- The Washington Times
Monday, February 5, 2018

A former Donald Trump campaign worker is attacking Yahoo News investigative chief Michael Isikoff for his dossier-fed pre-election-day story that wound up in the FBI’s top secret application to wiretap a Trump volunteer.

The Isikoff critic is Michael Caputo, a campaign PR adviser who, like other Trump people, has been put through the inquiry wringer on Capitol Hill but without proof they did anything wrong.

For that they blame the Democratic Party-financed dossier that made sweeping and unconfirmed allegations of a giant conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And they blame Mr. Isikoff for promoting it.

The first mainstream media reporter to publish dossier information was Mr. Isikoff in a September 2016 story. It repeated dossier author Christopher Steele’s charge that campaign volunteer Carter Page met with two sanctioned Kremlin figures. Mr. Isikoff cited a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” not Mr. Steele by name.

The story furthered the Hillary Clinton campaign theme that Mr. Trump was in bed with the Russians — meaning the Kremlin information the campaign had funded finally turned up in the press.

The Clinton operatives immediately pumped the story in TV appearances and on social media.

Other reporters were briefed that September by Mr. Steele via Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who paid the ex-British spy with Democratic Party money. No other reporter wrote a story.

“Every single reporter to whom Glenn Simpson tried to sell the Clinton dossier took a pass on the bogus info,” Mr. Caputo tweeted on Monday. “I know because I spoke to a few trying to verify it. Then along came @isikoff, Simpson’s old and dear friend — and everything changed.”

On Friday, Mr. Isikoff and the rest of the world learned this: To buttress Mr. Steele, the FBI actually cited the Yahoo News story in its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) request to a judge to bug Mr. Page. Its use by the FBI was odd since the story and dossier relied on the same information and source — Mr. Steele.

That fact was included in a publicly released memo from Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“This memo really astonished me because I had no idea that our story . would be used in the FISA application by the FBI,” Mr. Isikoff said on his podcast “Skullduggery.” “One reason that kind of stuns me is obviously the information I got from Christopher Steele . was information the FBI already had .[Steele] had briefed the FBI on this information.”

Mr. Isikoff defended his story, saying it was the first to note Mr. Page was under investigation.

Mr. Nunes has been investigating the dossier because its charges against the president and his people remain unfounded and yet Democrats — and the FBI — continue to use them.

First, he learned who paid for it — Democrats. Then on Friday he reported to the public what he considered an abuse of power by the FBI for using the partisan dossier before a federal judge without disclosing who specifically paid for it.

Mr. Caputo took to Twitter.

“[Isikoff] is a linchpin in the FISA abuse scandal,” he said. “Without his intentionally misleading story in @YahooNews, where he was the first reporter to lie about the Clinton dossier, there would be no FISA warrant. This is how abuse of the 1st Amendment kills the 4th.”

In another, Mr. Caputo tweeted:

“@Isikoff Inquiring minds want to know (&soon, investigators): 1) Did your dear old friend Glenn Simpson tell you Hillary paid for the info he gave you, and 2) if so, why did you label the political campaign materials ‘intelligence’ — did your lifelong pal ask you to?”

The Isikoff story ran September 23, 2016, with the headline, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.”

It reported on Mr. Page’s trip in early July to give a public speech at a Moscow university.

A key paragraph said, “U.S. officials have since received intelligence reports that during that same three-day trip, Page met with Igor Sechin, a longtime Putin associate and former Russian deputy prime minister who is now the executive chairman of Rosneft, Russian’s leading oil company, a well-placed Western intelligence source tells Yahoo News. That meeting, if confirmed, is viewed as especially problematic by U.S. officials because the Treasury Department in August 2014 named Sechin to a list of Russian officials and businessmen sanctioned over Russia’s “illegitimate and unlawful actions in the Ukraine.”

The story added, “U.S. intelligence agencies have also received reports that Page met with another top Putin aide while in Moscow — Igor Diveykin.”

Those names and narration came straight out of the Steele dossier.

Under oath, Mr. Page has repeatedly denied meeting with those two men and says he has done nothing wrong. He has not been charged. He filed a libel suit against Yahoo News in U.S. District Court in New York.

Yahoo and Mr. Isikoff say the thrust of the story is true: the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to hack Democratic Party Computers.

Asked about Mr. Caputo’s charges, Mr. Isikoff referred a reporter to his latest podcast.

On his show, he said he did not know the DNC and Mrs. Clinton paid Mr. Steele. He said he suspected he was funded by a Democratic backer.

He said he talked to a law enforcement source who confirmed an investigation.

“For me the key piece, the fact that made this a story, was the fact that the FBI was investigating,” he said.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.