It was ‘very clear that FBI and State Department were both consulting each other and discussing the whole issue of engagement with us and our investigation…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump has joked in the past that the State Department should be called the “Deep State” Department.
Recent testimony in a British court from notorious dossier author Christopher Steele may help explain why.
The former British spy has been able to duck U.S. subpoenas that would compel him to explain how he came to be at the center of the scandal, funded by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Hillary Clinton, to smear then-candidate Donald Trump with false and salacious innuendo about foreign election-meddling.
Those initial claims, which were rooted in a Russian disinformation campaign against Trump, later gave way to a concerted effort by partisan, anti-Trump US intelligence operatives to undermine his presidency.
Steele, however, was forced to give testimony in a related defamation lawsuit brought by three Russian oligarchs implicated by the Steele Dossier in funneling “illicit cash” to Russian President Vladimir Putin when he was the mayor of St. Petersburg, the Epoch Times reported.
In the course of his testimony on March 18—the transcripts of which the Epoch Times recently obtained—Steele was surprised to discover the two branches working closely together on the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” sting operation.
When he met with a high-level State official, Kathy Kavalec, a month before the US election, it was “very clear that FBI and State Department were both consulting each other and discussing the whole issue of engagement with us and our investigation,” Steele testified.
Kavalec already was aware of the information contained in the reports he had surreptitiously submitted to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe using the back-door channel of husband-and-wife duo Bruce and Nellie Ohr.
Bruce Ohr, an assistant deputy attorney general, answered directly to Sally Yates, who would later represent the Justice Department in White House discussions about setting a perjury trap for incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Yates ultimately was fired early in the Trump administration for insubordination after refusing to defend in court the president’s travel restrictions on terrorist-harboring nations.
Nellie Ohr, meanwhile, was a colleague of Steele’s at the research firm Fusion GPS, where both were being paid to generate intelligence reports on Russia that could be used for opposition research by the Clinton campaign.
Steele testified that in a meeting with Kavalec at the State Department, she brought up the question of the three Russian businessmen, all of whom were linked to Alfa Bank.
“My understanding was that Kathy Kavalec, who raised I think the Alfa issue with us in this meeting in October, had been closely coordinating with the FBI and the FBI knew that we were having the meeting and so on and so forth and that they were jointly working on this material,” Steele said.
In fact, he said, it was the FBI who had instructed him to meet with Kavalec in the first place.
Steele also implicated two other known players in the conspiracy: Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who both were deeply involved in the administration’s Russia policy—and who were very interested in knowing about information Steele may have pertaining to the election.
Former Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland tells that Christopher Steele, author of the Russia dossier, shared similar information with the State Department: pic.twitter.com/4QS32hAlQq
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 4, 2018
Steele’s testimony confirmed the links, which had been widely speculated upon, with previous reports suggesting that Nuland had been the one to vouch for Steele with the FBI as it was vetting his credibility.
Some have also speculated that the State Department may have been working behind the scenes to plant the disinformation, perhaps fearing that a Trump detente with Russia could undermine crucial policy in the region.
Many of those concerns would later air in the testimony of State officials during Trump’s impeachment hearing over a phone call with the Ukrainian president, whose country was at war with Russia.
The March interrogation by the Queen’s Bench seemed likewise to be directed at establishing Steele’s credibility—or lack thereof—by noting his desperation to maximize the spread of the dirt he claimed to have on Trump.
Steele allegedly sought the State Department meetings after becoming frustrated by the FBI’s perceived inaction.
Despite the fact that the FBI had requested, likely due to the sensitive nature of the claims and the potential impact on the election, to be the sole recipient of Steele’s reports, he claimed he was under the impression that he could speak in general terms with other departments and that it would be inappropriate to turn down a meeting with a high-ranking official such as Nuland.
Eventually, the FBI made the decision to run with Steele’s information despite the clear-cut reservations about its sourcing and motives.
They used the now-debunked claims in the report to apply for and renew warrants to spy on Trump campaign officials, and the dossier was later leaked to media sources, who published it shortly before Trump’s inauguration as a last-ditch effort to block him from assuming power.
A criminal investigation into the involvement of FBI and other top officials, being led in the Justice Department by special prosecutor John Durham, is expected to wrap in the near future.