10.01.2020 0

Was Comey Duped by Russian Agents?

By Robert Romano

The primary sub-source used by former British spy Christopher Steele in 2016 to produce false allegations that President Donald Trump and his campaign were really Russian agents, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, was himself suspected by the FBI of being a possible Russian agent in 2009, according a Sept. 24 letter by Attorney General William Barr to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

In it, Barr revealed that in the Dec. 2019 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, a now-declassified footnote stated, “[t]he Primary Sub-source was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers.”

And former FBI Director James Comey says he had no idea his agency was potentially trafficking in Russian disinformation. Naturally.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 30, Comey was asked by Sen. Graham “Are you aware of the fact between October [2016] and January [2017] the FBI had found that the Russian sub-source was on the payroll of Mr. Steele, was suspected of being a Russian spy by the FBI all the way back to 2009?”

Comey replied, “I don’t remember learning anything additional about Steele’s sources…”

Nor did Comey recall any verification of the dossier’s sources taking place in October 2016, prior to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application being accepted by the FISA Court, which falsely alleged that President Donald Trump, Carter Page and Paul Manafort had conspired with Russia to hack the DNC and put the emails onto Wikileaks in July 2016.

Steele had reported, based on these sources, that “there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia, and that starting in July 2016, “This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared… Inter alia, Source E, acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team.”

Nor did Comey remember that the sub-source was interviewed by the FBI in Jan. 2017. That was the interview that debunked Steele’s reporting, according to Inspector General report, which stated, “the Primary Sub-source made statements during his/her January 2017 FBI interview that were inconsistent with multiple sections of the Steele reports, including some that were relied upon in the FISA applications. Among other things, regarding the allegations attributed to Person 1, the Primary Sub-source’s account of these communications, if true, was not consistent with and, in fact, contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’…”


 

Comey seemed to know a lot more or was more willing to speculate when he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Dec. 15, 2019 that the sub-source interview did not necessarily debunk the Steele dossier: “that doesn’t drive a conclusion that Steele’s reporting is bunk. I mean, there’s a number of tricky things to that. First, you’re interviewing the sub-source after all of the reporting has become public. And so, as a counterintelligence investigator, you have to think, ‘Is he walking away from it because it’s now public?’… This is when it blew up, when it was published by whatever the outfit is — BuzzFeed. It was all over the news and had become a big deal.”

Even then, Comey said he was unaware of the particulars including the sub-source interview: “As the director, you’re not kept informed on the details of an investigation. So, no, in general, I didn’t know what they’d learned from the sub-source. I didn’t know the particulars of the investigation.”

Maybe he didn’t want to know.

According to the sub-source interview, Steele’s sub-source said when he was asked in March 2016 to look into then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, that he and his contacts came up with nothing. Per the FBI, the source “carefully asked around some of his… friends. He said he may have asked friends and contacts in Russia, but he couldn’t remember off-hand. He added that, for this topic, his friends and contacts in Russia couldn’t say very much because they were ‘too far removed’ from the matter.”

The sub-source said when he asked to get information from Russia on Trump “He was nervous and cautious when asking around about the topic in Russia , but he felt like he had to report something back to Steele about it.”

As for President Trump’s supposed encounter with prostitutes in a Moscow Ritz-Carlton, the source, per the FBI interview, “said that he reported Trump’s unorthodox sexual activity at the Ritz as ‘rumor and speculation’ and that he had not been able to confirm the story.”

On validating the material for the dossier, the source, per the FBI interview, said “Steele pushed [him] to try and either follow-up with people or corroborate the reporting, but [he] wasn’t able to do so. Moreover, [he] added attempts at getting corroboration on these subjects made him uncomfortable — he was nervous about the Russians finding out about it.”

On the core allegation of the Trump campaign conspiring with , the source told the FBI, per the Jan. 2017 interview, “the individual said that the Kremlin might be of help to get Trump elected but [he] did not recall any discussion or mention of Wikileaks.”

And yet, the sub-source interview was never shared with the FISA court. It could have stopped this investigation before President Trump was ever sworn into office.

Graham blasted Comey at the hearing, stating, “Not only, Mr. Comey, is it inadequate, it is criminally inadequate. You have a document central to getting a warrant against an American citizen. It is falling apart. The CIA says it’s internet rumor. The person who prepared it was on a jihad against Trump, on the payroll of Democratic party. The primary sub-source was a Russian agent. When that person was interviewed by the FBI, he disavowed the reliability of the document to the point that it should never have been used again. And my question is, how could the system ignore all that? And how could it be used again in April and again in June? Do you know how that’s possible?”

Comey would only respond by pointing to the Horowitz report: “Again, I’m not going to respond to your preamble. I think Mr. Horowitz found that it was not disclosed … that a variety of facts were not disclosed. He didn’t find intentional misconduct, but he found concerning failures to disclose.”

Failures, this author would add, that call into question whether there should be a FISA.

It also raises the legitimate question: Was it all a Russian disinformation campaign? Was it Clinton and the DNC that were either knowingly or unwittingly colluding with Russians?

Certainly, the Justice Department appeared to discount the possibility at the time that the Steele sub-source was a Russian agent planting Russian disinformation in the dossier, according to the Inspector General report: “According to an FBI memorandum prepared in December 2017 for a Congressional briefing, by the time the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was transferred to the Special Counsel in May 2017, the FBI ‘did not assess it likely that the [Steele] [ election reporting] was generated in connection to a Russian disinformation campaign.’ [Former assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division William] Priestap told us that the FBI ‘didn’t have any indication whatsoever’ by May 2017 that the Russians were running a disinformation campaign through the Steele election reporting.”

Priestap added he “tried to explain to anybody who will listen is if that’s the theory [that Russian Oligarch 1 ran a disinformation campaign through [Steele] to the FBI], then I’m struggling with what the goal was. So, because, obviously, what [Steele] reported was not helpful, you could argue, to then [candidate] Trump. And if you guys recall, nobody thought then candidate Trump was going to win the election. Why the Russians, and [Russian Oligarch 1] is  supposed to be close, very close to the Kremlin, why the Russians would try to denigrate an opponent that the intel community later said they were in favor of who didn’t really have a chance at winning, I’m struggling, with, when you know the Russians, and this I  know from my Intelligence Community work: they favored Trump, they’re trying to denigrate Clinton, and they wanted to sow chaos. I don’t know why you’d run a disinformation campaign to denigrate Trump on the side.”

So, what really happened here?

Was Steele embellishing what the sub-source told him or not, raising the possibility that Steele was reaching an outcome predetermined by his DNC and Clinton handlers? That’s a possibility that the Inspector General report and the sub-source interview raise.

Did the sub-source tell the truth to the FBI in Jan. 2017? Or was the sub-source saying Steele made it all up actually a Russian agent not to be trusted? That’s what the Barr letter to Graham and Comey interview to Fox News suggest.

More importantly, if the sub-source was potentially a Russian agent, and this was known to the FBI, couldn’t that suspicion have added gravity to the Steele dossier, since his sub-source’s connections to the Kremlin could have been verified, creating a plausible basis for the FBI investigation and Comey keeping it going in 2017? Priestap’s skepticism of the sub-source being traced to a Russian intelligence operation seems to cut against that. The Justice Department did not believe it was dealing with Russian disinformation, even if the sub-source was once the subject of a counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011.

That is what the Durham investigation needs to find out. And it needs to be wary of jumping down another Russia collusion rabbit hole, only this time pointed at Clinton, the DNC or the Justice Department. Many Republicans would certainly like to go in that direction. Stick with verifiable facts. They are surely bad enough.

Is there more to come? Or is this it? Without arrests of major principals in this whole affair, which has torn this country apart, so far it looks like the protections afforded under FISA to the American people against phony investigations are practically non-existent, creating a perverse incentive for bad cops to use the system to take out their political opponents. This is neither due process nor probable cause under the Constitution.

If FISA allowed a legal coup to be waged against the duly elected President, perhaps it is time to simply repeal FISA — before we lose the Constitution and our country.

Otherwise, this will happen again.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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