The very day in January 2017 that then-FBI Director James Comey signed a FISA surveillance warrant application declaring content from Christopher Steele’s dossier had been “verified,” he wrote President Obama’s outgoing intelligence community chief with a very different assessment of the British spy’s intelligence on Russia collusion, a newly released memo shows.
“We are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting,” Comey wrote in a Jan. 12, 2017 email to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that was declassified and made public through an open records lawsuit by the Southeastern Legal Foundation.
The memo recounts an internal debate inside the U.S. intelligence community during one of the most delicate moments in the FBI’s then six-month old Crossfire Hurricane probe.
CIA officials had already informed Comey’s FBI that the target of the 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.
The FBI had been warned the previous summer that Hillary Clinton’s campaign may have planted the false Russia collusion story as a way to “vilify” Trump and distract from her email scandal, and 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.
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