A memo written by State Department official Kathleen Kavalec reveals new information about Christopher Steele’s efforts to damage Donald Trump’s reputation during the 2016 presidential election.
In addition to the 35-page dossier he compiled for the Hillary Clinton campaign, Steele also made false felony charges against Trump associates Paul Manafort and Carter Page. He discussed those charges with Kathleen Kavalec in October 2016.
According to Kavalec’s notes, Steele accused Manafort of working for the Trump campaign as a “go-between” with Moscow. Manafort’s secret communications were allegedly routed through a server managed by Russia’s Alfa Bank.
The FBI has already investigated and debunked the Alfa Bank theory.
Petr Aven, one of the bank’s owners, is suing Steele for defamation.
And while Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud related to his business in Ukraine, the Mueller investigation found no evidence tying him to Russia’s election interference.
In his discussion with Kavalec, Steele also claimed that Carter Page participated in a platform debate about the defense of Ukraine at the Republican National Convention. The Mueller report includes a timeline of that debate. Page’s name is not mentioned.
In October 2016, the FBI used Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page. After more than a year of spying, the FBI filed no criminal charges against him.
Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence to support any of the 12+ charges of Trump-Russia collusion included in Steele’s dossier. Republicans rightly claim the FBI should not have used unverified partisan opposition research from one political party to spy on the other political party.
Kavalec’s written notes also reveal that Steele met with reporters from The Washington Post and New York Times in September 2016 despite having told federal judges that he did not speak with reporters. Steele told Kavalec he wanted his allegations to go public before the election.
According to Fox News, Kavalec’s notes were shared with the FBI before the agency obtained its warrant on Page.
The big question now is which official(s) pushed for using the obviously-fake dossier to obtain the warrant (suspects include James Comey and John Brennan).
We hope to learn the answer from US Attorney John Durham, who was recently selected to investigate the origins of the Russia probe and the FBI’s intelligence collection methods during Trump’s presidential campaign.
A similar investigation by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to wrap up next month.
On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Attorney General William Barr should have waited for Horowitz to finish his investigation before appointing Durham to start a new one.
He also said the investigations are missing the point: “We’re kind of losing sight of what was the cause of all this, the predicate for all this was the Russians and the Russian engagement,” he told CNN. “That was a profound threat and still is to our electoral system.”
In some respects, Clapper is right.
Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US election were inappropriate and unprecedented, but so too were the FBI’s activities (if Republicans’ allegations are correct). All we can do now is cross our fingers and hope Durham knows what he’s doing.