Years have passed since the release of the Trump dossier, yet the American people have still not yet been told whether its contents and claims have ever been verified.
This dossier was later used by FBI officials as justification to spy on the Trump campaign. But was it true? Was any of it true?
As the Washington Examiner reports, House investigators questioned FBI deputy assistant director Jonathan Moffa about the Trump dossier last August. The Republican attorneys asked Moffa directly whether the FBI had confirmed the information in the dossier.
“Moffa’s response set a new standard for non-answers,” the Washington Examiner reports.
Take a look at the bureaucratic take:
“So, I like to talk about this in kind of a living sense,” Moffa started his answer. “Though, because the idea is, you’re never — you’re constantly evaluating that reporting, you’re constantly looking at incoming intelligence streams and investigative results. It’s not a snapshot in time thing where you would look at reporting and say, it is — we have nothing to refute this today.”
“You have to constantly be sort of doing that,” the FBI deputy assistant director continued. “And so, our analytic process in looking at this reporting and all reporting, really, is that more ongoing sense. So at the time, we are constantly re-evaluating, as time goes on, is the information here supported by facts we have elsewhere, or refuted by facts we have elsewhere?”
OK, said a frustrated Republican lawyer. What about the dossier? “I was just curious if you analyzed or verified every fact that was in these individual [dossier] reports as they’re coming in.”
“Got it,” said Moffa. “So I have answered that. We, in an ongoing way, were looking at those facts, and doing that research and analytic work to try to verify, refute, or corroborate.”
That’s how it has gone for Republicans trying to find out whether the dossier’s allegations have been corroborated. For more than two years, since the dossier was made public by BuzzFeed in January 2017, Republicans have asked the FBI what it has done to try to verify the dossier’s key allegations. They’ve gotten nowhere, apparently because the FBI has never been able to verify the dossier’s key allegations.
The closest the American people got to hearing whether the salacious claims in the dossier were credible (or not) was former FBI Director James Comey.
In May 2017, retired Congressman Trey Gowdy (who was a member of Congress at the time) asked the then-FBI Director: “Do you know whether the Bureau endeavored to either contradict or corroborate factual assertions made in what has later been described as the Steele dossier?”
“My understanding is that that effort — that an effort was underway to try to replicate, either rule in or rule out, as much of that collection of reports that are commonly now called the Steele dossier as possible,” Comey answered, the Washington Examiner reports. “That work was ongoing when I was fired.”
Here’s even more:
A top FBI official said the corroboration effort was in its “infancy” when the bureau used the dossier for the first Page wiretap warrant in October 2016. Of course, by some accounts, some FBI officials did not know of the dossier until a month earlier, so it would not be surprising that full verification work had not been done.
A later FBI assessment said that Steele’s reporting had been only “minimally corroborated.” It’s not clear what that meant. Comey told the House that the effort to corroborate the dossier “wasn’t completed” by the time he left the FBI.
That was May 2017. In August 2017, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed information detailing the FBI’s corroboration efforts. While the FBI did not turn over documents, bureau officials told congressional investigators in face-to-face meetings that they had not been able to verify the dossier’s allegation of a Trump-Russia conspiracy.
In a December 2017 interview with the House, then-FBI acting director Andrew McCabe said the bureau worked hard to verify the dossier. But McCabe refused to say whether agents had been able to verify Steele’s allegations, nor would he identify any substantive allegations that had been corroborated.
That takes the story to the beginning of 2018. After that, public information about verification efforts is slim. Of course, by that time the FBI had been trying for more than a year to corroborate the dossier with little or nothing to show for it.