The annex to the 2017 intelligence community assessment on Russian election interference containing allegations from British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier was declassified Thursday, revealing the U.S. government claimed to have “only limited corroboration” of the former MI6 agent’s claims.
The two-page annex, appended to the January 2017 conclusion by the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election to help then-candidate Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, was declassified by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Both fired FBI Director James Comey and fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had unsuccessfully pushed to include Steele’s unverified research in the official public assessment, according to a Justice Department watchdog report.“
An FBI source using both identified and unidentified sub sources volunteered highly politically sensitive information from the summer to the full of 2016 on Russian influence efforts aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the annex stated.
“We have only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment.”The declassified annex said that “some of the FBI source’s reporting is consistent with the judgments in this assessment.”
The annex was partly declassified through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2018, but the judgments about the dossier’s veracity haven’t been visible to the public until now
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s lengthy December report criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Trump campaign associate Carter Page and for the bureau’s reliance on Steele’s unverified dossier.
Steele put his research together at the behest of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm.
Declassified footnotes showed the FBI was aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.The declassified annex did not mention Steele by name but described him as a “source” who “maintains and collects information from a layered network of identified and unidentified sub sources.”
Horowitz said FBI interviews with Steele’s primary Moscow-based source
“raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting”
and cast doubt on some of its biggest claims.
Steele’s dossier claimed to have a source described as a “close associate of Trump” and attributed to him some of the more salacious and unsubstantiated allegations about Trump, including the claim about Trump and prostitutes at a hotel during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, as well as the assertion of a “well-developed conspiracy” between Trump and Russia.
No such conspiracy has been unearthed.The annex also noted that “the source’s reporting appears to have been acquired by multiple Western press organizations starting in October .”
“The most politically-sensitive claims by the FBI source alleged a close relationship between the President-elect and the Kremlin,” the annex stated.
“The source claimed that the President-elect and his top campaign advisers knowingly worked with Russian officials to bolster his chances of beating Secretary Clinton; were fully knowledgeable of Russia’s direction of leaked Democratic emails; and were offered financial compensation from Moscow.”
Robert Mueller’s special counsel report, released in April 2019, said his investigation “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign” and that Russia interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but the team “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The annex stated that “the source collected this information on behalf of private clients.” It did not mention that those clients were the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The annex also noted that Steele’s dossier “claimed the Kremlin had cultivated the President-elect for at least five years, had fed him and his team intelligence about Secretary Clinton and other opponents for years, and agreed to use WikiLeaks in return for policy concessions by the President-elect — assuming he won the election — on NATO and Ukraine.”
Mueller and other investigators did not present any evidence showing these claims to be true.Steele provided the FBI with other information despite being “unable to vouch for … [its] sourcing and accuracy,” the annex added.