Two official government reports have exonerated President Trump and his associates of the serious Russia allegations in the Democratic Party-financed dossier written by Christopher Steele and his handler, Fusion GPS.
The “not guilty” verdicts, however, are not mentioned prominently in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in March or Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s Dec. 9 findings, according to an analysis by The Washington Times. They often are buried within paragraphs or relegated to footnotes. There is not a single report subheadline detailing the dossier’s misses.
In some cases, the Mueller report leaves out exonerations that could have been cited. They later were referenced by Mr. Horowitz, based on Mr. Mueller’s FBI probe and findings.
There has been no comprehensive government or congressional report assessing the dossier’s numerous charges in 2016 compared with today.
Michael Caputo, a 2016 Trump media adviser and one of the most rebellious subjects in the long Mueller-congressional probes, says it’s time for conservatives to mount a concerted social media campaign to discredit the dossier once and for all.
“The Democrats’ phony dossier should be torn to pieces, but in classic Trump team fashion,” Mr. Caputo told The Times. “As compelling multimedia content, the president’s supporters can weaponize across all communications platforms. To hell with reports which run hundreds of pages and gray politicians prattling on from the well.”
Mr. Caputo was under scrutiny by Mr. Mueller and Congress but never charged.
Mr. Steele’s dossier and its 17 memos from June to December 2016 became the most important single piece of evidence used by the FBI to obtain a yearlong Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The FBI used Mr. Steele’s conspiracy allegations as a guide to interview subjects. FBI Director James B. Comey took his claims to the Obama White House and to President-elect Trump. The Horowitz report said Mr. Comey wanted dossier findings added to the official intelligence community assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Mueller report ignored the dossier and its impact. But its findings eviscerated Mr. Steele’s premise. The Horowitz inquiry looked at how the FBI relied on the dossier as evidence and in the process disclosed some FBI conclusions not in the Mueller narrative.
Here are major Steele claims and where the public can find official debunking:
⦁ Dossier: There was an “extensive conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election.
This was the central dossier charge that prompted the Mueller probe, which involved running down any links between Trump aides and Russians.
The Mueller team of mostly Democrat-aligned prosecutors put its no-conspiracy finding on page 2, as the 23-word second part of a 62-word sentence: ” … the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
This essentially debunks the entire dossier since all of Mr. Steele’s claims revolved around a purported Trump-Russia conspiracy.
⦁ Dossier: Trump attorney Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with operatives from the offices of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The purpose was to activate a cover-up of Trump involvement in hacking Democratic Party computers. If true, it would be a smoking gun for collusion.
The Mueller report said Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud and is in prison, did not go to Prague. But it footnoted that sentence to his denial, not to an official finding.
The Horowitz report stated the conclusion more clearly: “The FBI determined that some of the allegations in the Steele reporting, including that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague in late summer 2016 to meet with Kremlin representatives … were not true.”
⦁ Dossier: The Trump team paid anti-Clinton hackers. The Horowitz report said the FBI concluded the claim was “not true.”
⦁ Dossier: Campaign manager Paul Manafort worked as a team with Trump adviser Carter Page as liaisons with the Kremlin.
“The FBI ultimately determined that some of allegations contained in the Steele election reporting were inaccurate, such as the allegation that Manafort used Page as an intermediary,” the Horowitz report said.
(Both Mr. Page and Manafort denied knowing each other, and there was no evidence they did.)
On this issue, Mr. Mueller was fairly straightforward: “The investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference.”
⦁ Mr. Steele: The Trump Organization operated a dedicated computer server to communicate with Alfa, Russia’s largest commercial bank owned by oligarchs close to Mr. Putin. Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who handled Mr. Steele, pushed the conspiracy to the press as well as the FBI through Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr.
(This specific allegation was not in the dossier, but the dossier did allege that Alfa’s owners were involved in election interference.)
The Mueller report discussed Alfa-Trump contacts but did not address the supposed computer link.
Mr. Horowitz did, putting the final FBI verdict in footnote No. 259: “The FBI investigated whether there were cyber links between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, but concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links.”
⦁ Dossier: Candidate Trump financed and oversaw hacking and was a Russia spy.
Mr. Mueller cleared him of this, but, like other report exonerations, it was an obscure single sentence, this one in a discussion of obstruction of justice: “The evidence we obtained did not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”
⦁ Dossier: Mr. Page secretly met with two shadowy Kremlin figures, Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin. Mr. Page, who was in Moscow in July 2016 to deliver a public commencement speech, has always denied talking to the two. This was the heart of the FBI’s FISA warrant application.
Mr. Mueller essentially cleared Mr. Page in this report sentence: “The investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
The Horowitz report stated that “certain information the FBI had obtained did not support these allegations or the theory in Steele’s election reporting that Page was coordinating, or had coordinated, with Russian government officials on 2016 U.S. election activities.”
Mr. Steele’s Sechin/Divyekin story involved Moscow providing dirt on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Mr. Page taking bribes (a 19% stake in Rosneft energy firm) in exchange for working to relieve economic sanctions. Mr. Page says this never happened.
This story brings into focus Mr. Steele’s key contact, described by Mr. Horowitz as “primary sub-source,” who appears to have supplied most of the dossier’s information. The FBI tracked him down in January 2017 and conducted three subsequent interviews.
The Moscow-based person said the information he provided Mr. Steele was “just talk” from his own sources who had no contact with the officials being discussed. He said his sub-source on Mr. Sechin never mentioned a 19% stake.
“The Primary Sub-source said he/she made it clear to Steele that he/she had no proof to support the statements from his/her sub-sources and that ‘it was just talk,’” the Horowitz report said.
Mr. Steele released a statement contesting this, saying he has notes on his primary sub-source interviews that show he quoted him accurately.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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