A dispute has erupted over whether former FBI Director James Comey or his CIA counterpart, John Brennan, promoted the unverified Steele dossier as the Obama-era intelligence community targeted the Trump campaign.
According to Fox News, an email chain exists which indicates that Comey told bureau subordinates that Brennan insisted on the dossier's inclusion in the intelligence community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference. Also interesting is that the dossier was referred to as "crown material" in the emails - a possible reference to the fact that Steele is a former British spy.
In a statement to Fox, however, a former CIA official "put the blame squarely on Comey."
"Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report," said the official.
"They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA," the official continued. "The intelligence analysts didn't include it when they were doing their work because it wasn't corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn't used and it wasn't included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document."
James Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan are starting to publicly argue who was pushing the dossier that ended up in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference. The RATS are beginning to turn on each other.— thebradfordfile™ (@thebradfordfile) May 15, 2019
I'm sure AG Barr is taking notes!
Former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy - a longtime defender of the FBI - told Fox News' Martha MacCallum on Tuesday night that "Comey has a better argument than Brennan, based on what I've seen."
In March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested over Twitter that Brennan had "insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier" be included in the January 2017 ICA.
BREAKING: A high-level source tells me it was Brennan who insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier be included in the Intelligence Report... Brennan should be asked to testify under oath in Congress ASAP.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 27, 2019
The dossier was ultimately not included in the ICA according to previous testimony by Clapper. Meanwhile, word that Comey had briefed President Trump personally on the dossier - "because he understood reporters already had that information and it could become public soon if journalists had a "news hook," according to the Associated Press. And as it so happens - the fact that Comey briefed Trump is what CNN and Buzzfeed caim legitimized their decision to publicly release the salacious and unverified dossier.
Whether the FBI acted appropriately in obtaining the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to Trump campaign aide Carter Page is now the subject not only of U.S. Attorney John Durham's new probe, but also the ongoing review by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber has been conducting his own investigation separately, although details of his progress were unclear.
As one example, in its FISA application, the bureau repeatedly and incorrectly assured the court in a footnote that it "does not believe" British ex-spy Christopher Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion, and instead asserted that the Yahoo article provided an independent basis to believe Steele. -Fox News
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News that he was pushing to declassify documents which would expose the FBI's dismal efforts to verify the claims within the dossier.
"There's a document that's classified that I'm gonna try to get unclassified that takes the dossier -- all the pages of it -- and it has verification to one side," said Graham. "There really is no verification, other than media reports that were generated by reporters that received the dossier."
Graham noted a report by The Hill's John Solomon that the FBI was specifically told that Steele was "keen" to leak his salacious dossier for the purpose of influencing the 2016 US election. The agency also knew that the document's claims were either unverified or disproven, yet it was used anyway against Trump and his campaign.