In a prior column, I addressed the public debate over Bill Barr’s authority to declassify intelligence regarding the Obama administration’s Trump-Russia investigation. Lurking behind this debate, we should understand, is that administration’s handling of the Steele dossier: a compilation of faux intelligence reports.
The dossier was, of course, generated by the Fusion GPS firm -- principally, by British spy–turned-hack-for-hire Christopher Steele and journalist-turned-fabulist Glenn Simpson. The dossier is a slipshod, unverified opposition-research screed, sponsored by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Its sensational allegations of a Trump-Putin conspiracy to undermine the 2016 election (including by hacking and disseminating Democratic emails) were never verified. Nor was its salacious claim that the Kremlin possessed a video recording of Trump engaging in sexual hijinks, and thus could blackmail him into doing Russia’s bidding if he were elected.
Suffice it to say that the Obama-administration officials involved in pushing the dossier are running for the hills to distance themselves from it, particularly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report effectively rejected it. Most prominent in this regard is former CIA director John Brennan.
Brennan is as hyper-political an intelligence official as we have ever had. And when called on his excesses, such as the CIA’s spying on the Senate during his watch, his default mode is to misrepresent what was done and then frustrate the investigative process. On the dossier, he is playing to type.
As we noted last week, a public spat has broken out between Brennan and the FBI’s former director, James Comey, over which of them advocated including the dossier in the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) -- the report outlining Russia’s “active measures” to meddle in the campaign. We’ll come to why Comey has the better of that argument.