The following is a simplified* version of the introduction to Part IV-A of the Durham Report.
- In April 2016, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Donald Trump campaign. The investigation was based on Page’s previous contacts with Russian intelligence officers. The FBI’s investigation into Page was initially opened as a preliminary inquiry, but it was later upgraded to a full investigation. The FBI used a variety of methods to gather information about Page and the Trump campaign, including surveillance, interviews, and document collection.
- In July 2016, the FBI opened a second investigation, called Crossfire Hurricane, into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. This investigation was based on information from Australian officials that Page had met with a Russian diplomat who was offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The FBI’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane was authorized by Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
- Later that month the FBI received information from two different sources about possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- In July 2016, the FBI received information from a former confidential human source (CHS) who had been contacted by a colleague who worked for an investigative firm. The investigative firm had been hired by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and another unnamed individual to look into Trump’s business contacts and ventures in Russia. The CHS provided the FBI with a list of approximately 45 individuals and entities who had surfaced in the investigative firm’s investigation. The list included Russian individuals and entities, as well as some Americans. The FBI investigated the information from the CHS, but they did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by Trump or his associates.
- The FBI also received information from Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was working for the DNC. Steele’s information was more detailed than the information from the CHS, but it was also more controversial. Steele’s information was based on rumors and hearsay, and it was not corroborated by any other sources. The FBI investigated the information from Steele, but they did not find any evidence to support his claims. The FBI concluded that Steele’s information was not reliable, and they did not use it to open an investigation into Trump.
- The FBI’s investigations into Page and Crossfire Hurricane were a major part of the ongoing debate about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- The investigations have been criticized by some people who believe that the FBI was biased against Trump and that the investigations were used to damage his campaign.
- In 2019, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General released a report that found that the FBI had made some mistakes in its handling of the investigations, but that there was no evidence of bias.
- However, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General found no evidence of bias and concluded that the FBI’s investigations were conducted properly.
- The information that prompted Crossfire Hurricane came from Australian diplomats who had met with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. It was vague and did not include any specific details about the alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- The FBI did not contact Papadopoulos or the Australian diplomats to verify the information before opening the investigation. Nor did it consider the possibility that the information was false or misleading before opening the investigation.
- The interview took place on August 2, 2016, two days after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was opened.
- FBI agents interviewed the Australian diplomats who provided the tip. They offered only limited information about Papadopoulos’s statements and expressed skepticism about whether they were reliable.
August 11, 2016:
FBI’s Assistant Legal Attache in London (UK ALAT-1) over Lync (instant message) to Supervisory Special Agent-1: “Dude, are we telling them [British Intelligence Service-I] everything we know, or is there more to this?”
Supervisory Special Agent-1: “that’s all we have”
Supervisory Special Agent-I: “not holding anything back”
UKALAT-1: “Damn that’s thin”
Supervisory Special Agent-I : “I know”
Supervisory Special Agent-I : “It sucks”
- After the interview, the FBI opened full investigations into George Papadopolous, Carter Page, General Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort. All were associated with the Trump campaign and had “either ties to Russia or a history of travel to Russia.”
“Pushing”….”Grease the Skids”
“Later in the Fall of 2016, UK ALAT-1 was at FBI Headquarters with some of his British Intelligence Service-I counterparts.
“While there, members of the Crossfire Hurricane team played the audio/visual recordings of CHS-1 ‘s August 20, 2016 meeting with Carter Page.
“UK ALAT-1 said the effect on the British Intelligence Service-I personnel was not positive because of the lack of any evidence corning out of the conversation.
“UK ALAT-1 told the (Office of Inspector General) OIG that after watching the video one of his British colleagues said, ‘For [expletive] sake, man. You went through a lot of trouble to get him to say nothing.’
“At a later point in time, after the Mueller Special Counsel team was in place, UK ALAT-1 said that ‘the Brits finally had enough,’ and in response to a request for some assistance ‘[a British Intelligence Service- I person] basically said there was no [expletive) way in hell they were going to do it.’
“From his vantage point, UK ALAT-1 saw that FBI executive management was pushing the matter so hard that ‘there was no stopping the train,’ and he told the OIG that, ‘I mean it was, this thing was corning. So my job was to grease the skids for it, and that’s what I did.”
What the FBI did appropriately:
- Met with Australian officials to verify the information provided by Papadopoulos.
- Checked records and open source data on the four Crossfire Hurricane subjects.
- Monitored the travel of the subjects.
- Obtained some records from other federal agencies and a foreign government.
- Used FBI confidential human sources (CHSs) and undercover employees (UCEs) to engage with some of the subjects.
What they did not do:
- Use national security letters or compulsory process to obtain information before obtaining the first FISA orders.
- Use “pen registers” and “trap and trace devices” to obtain information about the subjects’ phone calls.
- Interview Page — who volunteered to be interviewed.
- Interview Papadopoulos — who also volunteered to talk to them.
- The FBI chose insufficiently experienced intelligence analysts to conduct the investigation.
- FBI’s Counterintelligence Division failed to integrate the Directorate of Intelligence into the investigation as required by policy.
Skepticism from Other Intelligence Officials
- The FBI’s chief of counterintelligence analysis, Jonathan Moffa, said he had never heard anything about Trump and Russia until events began to be reported in July 2016.
- The FBI Intelligence Analyst who had the most in-depth knowledge of Russian intelligence information in FBI holdings during the relevant time period also said she never saw anything regarding any Trump election campaign conspiracy with the Russians.
- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that he was not aware of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
- Admiral Mike Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), also said he did not recall any intelligence that supported the collusion assertions in the Steele Reports.
- Victoria Nuland, the Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the Department of State, said she never saw any U.S. government proof of the allegations contained in the Steele reporting regarding Trump and Russian officials “with one exception. Nuland advised that she had received a two-page summary of the Steele allegations from Jonathan Winer, who in 2016 was serving as Secretary of State Kerry’s Special Envoy to Libya. Winer told Nuland that Winer had prepared the summary from his review of the Steele reporting while he was at Steele’s country house in the United Kingdom. Nuland thought Winer had passed the summary to her sometime in July 2016.“
- CIA Director John Brennan said that he was aware of the Attorney General’s Review, which found no evidence of collusion. He also said that he had appeared on MSNBC and said that he suspected there was more to the story, but that he did not have any specific evidence to support that suspicion.
- CIA Deputy Director David Cohen said that he did not know of any evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. He said that if the CIA had any such evidence, it would have been referred to the FBI.
*Text simplified by artificial intelligence and edited, reorganized and formatted by Dr. Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own.