Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said in a 2017 interview released on Thursday that the FBI was unable to “prove the accuracy of all of the information” contained in the Steele dossier—the material that the FBI used to help obtain surveillance warrants to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
McCabe was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Dec. 19, 2017 as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, including possible links between Russia and any political campaigns. His closed-door interview (pdf) was among the dozens that were released to the public on Thursday after a protracted classification review of the transcripts.
“What is the most damning or important piece of evidence in the [Steele] dossier that you now know is true?” McCabe was asked.
“Well, as I tried to explain before, there is a lot of information in the Steele reporting. We have not been able to prove the accuracy of all the information,” McCabe replied.
The interviewer later asked McCabe about an FBI assessment regarding Carter Page—the details of which was redacted in the interview—how McCabe knew that the assessment was true.
“How do you know that thats true?” the interviewer asked, a short while later adding, “You dont know if its true or not?”
“Thats correct,” replied McCabe. McCabe said that the assessment was “an educated guess based on evidence.”
McCabe also told the interviewer, “I will not sit here and tell you that I can vouch for all the content of the Steele reporting. We cant prove all of it. But nevertheless, with appropriate caveats … I think it was appropriate to put it in the FISA package.”
Information from the Steele dossier formed part of the evidence that the FBI used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to surveil Page—the surveillance formed part of the FBIs “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into President Donald Trumps election campaign. The FISA warrant application described Page as an agent of Russia.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz in late December 2019 found that “the Crossfire Hurricane teams receipt of Steeles election reporting on Sept. 19, 2016, played a central and essential role in the FBIs and Departments decision to seek the FISA order” against Page. Horowitzs report (pdf) also stated that the charge that Page allegedly coordinated with the Russian government was one that “relied entirely on information from Steele.”
The dossier, which comprises several reports compiled by Fusion GPS and former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, claimed that the Trumps presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the Perkins Coie law firm funded the dossier.
Then-special counsel Robert Mueller took over the FBIs investigation in May 2017 after President Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey. Mueller concluded in April 2019 that the investigation found no evidence for any of the main 103 claims contained in the dossier. Muellers report stated that while Russia did attempt to interfere in the election, there was no evidence to establish that either Trump or any U.S. citizen knowingly conspired or coordinated with the Russian government ahead of the election. Mueller also did not establish that Page was an agent of Russia.
Horowitz in December 2019 concluded that the FISA warrant applications on Page contained 17 “significant errors.” Among the stated errors, the FBI did not tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that it knew that Page was reporting his contacts with Russian intelligence officers to another U.S. government agency.
Footnotes from Horowitzs report (pdf) declassified in April showed that a portion of the dossier likely was the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.
A declassified summary of a Department of Justice (DOJ) assessment in January (pdf) said that at least two of the FBIs applications to surveil on Page