FBI kept using Steele dossier for FISA applications despite documenting ex-spy’s bias, documents show
Newly released records show that the FBI formally documented the bias of British ex-spy Christopher Steele shortly after the November 2016 presidential election, yet continued to use his unverified dossier in multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant application renewals, records obtained by Fox News show.
The documents, first obtained by Judicial Watch, also revealed that top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr maintained contact with Steele for at least six months after Steele was fired by the FBI for unauthorized media contacts in November 2016.
The summaries of FBI interviews with Ohr, known as 302s, show that Ohr knew by September 2016 — a month before the initial FISA application to surveil the Trump campaign — that Steele was “desperate” that Donald Trump not be elected president.
A source close to the matter told Fox News “this had the effect of putting a senior DOJ official on notice that a witness/source had an extreme bias.” Nevertheless, the FISA warrant application went through in October 2016 with multiple renewals.
While the FISA records are heavily redacted, it did not appear that the FBI’s concerns about Steele’s bias were ever shared with the FISA court.
Fox News has previously reported that on four occasions, the FBI told the FISA court that it “did not believe Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article written by Michael Isikoff implicating former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page in alleged collusion with Russian officials.
While FBI told the FISA court that the Yahoo article was additional, independent evidence to support Steele’s claims, the 302s show that by November 2016 — before several FISA warrant renewals — the FBI had made the connection between Steele and the Yahoo News article.
It is not clear from the interviews whether Ohr made the connection, or the interviewing agent did.
The 22 pages of reports on interviews with Ohr also revealed his extensive contacts with Steele. The two communicated on the encrypted messaging app “WhatsApp,” according to the records.
The FBI documents showed Ohr’s contacts with Steele extended through May 2017 when Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed. Ohr then became a kind of backchannel linking Steele to the FBI after his termination.
In November 2016, Ohr said that “reporting on Trump’s ties to Russia [was] going to the Clinton Campaign, Jon Winer at the U.S. State Department and the FBI.” In December 2016, Simpson gave Ohr a thumb drive with Fusion GPS research, according to the documents, and said former Trump attorney Michael Cohen may have visited Prague.
Mueller was unable to substantiate the incendiary claim in the dossier that Cohen traveled to Prague as part of a conspiracy with Russian actors.
On December 20, 2016, the documents show, Ohr gave the FBI opposition research conducted by his wife Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS research, “which contained the totality” of her efforts “but the Fusion GPS header was stripped.”
London court records show that contrary to the FBI’s assessments, Steele briefed Yahoo News and other reporters in the fall of 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm behind the dossier.
And the new materials obtained by Judicial Watch show that Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, and Steele “could have met with Yahoo or Michael Isikoff jointly, but OHR does not know if they did.”
Simpson has been accused of giving “extremely misleading” testimony to Congress concerning the dossier during closed-door remarks in August 2017.
According to FBI documents, Ohr apparently met with Steele in Washington, D.C. in late September, “possibly close to the time when the Yahoo news article was published on September 23, 2016.”
“This new Bruce Ohr FBI 302s show an unprecedented and irregular effort by the FBI, DOJ, and State Department to dig up dirt on President Trump using the conflicted Bruce Ohr, his wife, and the Clinton/DNC spies at Fusion GPS,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.
“The FISA courts weren’t informed of this corrupted process when they were asked to approve and reapprove extraordinary spy warrants targeting President Trump,” Fitton added.
This is a developing story. Check back soon for updates.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.
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