by John Solomon
An FBI spreadsheet that evaluated the credibility of Christopher Steele’s dossier found almost no corroborating evidence from official intelligence reporting, leaving analysts to grope after flimsy sources like a Democratic operative, a Russian propaganda news site and U.S. news media story leaks that amounted to circular reporting.
In one entry, FBI analysts tried to evaluate one of Steele’s most lurid claims — later debunked — that Trump was videotaped committing lewd sex acts with prostitutes at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow. “There is no confirmation that Trump stayed here,” they found. “There is no ‘Presidential Suite’ currently listed.”
The 94-page document was obtained Monday by Just the News in a mostly declassified state, with some redactions.
You can read it here.
Another entry encapsulated much of the FBI’s assessment of Steele’s reporting: It seemed based on Internet rumors that could never be corroborated.
“Other than open source speculation, the only reporting that mentions this is the Steele Reporting from 5 July 2016 and 2 August 2016,” the analysts wrote about a claim in the dossier that the Russian spy agency known as the FSB had a “pervasive and sophisticated” operation focused on Trump.
Other entries dinged the Steele dossier for sloppiness like misspellings of key names, or for making claims that were debunked by official travel records like passport entry records.
“There doesn’t appear to be any record of Trump visiting Baku or the presidential palace,” one entry read, knocking down a claim the future president visited the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.
Added another: “There is no record of Trump personally organizing a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) visit to Baku.”
Likewise, one of the most famous claims of the now-discredited dossier — that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen flew to Prague in summer 2016 to help cover up a Russia-Trump plot — was debunked by analysts.
“The CROSSFIRE HURRICANE team has been unable to verify travel by Cohen to the Czech Republic in August 2016,” analysts wrote.
With little formal intelligence reporting to back anything Steele had offered the FBI, analysts often turned to suspect sources, such as biased actors connected to the Democratic National Committee or leaked news media stories that could be traced back to Steele and his boss, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.
“On September 23, 2016 Yahoo News published an article claiming Carter Page was under investigation by the FBI and US intelligence due to his ties with Russia,” analysts wrote, citing that source as the only piece of evidence corroborating former Trump adviser Carter Page’s alleged meeting with a senior Russian official. The FBI later determined the meetings never happened.
FBI officials determined — and Steele admitted — he and Simpson were the source of the article, meaning the FBI’s use for corroboration was what is known in the intelligence world as circular reporting.
The Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik — often derided as Vladimir Putin propaganda in the Western world — was cited several times by the FBI as the lone source or corroboration for some Steele claims.
But perhaps most remarkable of all, FBI analysts used an article written by the journalist sister of DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa — a prominent purveyor of the Trump collusion narrative during the 2016 election — as possible support for Steele’s claim about the Moscow hotel sex story.
“An uncorroborated source, journalist and author Andrea Chalupa, was cited in an Australian magazine article dated 1 November 2016 as mentioning Trump having an orgy in Russia,” the analysts noted, before noting Chalupa’s story and Steele’s had important differences.
In another words — as with so much Steele peddled to the FBI — there was no official corroboration.
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John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist, author and digital media entrepreneur who serves as Chief Executive Officer and Editor in Chief of Just the News. Before founding Just the News, Solomon played key reporting and executive roles at some of America’s most important journalism institutions, such as The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast and The Hill.