Former FBI Director James Comey says he is unsure whether the infamous Steele dossier is a “credible document.”
“Has it checked out? Is it a credible document?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Comey of the dossier, according to a transcript of their five-hour interview, parts of which aired Sunday night.
“The answer is, I don’t know,” said Comey, who is peddling his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”
ABC News did not include the segment in its one-hour “20/20” special.
Comey’s admission is likely to draw attention, especially from Trump supporters who have questioned the FBI’s use of the dossier in the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. (RELATED: ‘Fifty-Fifty’: Christopher Steele Unsure About ‘Golden Showers’ Tape)
WATCH: Lots of dossier ‘coincidences’
By the time President Donald Trump fired Comey, the FBI and Justice Department cited the dossier in three applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the dossier, alleged in the 35-page document that Page was a central player in the Trump campaign’s collusion conspiracy. Steele cited an unidentified source who said that Page met secretly with two Kremlin insiders in July 2016 to discuss the collusion scheme.
Page, an energy consultant, has vehemently denied the claim. Trump has called the dossier “crap” and a “hoax.”
The first FISA warrant against Page was granted on Oct. 21, 2016. Three additional warrants — all which cited the dossier extensively — were granted in early January, early April and late June 2017.
Comey would have signed off on the first three FISA applications.
Comey also said in the interview that he did not know whether the most salacious claim in the dossier about Trump was true. Steele claimed in his report that the Russian government had secret footage of Trump engaged with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013. The Kremlin has allegedly used the video to blackmail Trump, Steele claimed.
ABC News aired Comey’s response to Stephanopoulos’s question about that portion of the dossier.
“It’s possible, but I don’t know,” Comey said of the possibility that the Kremlin has footage of Trump with prostitutes.
“When I left the FBI, when I was fired in early May of last year, an effort was underway by the FBI to try to verify as much as — rule in or rule out what — and that work was still ongoing,” said Comey, according to the ABC transcript.
While Comey was unable to vouch for the information in the dossier, he said that the FBI viewed Steele, a former MI6 officer, as a credible source, and he insisted throughout the interview that the “central premise” of the dossier checked out.
“And as I said, its central premise was corroborated, that there was an effort by the Russians to influence the election and that there had been some connections between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian effort,” said Comey.
Comey also acknowledged in the interview that he knew that Trump’s political opponents were behind the dossier.
“Did you know it had been financed at the beginning from … President Trump’s political opponents?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Yes … I was told at some point that it was — the effort had originally been financed by a Republican source to develop — material — opposition research on Donald Trump. Then after the Republican nominating process ended, the effort was taken up and funded by a Democratic aligned group trying to get opposition research on Trump,” he said.
The Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee funded the dossier. Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the campaign and DNC, hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS in April 2016 to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Fusion in turn hired Steele in June 2016.
The Washington Free Beacon, a website funded by megadonor Paul Singer, initially hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump in September 2015. The Free Beacon has claimed that it ended its Trump project after he surged ahead in the Republican primaries. The site continued using Fusion GPS for other projects through January 2017 but claims that it was not involved in the dossier project.
Comey said he did not know which groups had paid Fusion.
“I never knew which — who the groups were, but I knew it started with Republicans paying for it and then Democrats were paying for it,” he said.
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