I believe most Power Line readers know the story of how the infamous anti-Trump dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, and in particular its most salacious contents, found its way into the mainstream media. To recap, CNN had the dossier in late 2016 and was looking for an excuse (a hook) to report on its most salacious contents, even though they had not been verified. On January 6, James Comey briefed Trump on those contents, supposedly to protect him in case CNN and/or other outlets reported them.
Then, on January 10, CNN published a story on the dossier’s most salacious contents, on the pretext that, since Trump had now been briefed, it was legitimate news notwithstanding the unverified nature of these contents. That same day, Buzzfeed published the entire dossier.
In other words, CNN was waiting for a hook to publish unverified, damaging material about Trump. Comey provided that hook on the pretense of “protecting” Trump. CNN then published.
There’s more. As we discussed here, based on the reporting of Sean Davis, James Clapper appears to have helped choreograph this dance. It was Clapper who told Comey to brief Trump on the dossier. And it might well have been Clapper who passed the word to CNN that Trump had been briefed — and thus that CNN had the hook it needed to publish the unverified, salacious information from which the deep state supposedly was protecting Trump.
Clapper initially testified to Congress that he did not “discuss the dossier or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists.” However, when confronted specifically about conversations with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Clapper acknowledged discussing the dossier with Tapper and admitted he might have spoken with other journalists about the same topic. These discussions took place in early January, right around the time CNN learned that Trump had been briefed, clearing the way for it to publish.
But Clapper wasn’t the only member of the deep state who was in this CNN loop. Andrew McCabe was also involved.
We know this from emails obtained and released by Sen. Ron Johnson. On January 8, two days after the Comey-Trump briefing and two days before the CNN story appeared, the then-FBI Deputy Director wrote the following to senior FBI leadership, under the subject “Flood is coming”:
CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story. . .The trigger for them [sic] is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment.
As Sean Davis explains, “sensitive story” is the term the FBI and others in the Obama administration had been using to refer to the salacious content in the Trump dossier.
McCabe wasn’t finished emailing about the coming “flood.” That same day, he emailed Sally Yates:
Just an FYI, and as expected, it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting.
I construe this as signaling “mission accomplished” to a fellow member of the mission team (Yates and McCabe were using the same code words to describe the salacious dossier material). Apparently, there was no need for a similar email to Clapper.
How did McCabe know what CNN was “close” to doing ? Perhaps Clapper told him. More likely, he was communicating directly with CNN. Keep in mind that McCabe was fired because he indulged in unauthorized leaking to journalists and then lied about it.
Sen. Johnson has sent a letter to FBI Director Wray setting forth the timeline established by the McCabe’s emails and propounding five requests for information. Among the five are:
The date and circumstances by which the FBI first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele Dossier.
All documents and communications between or among James Comey and James Clapper or their staffs referring or relating to Director Comey’s briefing of President-elect Trump about the Steele Dossier.
All documents and communications between or among FBI employees and other Executive officials or employees referring or relating to the “sensitive matter” or to Director Comey’s communication to then-President-elect Trump about the existence of the Steele Dossier.
These are good requests. However, even if the FBI complies, it won’t eliminate the need to put Clapper, McCabe, Comey, and Yates under oath and to ask them the hard questions about this matter.