An email reveals disgraced former FBI director James Comey tried unsuccessfully to change a draft public statement from then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper questioning the reliability of the infamous anti-Trump dossier.
Immediately after the dossier was reported in the news media for the first time, the email exchange shows Clapper wanted to release a statement that “[t]he IC [Intelligence Community] has not made any judgment that the information in [the Steele election reporting] is reliable.”
Comey, however, interjected, suggesting a different public statement by Clapper that would not have attacked the credibility of the wild charges made by dossier author Christopher Steele.
The Comey email, which has not received media attention until now, was revealed inside the Justice Department’s recently released 476-page Inspector General report on the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation.
In the email, Comey wrote:
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 [Steele] 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.
That said, we are not able to sufficiently corroborate the reporting to include in the body of the [ICA] report. That all rings in my ears as more complicated than “we have not made a judgment that the information in the document is reliable.”
It might be better to say that “we have not be [sic] able to sufficiently corroborate the information to include it in the body of our Russia report but, for a variety of reasons, we thought it important to include it in our report to our senior-most audience.”
Steele was hired to produce his material for Fusion GPS, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
The email was sent on January 11, 2017, one day after BuzzFeed infamously published the dossier’s full unverified contents and CNN published the leak that the dossier was included in an official classified January 6, 2017 briefing with President-Elect Donald Trump. There have long been questions about why the unsubstantiated dossier was included in an official classified briefing.
Comey was responding to an email from Clapper that contained a draft media statement to be issued by Clapper for public release.
Eventually, Clapper didn’t listen to Comey. Instead, Clapper released his statement about Steele unchanged: “The IC has not made any judgment that the information in [the Steele election reporting] is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions” in the official January 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community report, known as the ICA, assessing alleged Russian interference efforts.
In the email revealed in the IG report, Comey claimed to Clapper that “the source [Steele] is reliable.” He wrote this even though Steele was already terminated as an FBI source in the fall of 2016 because he spoke to the news media.
Comey’s email further tried to lend credibility to Steele’s alleged sources, with the ex-FBI chief writing, “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.”
Comey may have egg on his face for vouching for Steele’s alleged sources following the publication of the IG report, which relates that Comey’s own FBI found serious sourcing problems and glaring issues with the way Steele reported his claims.
The attempt to re-write Clapper’s public statement in a manner favorable to Steele marks the second occasion documented in the IG report that Comey was caught trying to promote Steele’s wild charges despite concern from U.S. intelligence agencies.
Last week, Breitbart News reported a different email inside the IG report shows Comey personally approved an FBI effort to have the wild and unsubstantiated “golden showers” claim about Trump included in material to be considered for publication in the U.S. Intelligence Community’s official report (ICA) on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The IG report relates that the CIA did not want Steele’s claims to be included at all, downgrading Steele’s charges to “internet rumor.”
Eventually Steele’s reporting was relegated to the appendix of the ICA report as part of an FBI comprise with the CIA, which didn’t want the controversial report included at all.