Now we know that the Trump Dossier was not just a product funded by Democrats, but was commissioned by the general counsel of the Clinton presidential campaign. After the Trump campaign collusion hysteria fomented by Democrats and their media friends roughly since the election, we learn that Russian disinformation (as it seems to me) disseminated by the friends of Vladimir Putin (i.e., the Russian officials identified by alphabetic descriptors in the dossier) has come to us courtesy of Hillary Clinton herself. Yet John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and campaign general counsel Marc Elias have all denied knowledge, either now or in the past. Whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on. As for Hillary herself, well, “she may or may not have been aware.”
But there is more. Rowan Scarborough has reported that the first of the dossier memos was circulated last year in late June. The first dossier memo is dated June 20, 2016, and cites Sources A (“a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”) and B (“a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin”). Sources A and B tout the collusion scenario. Sources A and B were not out to help Donald Trump, were they? They were out to throw sand in our gears or to help Hillary Clinton.
Former CIA Director John Brennan was a key player in the collusion scenario, but he has left much to implication in his congressional testimony. Brennan has acknowledged, however, that “that there were efforts made by the [FBI] to try to understand whether or not any of the information in that [dossier] was valid.”
Following up on his comments yesterday, our friend with two decades of experience in counterintelligence as an FBI Special Agent writes to add “some additional context that may be be useful.” He writes:
Why was the “dossier” ultimately so important for the anti-Trump conspiracy (if you think of a better way of putting it, let me know)? The reason, I think, is that the use of standard political smears against Trump had proven ineffective. Therefore it became necessary to take it all a step further and to attempt to make some superficially credible allegations of action against the national interest (again, the vague allegations of Mafia ties had fallen flat).
We know that that effort began some time in the late Spring or early Summer of 2016 because an application was made to the FISC in June/July. That application mentioned Trump by name–and was rejected. Why FISA? Because a Title III “wiretap” would have required an actual investigation based on a violation of a real US criminal law and a quite high and specific standard in the application for a court order.
Why, you might ask, was that application even made? Why not rely on the flow of info coming from NSA, which notoriously scoops up virtually all electronic communications? The answer is that Trump and all those close to him were US Persons (USPERs). The NSA targets foreign powers and individuals. If those foreign powers and individuals of concern are in contact with USPERs and, in the judgment of NSA, US counterintelligence (basically, FBI) should know about those USPERs, then NSA informs the FBI.
In my own career, outside FBI headquarters, I only saw a handful of NSA referrals of that sort. They were mostly general in nature. They could perhaps be used to initiate a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) to gain a bit more insight into the nature of the relationship between the USPER and the foreign power or individual — if we judged that advisable based on our own knowledge and experience — meaning that typically the NSA info would not rise to the level needed in order to say that there was “reason to believe” (i.e., for practical purposes, probable cause) that the USPER was an actual agent of a foreign power. That means: no Full Investigation (FI), therefore no FISA.
But in the anti-Trump conspiracy that’s exactly what was needed: FISA coverage, “wiretaps.” There was no time to do the painstaking research on Trump and his associates–they needed FISA and they needed it NOW. They’d already been turned down at least once. The NSA info was essentially useless, because what they really wanted was to get conversations between Trump and his associates here in the US–all USPERs–not international conversations (those were either lacking or harmless). Yes, NSA probably scoops up internal US communications of USPERs, too, but to use it without a FI and without a FISA order would be illegal. Therefore, the “dossier.”
For the conspirators the significance of the “dossier” was that it provided supposed “reason to believe” that Trump or those close to him were “agents of a foreign power,” subject to blackmail or pressure by a foreign power, already cooperating with a foreign power. The ability to claim that most of this “information” was coming via friendly foreign intel services with contacts in Russia added a bit of verisimilitude.
A “dossier” that could provide that sort of “reason to believe” would justify a FI and then FISA coverage. And therefore access to Trump campaign related communications (the extent would be dependent on the nature of the FISA order, who were the USPERs listed as targets–Page for sure, Flynn maybe, etc.). NB: Although they were claiming Trump collusion with Russia, what they were really targeting was campaign communications. By claiming that key people were foreign agents they could collect ALL their domestic communications with anybody.
This is why I believe that the dossier took on added importance after the initial denial of a FISA order. We know, or think we do, that the FBI wanted Steele to do additional research. The focus of that research, however, would have to be to establish “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Only that would get them the FISA coverage they wanted. Lacking those, FISA was the quick route, but it required “reason to believe” that Trump or persons close to his campaign were “agents of a foreign power.” Voila the “dossier” as it apparently featured in the successful FISA application in October, the height of the campaign. And then it came to be used in the attempt to nullify the election (the attempted “coup”?).