On March 20, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey told Congress that the FBI was formally investigating whether there were contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. We later learned that the alleged basis for this investigation was the Steele Dossier. Since then, we’ve also learned that the information in the Steele Dossier was fake.
The big question now is when did the FBI know that the whole investigation, which severely handicapped Trump’s first term, was baloney?
The answer, based upon newly released documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee, is that by mid-February 2017 Comey knew or should have known that the Steele Dossier was a hoax perpetrated by the Hillary campaign.
To go back a step, we know from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December 2019 report that the FBI relied upon the Steele Dossier both to spy on Carter Page and to investigate the Trump campaign. The same report establishes that the FBI’s investigation revealed that Steele’s information came from a source who, in turn, got his information from yet another source. By March 20, when Comey announced that the FBI was looking into the Trump campaign, FBI agents on the ground had already stated that the primary source had no credibility.
What the Horowitz Report did not address was when Comey personally learned about the credibility problem. Comey refused to cooperate with the IG investigation, so Horowitz glossed over Comey’s knowledge or lack thereof. One of the problems (see pp. 370-371 of the report) was that the FBI agents who interviewed the sub-source wrote documents falsely implying that he was reliable, even as their notes said otherwise.
That confusion held Horowitz back from imputing knowledge to Comey. The two newly declassified documents, however, practically cry out that, when Comey announced the Trump investigation, he knew or should have known that it had no basis.
The first document, which is heavily redacted, establishes that the primary source was not (as many speculated) a highly placed Russian. Contacts with the Kremlin would have militated in favor of believing him or her. But when the FBI identified Steele’s primary source, they found that he was not a Russian official, nor was he even based in Russia. That should have been a huge red flag that there was a problem.
The second document poses an even bigger problem for Comey. On February 14, 2017, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contact With Russian Intelligence.” Peter Strzok, who headed the Trump investigation (aka Operation Crossfire Hurricane), read the article and made notes establishing that the FBI had no basis for investigating Trump. Sharyl Attkisson quoted the notes:
Claim in NYT article: “Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”
Note by Strzok: “This statement is misleading and inaccurate as written. We have not seen evidence of any individuals in contact with Russians (both Governmental and non-Governmental)” and “There is no known intel affiliation, and little if any [government of Russia] affiliation[.] FBI investigation has shown past contact between [Trump campaign volunteer Carter] Page and the SVR [Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation], but not during his association with the Trump campaign.”
Claim in NYT article: “Officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, and how many of Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians.”
Note by Strzok: “Again, we are unaware of ANY Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intel officials” and “Our coverage has not revealed contact between Russian intelligence officers and the Trump team.”
Claim by NYT: “Senior FBI officials believe … Christopher Steele … has a credible track record.”
Note by Strzok: “Recent interviews and investigation, however, reveal Steele may not be in a position to judge the reliability of subsource network.”
The FBI’s decision to investigate a duly elected president was arguably the most consequential investigation the FBI has ever undertaken. The man leading the investigation, who was only two levels below Director Comey, wrote notes that strongly imply that, five weeks before Comey announced the investigation (and after the FBI had engaged in months of intensive work), the FBI had nothing.
These documents make it more likely than not that Comey knew that the investigation was baseless. If he did know, and he nevertheless continued the investigation and publicly announced it, thereby deliberately and severely damaging a duly elected president, what he did was nothing less than sedition.
The fact that Comey still walks free is a troubling indication that it’s business as usual in the Swamp. When swamp rats who support Democrats break the law, they go free.