Earlier in the week, The Washington Post reported that in April 2016, attorney Marc E. Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained Washington opposition research firm Fusion GPS to conduct controversial research on behalf of both the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Fusion GPS went on to hire former intelligence agent Christopher Steele to do the research. Through the law firm, Clinton’s campaign and the DNC continued to fund the research until October 2016.
Well, after the 2016 presidential election, it was Sen. John McCain who passed the controversial research documents, known now as “the dossier” to the FBI. It is unclear how McCain gained possession, but nevertheless, he did, and the agency in turn used it as some of the basis for its probe into alleged Russian interference in the election.
In a statement from January 11, McCain tried to provide an explanation as to why he provided the documents to the FBI, but he failed to mention how he got his hands on the dossier, and provided no indication as to who may have funded it.
“Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI,” he said in the statement. “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”
Eventually BuzzFeed published the dossier’s full (unverified) contents. However, McCain has denied providing the dossier to anyone other than the FBI.
“I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don’t know why you’re digging this up now,” McCain told The Daily Caller.
Regardless of who McCain passed it along to, he is sure to face a lot of questions in the coming days and weeks, because if there’s anything we do know about the dossier at this point, it’s that it has been scrutinized, questioned, and largely discredited.
For instance, its “Kremlin insider” claims unraveled after Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen revealed he had never traveled to Prague to hold any “secret meetings” with the Russian diplomat. His calling the story “totally fake, totally inaccurate.” The Atlantic confirmed Cohen’s whereabouts, proving the claims were “totally fake, totally inaccurate.”
Additionally, the New Yorker reported the dossier prompted skepticism among intelligence community members, quoting one member saying it was a “nutty” piece of evidence.
In fact, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell went so far as to question its credibility altogether. “Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can’t judge the information — you just can’t,” Morell said. “(It) doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think,” he added.
Per an NBC News report:
Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians. He also raised questions about the dossier written by a former British intelligence officer, which alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. …
Morell pointed out that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Meet the Press on March 5 that he had seen no evidence of a conspiracy when he left office January 20.
“That’s a pretty strong statement by General Clapper,” Morell said.
And then I asked myself, why did these guys provide this information, what was their motivation? And I subsequently learned that he paid them. That the intermediaries paid the sources and the intermediaries got the money from Chris. And that kind of worries me a little bit because if you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, “Hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you,” because they want to get paid some more.
I think you’ve got to take all that into consideration when you consider the dossier.
Also, for what its worth, Steele even conceded in court documents that part of his work still needed to be verified.