouch for the additional information's sourcing and accuracy," the annex stated. "Hence this information is not included in this product.”
Another footnote, which was previously redacted in its entirety, further raised doubt on the credibility of Steele’s main sources.
"When interviewed by the FBI, the primary sub-source stated that he/she did not view his/her contacts as a network of sources, [REDACTED] with whom he/she has conversations about current events and government relations," one of the previously hidden footnotes reads.
The declassification of the document comes after the president, last week, again called for the “total declassification” of all records related to the Trump-Russia probe.
The president in May 2019, following the completion of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, told Attorney General William Barr to begin a declassification process of documents related to surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Thus far, the Trump administration has declassified a number of documents, which allies of the president have cast as significant, citing their content as proof that the investigation into the president and his first campaign was baseless.