Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe knew in advance that CNN was about to publish its story regarding the Steele Dossier. McCabe also knew CNN’s internal reasoning for running the story and about a leak made to CNN about a closed-door meeting between then-President Elect Donald Trump and then-FBI Director James Comey.
The Steele dossier was a piece of opposition research put together by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS through a law firm to compile the dossier. Fusion GPS hired Steele, who in turn used second- and thirdhand sources close to the Kremlin for the material. Fusion GPS also received money from Russia while Steele worked on the dossier.
That dossier was then used by the FBI as the core of a warrant application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page.
In the months before and after the election, the dossier had circulated among government officials and journalists but was not published, as the claims within could not be verified.
But on Jan. 10, 2017, CNN reported that a two-page synopsis of the dossier was given to then-President Barack Obama and Trump. Hours later, BuzzFeed published the entire dossier.
Comey told Trump about at least one allegation made in the dossier in a one-on-one meeting on Jan. 6: “I said media like CNN had [the dossier content] and were looking for a news hook,” Comey wrote about the meeting in an email on Jan. 7, 2017, to senior FBI leadership.
Earlier that day, FBI Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki sent an email to unspecified recipients stating, “the director [Comey] is coming into HQ briefly now for an update from the sensitive matter team,” according to documents released on Monday, May 21, by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“Sensitive,” as it became apparent from the documents, was a code word used among some officials for the Steele dossier content.
“Flood is coming,” wrote McCabe on Jan. 8, 2017, in the subject of an email to senior FBI leadership.
“CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story. … The trigger for them [CNN] is they know the material was discussed in the brief and presented in an attachment,” he wrote in the email.
Less than an hour later, McCabe emailed then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and then-Principal Deputy Attorney General Matthew Axelrod with the subject line “News.”
“Just an FYI, and as expected, it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting,” he wrote.
It is not clear how McCabe learned CNN was about to publish its story regarding the dossier two days prior, how he knew what the “trigger” would be, and how he knew information about the closed-door, one-on-one meeting of Comey and Trump was already leaked to CNN.
His referring to material presented “in an attachment” suggests he thought Comey gave Trump the FBI-CIA-NSA assessment about Russian interference into the presidential election with the dossier content attached. The CNN story indeed stated Trump received a 2-page summary of the dossier.
But Comey later said he didn’t give the summary to Trump—he only described some of the content.
McCabe was fired from the FBI on March 16 based on the findings of the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) that he leaked information to the press to boost himself and then lied about it to his boss and investigators. McCabe “lacked candor” on four different occasions, three of them under oath, the IG report stated. He was referred by the IG to the top prosecutor in Washington, who will determine whether to file criminal charges.
When fired, McCabe was one day away from retiring on a full pension.
Sen. Johnson is now requesting that the FBI identify all members of the “sensitive matter team;” provide the date and circumstances by which the FBI first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele Dossier; produce any written material created in preparation for briefing Trump about the dossier on Jan. 6, 2017; produce all documents and communications between James Comey, James Clapper, or their staff relating to Comey’s briefing to Trump about the dossier; and all documents and communications between FBI employees and other Executive Branch officials or employees relating to the “sensitive matter,” or to Comey’s communication to Trump about the existence of the dossier.
Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.
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