Steele Testimony: FBI Coordinated Closely With State Department on Russia Probe

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
June 30, 2020Politics
Steele Testimony: FBI Coordinated Closely With State Department on Russia Probe
Christopher Steele, former British intelligence officer in London where he has spoken to the media for the first time on March 7, 2017. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

The Department of State worked closely with the FBI on the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign and its work with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier, according to Steele’s recent testimony in a UK court.

Steele told the court he became convinced over the course of the summer and fall of 2016 that the two departments were closely coordinating. By the time he met State Department official Kathy Kavalec in October of that year, 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 said, according to court transcripts obtained by The Epoch Times.

Steele was questioned at the Queen’s Bench court in London on March 18 as part of a lawsuit against his company, Orbis Business Intelligence Limited, brought by three Russian businessmen affiliated with Alfa Bank. One of the installments of Steele’s report accused the men of funneling large amounts of “illicit cash” to then-Saint Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Putin in the 1990s.

“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.”

Kavalec, Steele added, met with him in Washington at the direction of the FBI.

Ample public evidence already shows that current and former State Department officials interacted with Steele and the FBI about the dossier. It has not been previously revealed that the two Obama administration agencies were closely cooperating in the investigation of the Trump campaign.

Steele played a key role in the unfolding scandal of the FBI’s investigation and spying on the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Given his level of involvement, the allegation about the State Department’s coordination with the FBI is significant, but must be taken with a grain of salt considering the numerous issues with Steele’s credibility outlined in the report by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (IG). The report did not state that the FBI and the State Department were in close coordination.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI declined to comment.

Steele told the Queen’s Bench court in London on March 18 that he learned in August 2016 from former State Department official Strobe Talbott that the State Department was aware of his election reporting on candidate Donald Trump.

“He spoke in fairly cryptic terms, but he was aware that we had material of relevance to the US election,” Steele said. “Both National Security Advisor at the time, Susan Rice, and Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who were the key policymakers on Russia, had been colleagues of Mr. Talbott, and I had—although he didn’t state it explicitly—one or either or both of them had briefed him on the work we had been doing.”

According to the IG report, Nuland personally authorized an FBI meeting with Steele in London on July 5, 2016. She has also said publicly that the State Department received a copy of Steele’s reporting the same month. The IG report outlines other instances of interaction between the State Department and the FBI but does not state that the two agencies were coordinating.

When confronted with the fact that the IG report does not corroborate his claim, Steele said “It may not be, but that was my understanding at the time was that there was close coordination between Victoria Nuland and Kathy Kavalec and the FBI on these issues.”

According to the IG report, Steele met with Kavalec and other State Department officials on Oct. 11, 2016. During the meeting, Steele briefed those present on the contents of his dossier. The briefing included the derogatory allegations about Trump-campaign associates Carter Page and Paul Manafort, both of whom were already under investigation as part of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s codename for the probe of the Trump campaign.

Kavalec told the IG that she believed Steele sought the meeting with the State Department “as part of a wider effort to disseminate his election report findings to persons in Washington.” At the meeting, Steele expressed frustration that the FBI was not acting on his allegations and that his client was eager to have the information come out before the presidential election in November 2016.

According to the court transcripts, Steele was aware in early July 2016 that the ultimate client for his dossier was the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. The FBI used the dossier—without disclosing that the Clinton campaign funded it—to obtain a warrant to spy on Page.

Kavalec relayed the details of the Oct. 11, 2016, meeting to the FBI liaison at the State Department, who in turn informed the Crossfire Hurricane team on Nov. 18. Kavalec also forwarded a document about Alfa Bank to the FBI. The bureau would go on to investigate the Alfa Bank allegations and debunk them, but not before some media outlets ran with the unverified story. The outlets reported that a server in Trump tower communicated with Alfa Bank in Russia, insinuating it was a secret channel between the Kremlin and Trump.

According to Steele’s court testimony, he was specifically tasked by Fusion GPS to look for links between Alfa Bank and Putin because Fusion GPS was aware of the now-debunked Alfa Bank claims. Fusion GPS is the opposition research team that contracted Steele to compose the dossier. The Clinton campaign had retained Fusion GPS through a law firm, Perkins Coie.

The IG questioned Steele about the State Department meeting, specifically as to why he did not abide by the FBI’s request to be the exclusive recipient of his reporting. According to the IG report, Steele did not mention the claim about cooperation between the FBI and the State Department. Instead, he said that it would be inappropriate to turn down a meeting with an assistant secretary of state, Nuland. He said his understanding was that he was free to talk about the general themes of his work with other agencies. Steele’s handling agent told the IG that Steele should have alerted him about the meeting with the State Department.

The bureau terminated its relationship with Steele after learning that he leaked what he told the FBI to the media.

From The Epoch Times

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