WASHINGTON – Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is defending the FBI’s reliance on the Steele dossier as well as the bureau’s use of a confidential informant to make contact with the Trump campaign as part of an investigation into possible collusion with Russia.
In an interview as part of a recent book tour, McCabe disputed Republicans’ claims that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court about aspects of the dossier in applications warrants to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
And in his book, “The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” McCabe defended the use of an informant who appears to be Stefan Halper, a longtime FBI and CIA informant who cozied up to Page and two other Trump advisers, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos, during the 2016 campaign.
“I do believe that we adequately notified the FISA Court of the information we were using, and what we thought of the information,” McCabe told New York Times reporter Adam Goldman in an interview that aired on C-SPAN on Saturday.
McCabe, who was fired from the FBI on March 16, 2018, said that the bureau’s applications for FISA warrants on Page go “into great detail about our previous relationship, what we thought of the information we were getting from him, how we understood his involvement or interest in this stuff that was in the FISA package.”
Republicans have accused the FBI of failing to inform FISA judges that the dossier’s information about Page was unverified and that the DNC and Clinton campaign had financed the report.
The bureau revealed in its FISA applications that Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, was likely working on behalf of individuals who wanted to prevent Donald Trump from being elected. But the application did not disclose that the DNC and Clinton campaign were the ultimate financiers. The applications also did not reveal that Justice Department official Bruce Ohr had told FBI and Justice Department officials that Steele was “desperate” to see Trump lose the 2016 election.
“I do think we represented it adequately,” McCabe reiterated in his C-SPAN interview.
“I think everyone was satisfied that we had represented that accurately and adequately in the package,” said McCabe, who asserted that the FISA judges were “obviously satisfied,” since they approved four surveillance warrants.
McCabe did not answer a question posed to him by The Times’ Adam Goldman about whether the Page FISAs would have been granted without the Steele dossier. Republican lawmakers have said that McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee that the Page FISAs would not have been granted without each element of a mosaic of information, including the dossier.
In his memoir, McCabe also defended the FBI’s use of a confidential informant to make contact with members of the Trump campaign. He also disputed President Trump’s claim that the informant was a spy sent by the FBI to infiltrate Trumpworld.
McCabe did not identify the informant, but his description matches closely with Halper, a former Cambridge professor who has worked in several Republican presidential administrations.
“A confidential informant with preexisting tangential ties to people associated with Trump’s political operation had provided information relating to specific national-security risks, in this case involving possible Russian influence in the conduct of a presidential campaign,” McCabe writes in his book.
“So, hypothetically, if the FBI finds out that someone who is definitely associated with a domestic political campaign has made a comment to a high-ranking government official from another country about possibly colluding with a foreign adversary in the course of that campaign, the FBI is obligated to look into that,” he added.
McCabe was seemingly referring to a May 2016 exchange between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and then-Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that would ultimately serve as the catalyst for “Crossfire Hurricane,” the code name for the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
Downer claimed in a memo forwarded to the FBI in late July 2016 that Papadopoulos told him over drinks in London that he was aware that Russians had derogatory information on Hillary Clinton. Two weeks earlier, Papdopoulos says that a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud had told him that Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands” of her emails.
The Daily Caller News Foundation first reported on March 25, 2018 that Halper initiated contact with Papadopoulos, Page and Sam Clovis, the vice chairman of the Trump campaign.
Halper first made contact with Page at a political symposium held at Cambridge July 11-12, 2016. The event took place several days after Page gave a controversial speech in Moscow that later led to scrutiny from the media and government investigators.
Page says that Halper maintained contact with him through September 2017, the same month that the fourth and final FISA warrant against him expired.
In late August 2016, Halper met with Clovis, who then served as the Trump campaign’s vice chairman. The outreach to Clovis appears to have been part of a ploy to get to Papadopoulos, who worked under Clovis as a national security adviser to Trump’s team.
Halper emailed Papadopoulos on Sept. 2, 2016 with an offer of $3,000 to write a policy paper on Mediterranean energy issues. Papadopoulos accepted and took an all-expense paid trip to London, ostensibly on Halper’s dime.
During one dinner, Papadopoulos claims that Halper asked him out of the blue whether he was aware of Russians having Hillary Clinton’s emails. Papadopoulos says he told Halper he had nothing to do with Clinton’s emails.
Halper was not confirmed as a longtime CIA and FBI asset until government officials leaked that information to The New York Times and Washington Post in May 2018.
McCabe denied that the informant was a campaign spy, while also explaining his efforts to prevent information about the informant from being provided to the White House.
“Near the end of May 2018, the president falsely accused the FBI of having put a ‘spy’ in his campaign and called for an investigation. The president’s allies began demanding that the so-called spy’s identity be unmasked,” McCabe writes.
McCabe claims that he wanted FBI and Justice Department leaders to resist calls from Trump to provide information about the informant.
“We are going to protect the people who work with us, period.”