Concerned by Christopher Steele’s behavior, a frontline FBI counterintelligence agent in the Russia probe initiated an “enhanced validation” review of the informant’s credibility in the fall of 2016 but was stopped by superiors, according to explosive Senate testimony made public on Friday.
The enhanced validation process would have subjected Steele’s dossier and his intelligence work to experts outside the FBI counterintelligence division that was managing the former MI6 agent as he manufactured his case — later debunked — against Donald Trump for colluding with Russia.
The blocked internal review kept the FBI from getting a more complete picture of the flaws in Steele’s source network and the reliability of his work, even as the bureau continued to represent to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that Steele’s dossier was reliable enough to justify a warrant targeting the Trump campaign, the testimony shows.
The agent disagreed with his superiors, who cited concerns they didn’t want Steele’s work known outside the FBI’s counterintelligence division. “At the time, I understood the answer, but I disagreed with it,” the agent testified.
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The agent’s extraordinary testimony provides further evidence that James Comey’s FBI took numerous steps to shield the flaws in Steele’s work from disclosure, despite receiving warnings from the CIA starting in 2015 that Steele might be too close to Russian oligarchs and susceptible to misinformation.
Later investigations would determine that many of the Steele dossier’s allegations were uncorroborated, debunked or Russian disinformation and colored by his opposition research work for Hillary Clinton — revelations the FBI kept from the FISA court.
The supervisory special agent, whose name was redacted from the transcript, made the revelation in testimony taken by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham last August but not made public until this week, two months after the November 2020 election.