The FBI was advised that a portion of the infamous Steele dossier was likely the product of a Russian disinformation campaign meant to harm U.S. foreign relations, according to previously-redacted footnotes from the inspector general report on the investigation of the Trump campaign.
A source also informed the FBI that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, had frequent contacts with Russian oligarchs which raised concerns at the bureaus Transnational Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, one of the declassified footnotes says.
The Department of Justice released the footnotes (pdf) in response to a request Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).
Steeles dossier played a crucial role in the FBIs decision to apply for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee ultimately funded the dossier.
“In addition to the information in Steeles Delta file documenting Steeles frequent contacts with representatives of Russia oligarchs we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from [redacted] indicating the potential for Russia disinformation influencing Steeles election reporting,” one of the footnotes states.
Crossfire Hurricane is the FBIs code name for the investigation of the Trump campaign. Key officials on the Crossfire Hurricane team harbored intense bias against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, a prior inspector generals report concluded. Special agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page exchanged text messages about stopping Trump from becoming president, an insurance policy in case he was elected, and the prospect of impeachment around the time the pair joined the special counsels Russia investigation.
According to the newly declassified footnote, the bureau received a report in 2017 which assessed Steeles reporting on Trumps personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
“The [redacted] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steeles reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations,” the footnote states.
The FBI received the report cited in the footnote sometime after the bureau secured a FISA warrant to spy on Page, but the dates in the footnote are still partly redacted making, it impossible to tell whether the bureau received the report during or after its yearlong surveillance operation which concluded in October 2017.
Grassley and Johnson expect the footnotes to be further declassified in the next few days, according to a statement.
Steeles contacts with the lawyer of at least one Russia oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, have already been reported. The footnotes do not reveal the names of the other oligarchs.
One footnote shows that the FBI failed to thoroughly review Steeles file prior to securing a warrant to spy on Page. If the agents had done so, they would have discovered the documented concerns about Steeles many contacts with the representatives of Russian oligarchs.
Steeles handling agent “expressed concern that the Crossfire Hurricane team did not access Steeles file earlier. He said that the team should have turned the file upside down looking for information 2 months earlier and that he assumed that some members of the team had thoroughly reviewed the file.”
Another footnote shows that the FBI learned that one of Steeles sources was linked to the Russian Intelligence Service, and was rumored to be a former Russian intelligence officer.