How Was the Steele Dossier Used by the FBI? Nunes Memo Focuses on Controversial Trump-Russia Doc

A controversial GOP memo released by the House Intelligence Committee on Friday alleges that the FBI and Department of Justice relied heavily on research by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele when renewing a surveillance warrant for a Trump adviser.

The memo claims that the country’s top law enforcement officials misled a judge about the origins of the information in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application for Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign. It also says that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe said a FISA warrant for Page would not have been sought without the information from the Steele dossier. 

The Steele dossier, also known as the Russia dossier, is very controversial because it contains salacious allegations about President Donald Trump—including claims that the president was cultivated by Russia for years. While some aspects of the dossier, particularly those regarding former aide Page, have been verified, many allegations remain unverifiable.  

913401450 The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Support for the memo has largely split along party lines. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the information released in the GOP memo Friday was “cherry picked” to present a misleading picture. He also countered that the FISA warrant would have been pursued without the Steele dossier.

"[The memo] cherry picks information from Director Mccabe’s testimony before our committee,"Schiff told reporters Friday. "What he was describing is that the FISA application relies on all of the components in the application, each and every component, and only in that sense is it fair to say that if you take out any piece of it then the application would not be complete.

“The important things are very select parts of what Christopher Steele reported, related to Carter Page, were included within the FISA application and some of those were already subject to corroboration," he continued.

There is reason to believe that the FBI took the Steele dossier seriously and may have tried to corroborate the allegations in the document. The head of Fusion GPS, the company that commissioned the Steele dossier, told Senate Judiciary Committee staffers in August that the FBI had independently received information from a Trump insider which led them to believe the dossier's credibility. 

According to The Washington Post, the FBI had so much respect for Steele’s credentials as an intelligence agent that it had discussed hiring him to continue researching Trump’s connections to Russia. The discussions were called off when information about the dossier was publicized.

According to reports, the Steele dossier was first handed to FBI Director James Comey in December 2016 by Senator John McCain, who had received the memo from a contact and passed it on for verification.

Much of the information remained unverified, but the FBI took the information in the dossier seriously enough to brief members of Congress and then-president Barack Obama. In early January 2017, then president-elect Trump received a two-page summary of the report.

Trump has repeatedly called the report the “dodgy dossier” and said that its allegations (a version of which was eventually published in full by Buzzfeed news) are fallacious. The GOP memo released Friday alleges that Steele had anti-Trump ideological motivations for conducting the research. 

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