Documents Show Senior Kerry Aide Used Private Email to Send Steele Reports to State Department Colleagues

January 7, 2020 Updated: January 8, 2020
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WASHINGTON—Eleven pages of State Department documents released on Jan. 7 in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch show that Jonathan Winer, an assistant to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, used his private email address to convey information he received from former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to top U.S. diplomatic officials.

“I will send them to her [his assistant, Nina Miller] from my non-State email account, not copying myself,” Winer said in response to a December 2014 email from Paul Jones, principal deputy assistant secretary for European Affairs.

Jones wanted Winer to use the State Department’s secure email system, known informally as the “high side,” to transmit reports from Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.

“Given our ongoing concerns about security of open net, [then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland] and I wonder if it would be possible for you to flip Orbis reports to this system before sending them to us. Understand that’s yet another step in the process for you. We just want to be sure we don’t inadvertently undermine a very good source of info or worse.”

Winer, who was then-special coordinator for Libya under Kerry, continued in his response, telling Jones “she will then send them to us. You know who they are coming from, so even high side from here I will just refer to them as ‘O Reports,’ and strip out any other identifying information as to sourcing.”

Winer’s use of his private email to conduct official U.S. government business may have violated federal regulations and State Department guidelines.

The documents made public by Judicial Watch demonstrate the close relationship between Steele and Winer. Steele became famous in 2017 for the dossier bearing his name that he compiled on allegations that President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton colluded with Russian interests.

Steele’s work was paid for by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which she nominally controlled as the party’s choice to succeed outgoing President Barack Obama.

In a Feb. 8, 2018, Washington Post op-ed, Winer said he first met Steele in 2009. Then in 2013, when Winer joined Kerry at the State Department, he said he and Steele “over the years … had discussed many matters relating to Russia. He asked me whether the State Department would like copies of new information as he developed it. I contacted Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat, who was then assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and shared with her several of Steele’s reports.”

“She told me they were useful and asked me to continue to send them. Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful.”

Winer wrote in the Post article that in 2016, “Steele told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials. He did not provide details but made clear the information involved ‘active measures,’ a Soviet intelligence term for propaganda and related activities to influence events in other countries.”

Winer declined to be interviewed by Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz regarding issues related to Steele.

“No wonder Jonathan Winer, Steele’s ally at the State Department, refused to talk to the DOJ IG,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in releasing the documents on Jan. 7.

“He seems to have circumvented the rules in pushing Steele’s unreliable reports to his Obama State Department colleagues. … Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham would do well to focus like a laser on the State Department.”

Durham was appointed by Barr to lead a DOJ criminal investigation into the FBI’s Operation Crossfire Hurricane probe of the allegations raised by the Steele dossier. A federal grand jury is hearing witnesses and evaluating evidence produced by Durham.

Judicial Watch noted in its Jan. 7 statement about the Winer emails that it previously “released 146 pages of documents revealing that Steele had an extensive and close working relationship dating back to May of 2014 with high-ranking Obama State Department officials, including Winer and Nuland.

“Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing that less than a month before the presidential inauguration, Winer had a 10-minute phone call with Alexey Vladimirovich Skosyrev, the ‘political chief’ at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.”

“In July 2019, Judicial Watch released 84 pages of documents revealing an email exchange between Nuland and Winer, discussing a ‘face-to-face’ meeting on a ‘Russian matter’ in New York in September 2016.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation of the Trump–Russia collusion allegations produced no evidence that any U.S. citizen colluded with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Mueller investigation cost $32 million and resulted in a 448-page report that Mueller, a former FBI director, defended under intense questioning during April 2019 hearings before the House Judiciary Committee.

The Judicial Watch suit that produced the 11 pages of documents released on Jan. 7 was filed on behalf of itself and the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.