/ February 17, 2021
In a Jan. 12, 2017 email to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, then-FBI Director James Comey said of Christopher Steele's dossier on alleged Trump-Russia collusion: "We are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting."
On the same day, Comey contradicted that sworn avowal by telling the FISA court that the Steele dossier was verified, newly declassified documents show.
Comey's message to Clapper was declassified and made public through an open records lawsuit by the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
At the time of Comey's message to Clapper, CIA officials had informed the FBI director that the target of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, Carter Page, wasn't a Russian spy but rather an asset helping U.S. intelligence.
"The bureau had received warnings about Steele and the reliability of his source network, including that it might have been compromised by Russian disinformation. Agents had also just recommended on Jan. 4, 2017 shutting down the probe's inquiry into incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence," John Solomon noted
in a Feb. 16 report of Just the News.
The fact that Comey was telling the head of intelligence that Steele's information was not sufficiently corroborated while telling the court Steele's information in the FISA application was verified raises grave concerns, according to the chief counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
"After a multiyear court battle led by Southeastern Legal Foundation, this memo proves what we already suspected — those at the highest levels of our government misled and lied to the court to get permission to spy on the Trump campaign, plain and simple," attorney Kimberly Hermann told Just the News.
In the summer of 2016, the FBI had been warned that Hillary Clinton's campaign may have planted the false Russia collusion story as a way to "vilify" Donald Trump and distract from her email scandal. At that time, Solomon noted, "agents were about to interview Steele's primary sub-source, who would discount much of the information in the dossier attributed to him as bar talk and unconfirmed rumor not worthy of official intelligence."
The larger intelligence community had decided it did not want to vouch for the Steele dossier in its official Intelligence Community Assessment about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Earlier on Jan. 12, 2017, Clapper told Comey that he decided to release a public statement declaring that the Steele dossier was only mentioned in an appendix to the intel community's report because the "IC has not made any judgment that the information in the document is reliable."
Solomon noted: "Comey tried to push back, suggesting Steele was deemed reliable (he actually had been terminated by the FBI for leaking by that time) and that his network included sources that might be in a position to know things (although the key source had already disavowed the information attributed to him in the dossier)."
Comey wrote to Clapper: "I just had a chance to review the proposed talking points on this for today. Perhaps it is a nit, but I worry that it may not be best to say 'the IC has not made any judgment that the information in the document is reliable.' I say that because we HAVE concluded that the source is reliable and has a track record with us of reporting reliable information; we have some visibility into his source network, some of which we have determined to be sub-sources in a position to report on such things; and much of what he reports in the current document is consistent with and corroborative of other reporting included in the body of the main IC report."
Then Comey added the line that undercut his argument: "That said, we are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting to include it in the body of the report."
(Read Comey's memo in full here
Comey signed the first application to renew a FISA warrant on Jan. 12, 2017, thus extending the spying on Page for another three months.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded the Jan. 12, 2017 FISA application contained erroneous information.
"The FBI filed three renewal applications with the FISC, on January 12, April 7, and June 29, 2017. In addition to repeating the seven significant errors contained in the first FISA application and outlined above, we identified 10 additional significant errors in the three renewal applications," Horowitz's IG report said.
The Jan. 12, 2017 application signed by Comey was marked "verified," representing to the FISA court that allegations from Steele's dossier that Page had met two sanctioned Russians in summer 2016 and had tried to change the GOP platform to help Moscow had been substantiated.
"In fact, they had not been verified. To the contrary, the FBI had intercepted Page talking to an informant denying he had met the Russians or been involved in the platform change, two facts the FBI hid from the court," Solomon noted.
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