According to a new bombshell opinion piece from TheHill, Britain’s highest-ranking national security official potentially tried to warn of the investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign, specifically the role played by British national Christopher Steele.
Additionally, the British government apparently implied their lack of confidence in Steele’s credibility – warnings which went unheeded, as Steele was instrumental in instigating the lengthy investigation into debunked allegations of Russian collusion.
Now, as President Trump recently ordered the declassification of information related to the origins of the investigations against him, it appears that his campaign team may have been left in the dark as to warnings regarding Steele, and trouble to come.
For Trump, who has repeatedly asserted that unethical and illegal spying attempts were made by the FBI and DOJ against his 2016 campaign, Christopher Steele continues to serve as further ammunition, as well as a humiliation for the intelligence community.
From The Hill:
One of the deepest, darkest secrets of Russiagate soon may be unmasked. Even President Trump may be surprised.
Multiple witnesses have told Congress that, a week before Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, Britain’s top national security official sent a private communique to the incoming administration, addressing his country’s participation in the counterintelligence probe into the now-debunked Trump-Russia election collusion.
Most significantly, then-British national security adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant claimed in the memo, hand-delivered to incoming U.S. national security adviser Mike Flynn’s team, that the British government lacked confidence in the credibility of former MI6 spy Christopher Steele’s Russia collusion evidence, according to congressional investigators who interviewed witnesses familiar with the memo.
Steele, of course, was the political opposition researcher-turned-FBI-informant whose dossier the FBI and Obama Justice Department used to justify spying on the Trump campaign in the final days of the 2016 election cycle. The dossier was funded by Fusion GPS, a research firm hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Congressional investigators have interviewed two U.S. officials who handled the memo, confirmed with the British government that a communique was sent, and alerted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the information. One witness confirmed to Congress that he was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller about the memo.
Now the race is on to locate the document in U.S. intelligence archives, to see if the witnesses’ recollections are correct. And Trump is headed to Britain this weekend, where he might just get a chance to ask his own questions.
“A whistleblower recently revealed the existence of a communique from our allies in Great Britain during the early days of the Russia collusion investigation,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, told me.
“Based on my conversations with that individual, and the credible timelines that are supported by other events, I made a referral to Attorney General William Barr and Inspector General Michael Horowitz for further investigation,” he added. “There now is overwhelming evidence to suggest that on multiple occasions the FBI was warned that Christopher Steele and the dossier had severe credibility issues.”
The revelation of a possible warning from the British government about Steele surfaces less than a month after a long-concealed document was made public, showing that a State Department official in October 2016 met with Steele and took notes that raised concerns about the accuracy of some information he provided.
The investigators interviewed a second former National Security Council (NSC) staffer who claimed to have read the memo in Flynn’s office. That person, who requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to talk to the press, told me in an interview that the document contained an explanation from Grant that British authorities assisted the early U.S. investigation into Trump-Russia collusion and later concluded Steele’s intelligence was unreliable.
“The message was clear: the Brits were saying they may have done some stuff to assist the investigation that they now regretted after learning the whole thing was based on information from Steele,” the former U.S. official told me. “They wanted Trump’s team to know they did not think Steele’s information was credible or reliable.
“They also wanted Trump to know whatever they had done, they did only at the Americans’ request and didn’t want it to get in the way of cooperating with the U.S.”
Congressional investigators say they have created a timetable of who saw and handled the document in Flynn’s office, and confirmed with a British government official that Grant sent a memo to Flynn in January 2017, though the British would not discuss its content with congressional investigators.
The information has been turned over to Barr and Horowitz, who are investigating whether FBI, DOJ and intelligence agency officials misused their spy powers or misled a federal court when securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The congressional investigators believe the communique may have been prompted by BuzzFeed’s unexpected publication on Jan. 10, 2017, of Steele’s unverified dossier.
American media were engulfed in the budding scandal over whether Trump and Russia colluded to hijack the 2016 election — something Mueller has concluded was not proven by the evidence — and the Brits likely wanted to distance themselves from the document and Steele, investigators believe.
Shortly before Grant’s communique arrived, a subordinate national security official in Britain sent a shorter message to Flynn’s office. That email didn’t address Steele’s credibility but communicated that the British had nothing to do with leaking or reacting to the dossier.
A source familiar with Flynn’s account said the Grant memo would have arrived just as the national security adviser and president-elect were consumed with standing up a new government, a week before Inauguration Day.
Soon Flynn would be engulfed in new revelations, when intelligence community intercepts of his conversations with the Russian ambassador were leaked to the media.
If the British memo exists, it was never shared with House Intelligence, House Judiciary, House Oversight or Senate Judiciary committees, despite their exhaustive investigations into the Steele dossier, congressional investigators told me. These investigators learned about the document in the past few weeks, setting off a mad scramble to locate it and talk to witnesses.
If the witnesses’ recollections are correct, the British communique could become one of the most significant pieces of evidence to emerge in the investigation of the Russia-collusion investigators.
It would mean that Trump was never told of the warning Flynn’s team received, and that the FBI and DOJ continued to rely on Steele’s uncorroborated allegations for many months, as they renewed the FISA warrant at least two more times and named Mueller as special prosecutor to investigate Russia collusion.
Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose staff has been fighting unsuccessfully to gain access to the British communique, told me Wednesday its public release would further accentuate “that the FBI and DOJ were dead wrong to rely on the dossier in the Russia investigation and to use it as a basis to spy on Americans.”