Newly declassified footnotes in Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz's watchdog report reveal the FBI received evidence that the anti-Trump intelligence dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was corrupted by fake intelligence as part of a Russian Intelligence Service disinformation campaign.
The footnotes were declassified on Friday. They indicate the FBI moved forward with obtaining FISA surveillance warrants against Trump campaign aide Carter Page — including numerous renewals — while knowing their central evidence, the Steele dossier, was faulty.
In a press release, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) explained the significance of the development.
The footnotes reveal that, beginning early on and continuing throughout the FBI's Russia investigation, FBI officials learned critical information streams that flowed to the dossier were likely tainted with Russian Intelligence disinformation. But the FBI aggressively advanced the probe anyway, ignoring internal oversight mechanisms and neglecting to flag the material credibility concerns for a secret court.
Despite later intelligence reports that key elements of the FBI's evidence were the result of Russian infiltration to undermine U.S. foreign relations, the FBI still pushed forward with its probe. It would eventually spill over into the years-long special counsel operation, costing taxpayers more than $30 million and increasing partisan divisions – all based on faulty evidence. In the end, the special counsel concluded that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia.
"For years, the public was fed a healthy diet of leaks, innuendo and false information to imply that President Trump and his campaign were part of a Russian conspiracy to spread disinformation. The FBI's blind pursuit of the investigation, despite exculpatory and contradictory information, only legitimized the narrative," the senators said. "The mounting evidence undercutting this narrative should have stopped the investigation early in its tracks. Instead, it took several years and millions in taxpayer dollars to conclude that the allegations were baseless."
"Had FBI leadership heeded the numerous warnings of Russian disinformation, paid attention to the glaring contradictions in the pool of evidence and followed long-standing procedures to ensure accuracy, everyone would have been better off. Carter Page's civil liberties wouldn't have been shredded, taxpayer dollars wouldn't have been wasted, the country wouldn't be as divided and the FBI's reputation wouldn't be in shambles," the senators continued.
"It's ironic that the Russian collusion narrative was fatally flawed because of Russian disinformation. These footnotes confirm that there was a direct Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, and there were ties between Russian intelligence and a presidential campaign — the Clinton campaign, not Trump's," they said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said he agrees that FBI surveillance of Page was not legal.