The FBI document laying out the efforts taken by the bureau to attempt to verify the claims in British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier has been declassified and released, showing the bureau’s unsuccessful efforts to confirm the dossier’s claims of collusion between the Kremlin and then-candidate Donald Trump.
The heavily redacted 94-page spreadsheet, produced to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, showed the FBI’s reliance on what it termed “open source” information, including from websites, public speeches, YouTube videos, and news articles. It also showed that many of the biggest claims, including those related to the dossier’s salacious allegations and its uncorroborated claim of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians in 2016, showed no independent corroboration by the bureau.
The FBI spreadsheet, first tweeted by Catherine Herridge of CBS News and later obtained by the Washington Examiner, includes 73 pages of heavily redacted analysis and 21 pages of 390 lightly redacted footnotes that mostly reference publicly available information. Some of the dossier’s claims listed no corroboration beyond the FBI talking to Steele’s main source, who had originally allegedly passed along the claims from a variety of his own shady subsources in Russia. The bureau spreadsheet noted that there were some differences between the version of the Steele dossier reports provided to journalists and to the FBI, and corroboration details related to “Other Agency Reporting,” “Sensitive FBI Information,” “Sequestered by Court Order,” and “Sources and Methods” are blacked out throughout the document while some of the corroboration sections are blank.
The bureau listed the Steele dossier’s unverified claim that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.” The bureau’s “Corroboration / Analyst Notes” for this seemingly relied upon news articles.
“Trump was in St. Petersburg in 1987 working on a real estate deal, and in 2008 Trump claimed to have been to Russia six times in 18 months. Though he did not mention St. Petersburg, the real estate deal he was negotiating included a hotel in St. Petersburg,” the FBI wrote. “In 2013, Trump hosted a pageant in Moscow, and according to the Washington Post, Aras Agalarov served as a liaison between Trump and Putin. At the pageant and its after party, Trump claimed, ‘Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.’ In the same article, the Washington Post reported that in 2008, Donald Trump, Jr., claimed, ‘Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.’”
The FBI also noted that Steele claimed that Trump “accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin.” The “Corroboration / Analyst Notes” for that section were blank.
Steele’s dossier claimed there was “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and the Russians, which was “managed” by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort by “using” Trump campaign associate Carter Page and others as “intermediaries” with the Russians.
But former special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report noted that his investigation found that Russia interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on the Democrat-funded discredited dossier compiled by Steele. Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report indicate that the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation, and FBI interviews show Steele’s primary subsource undercut the credibility of the dossier.
Horowitz’s report noted that Steele’s “Primary Sub-source made statements during his/her January 2017 FBI interview that were inconsistent with multiple sections of the Steele reports.” Horowitz said that Steele’s main source “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier. Recently declassified documents also show the FBI had previously investigated Steele’s main source as a possible “threat to national security.”
Another unverified claim by Steele listed by the FBI was that a “former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB has compromised Trump through his actives in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.”
In terms of corroboration, the FBI noted that, in 2017, redacted sources told the FBI about purported “compromising tapes” on Trump, but the FBI analyst noted that “it is unknown if the tapes mentioned in this reporting are the same tapes mentioned” in Steele’s dossier and said that “the only similar information” is the use of the word “tapes.” The FBI also cited an “uncorroborated source” named Alexandra Chalupa, who was “cited in an Australian magazine article dated November 1, 2016 as mentioning Trump having an orgy in Russia.” But the FBI noted that “the details in the Steele reporting differ somewhat from the Australian reporting (‘golden showers’ versus ‘orgies’).” The FBI listed no independent evidence that any of these things had happened.
Steele’s primary subsource, revealed to be United States-based and Russian-trained lawyer Igor Danchenko, undercut the reliability of Steele’s discredited dossier during FBI interviews in early 2017 and called the infamous “pee tape” claims nothing but “rumor and speculation” and disputed Steele’s claim that the story was “confirmed” by anyone.
The FBI also listed the Steele dossier’s claim that a “key role in the secret Trump campaign / Kremlin relationship was being played by the Republican candidate’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen” and that “the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contacts took place in Prague.”
The FBI noted that this information was provided by Steele’s primary subsource’s own subsource, and the FBI repeatedly said throughout the spreadsheet that “the Crossfire Hurricane Team has been unable to verify travel by Cohen to the Czech Republic in August 2016.” Mueller’s report also debunked Steele’s claim, noting that “Cohen had never traveled to Prague.”
Horowitz’s report said there was a still-redacted source “indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting” in the Prague and “pee tape” claims.
The bureau spreadsheet also listed a series of Steele’s claims related to Page and “secret meetings” in Russia, and it noted in the “corroboration” column that some of this information was provided by one of Danchenko’s subsources. The FBI also listed a Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff from September 2016 as corroboration at least twice. The FBI cited the same Y ahoo News article in the FISA application against Page. Steele was removed as a confidential human source after the FBI concluded he was leaking information to the media, including for that article.
Horowitz’s report noted the FBI found no evidence that Page had met with either Russian in Steele’s dossier and criticized the bureau for concealing Page’s repeated denials from the FISA court.
The FISA court ordered a review of all FISA filings handled by Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI lawyer who altered a key document about Page, claiming Page was “not a source” for the CIA while seeking to renew the third warrant. Clinesmith has pleaded guilty in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation.
The FBI’s declassified spreadsheet also showed that it investigated claims from a second dossier compiled by investigator and longtime Hillary Clinton ally Cody Shearer who passed along his unverified Trump-Russia allegations to State Department official Jonathan Winer, who provided a copy to Steele, who passed it along to the FBI in October 2016. The bureau cast serious doubt on Shearer’s claims, too.
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