- Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was short, sweet and to the point Wednesday when he flatly refused to discuss what parts of the Steele dossier FBI investigators verified before using the document to spy on Carter Page.
- McCabe was pressed about the dossier during an event the Hayden Center hosted.
- McCabe and other FBI officials have defended the bureau’s use of the dossier in the investigation of the Trump campaign, but they have largely avoided provided specifics about the steps they took to investigate Steele’s allegations.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe refused to say Wednesday what parts of the Steele dossier the FBI verified before using the salacious document in surveillance warrant applications to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
McCabe, a CNN analyst, appeared on a panel with former CIA officials John Brennan, John McLaughlin and Michael Morell to discuss the intelligence community’s role in the 2020 election.
A journalist asked McCabe during a Q&A session to describe what parts of the dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, the FBI verified before using it in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications to spy on Page.
“Would you be able to say with specificity what the FBI verified in the Steele dossier before using it in FISA applications?” Jerry Dunleavy, a reporter at the Washington Examiner, asked McCabe.
“Specifically, what was verified in the dossier before it was used?” Dunleavy added.
McCabe was succinct and abrupt.
“So the answer to your first question is ‘no,'” he said, “I will not go into specificity about what the FBI verified prior to the FISA or after.”
The FBI relied heavily Steele’s information in four applications for FISA warrants against Page.
Steele, a former MI6 officer who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of Democrats, alleged that Page and other Trump associates took part in a “well-developed conspiracy” with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. But Steele’s assertions were all but debunked by the special counsel’s report, which said that there was no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy. (RELATED: The FISA Abuse Report Is Coming Out Soon. Here’s What You Need To Know)
The report also said that no Trump associates, including Page, acted as Russian agents.
McCabe and other former FBI officials have defended the bureau’s use of the dossier in the FISA applications, but have largely avoided discussing the process they undertook to investigate Steele’s claims.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is expected to soon release a report of his investigation into whether the FBI properly handled information from Steele, who was hired to investigate President Donald Trump in June 2016 by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was on the Clinton-Democratic National Committee payroll.
McCabe also said at Wednesday’s event that Horowitz’s investigation has expanded beyond its initial focus on the dossier. He said that based on his interactions with Horowitz’s team, the investigation has “ended up as some broader set of questions and issues” about the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe.
Horowitz opened an investigation in March 2018 into whether the FBI and Justice Department complied with laws and procedures regarding the FISA process. He told Congress on Oct. 24 that he has completed a “lengthy” report of the investigation and that it is currently undergoing a declassification review at the FBI and Justice Department.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI on March 16, 2018, after Horowitz determined that he displayed a “lack of candor” regarding authorization of leaks to the media in October 2016 regarding an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., are also conducting a criminal investigation into McCabe, who has denied wrongdoing.
McCabe also addressed an investigation similar to Horowitz’s that is being led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham in May to lead an administrative review of U.S. agencies’ intelligence activities related to the campaign.
Durham’s review recently shifted to a full-blown criminal investigation, meaning that the prosecutor can utilize subpoenas and a grand jury as part of his probe.
McCabe acknowledged that he is likely to be contacted as part of the Durham investigation. But he also said that he was not surprised that the probe has transitioned into a criminal investigation.
“I think it would be odd to expect him to conduct an inquiry without having subpoena power,” said McCabe.
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