A newly declassified footnote on the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian election interference noted that the reporting of Trump dossier author Christopher Steele had only “limited corroboration” regarding whether then-President-elect Donald Trump “knowingly worked with Russian officials to bolster his chances of beating” Hillary Clinton and other claims.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe transmitted the declassified footnote, also known as “Annex A” of the 2017 ICA, to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., late Wednesday after the two requested last month that the ODNI release the document “to the fullest extent possible.”
Fox News obtained “Annex A,” which spanned less than two pages and detailed reporting by Steele, the former British spy who authored the unverified anti-Trump dossier — a document that helped serve as the basis for controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The footnote makes clear the internal concerns officials had over that document, however.
“An FBI source [Steele] using both identified and unidentified subsources, volunteered highly politically sensitive information from the summer to the fall of 2016 on Russian influence efforts aimed at the US presidential election,” the annex read. “We have only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment.”
“The source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI,” it continued.
Steele’s reporting, at the time, was commissioned by opposition research firm Fusion GPS and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) through law firm Perkins Coie.
Steele’s reporting, according to tot he annex, was “consistent with the judgment in this assessment … that Putin ordered the influence effort with the aim of defeating Secretary Clinton, whom Putin ‘feared and hated’.”
“The most politically sensitive claims by the FBI source alleged a close relationship between the president-elect and the Kremin,” the footnote continued. “The source claimed that the President-elect and his top campaign advisers knowingly worked with Russian officials to bolster his chances of beating Secretary Clinton, were fully knowledgeable of Russia’s direction of leaked Democratic emails and were offered financial compensation from Moscow.”
The annex went on to state that Steele’s reporting “claimed that the Kremlin had cultivated the president-elect for at least five years, had fed him and his team intelligence about Secretary Clinton and other opponents for years, and agreed to use Wikileaks in return for policy concessions by the president-elect assuming he won the election—on NATO and Ukraine.”
Steele “also claimed Russian authorities possessed compromising material on the president-elect’s activities when he was in Russia, as well as a compromising dossier on Secretary Clinton’s political activities that was controlled by the Kremlin and not shared with the president-elect or his team.”
Steele’s reporting also claimed that “secret meetings between the Kremlin and the president-elect’s team were handled by some of the president-elect’s advisers, at least one of whom was allegedly offered financial remuneration for a policy change lifting sanctions on Russia.”
But the annex notes that Steele’s reporting was “not developed by the layered subsource network.”
“The FBI source caveated that, although similar to previously provided reporting in terms of content, the source was unable to vouch for the additional information’s sourcing and accuracy,” the annex states. “Hence this information is not included in this product.”
Steele’s reporting was not included in the body of the final ICA prepared for then-President Barack Obama, but instead detailed in this footnote, “largely at the insistence of FBI’s senior leadership,” according to a review by the Justice Department inspector general, and later, the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It had been kept private until now. Sections of the footnote remain redacted.
That committee, in April, released a report on the 2017 ICA, noting that officials who drafted and prepared the assessment “were under no political pressure” to reach “specific conclusions.” The committee noted that the ICA, which was publicly released in early January 2017, reflected a proper representation of the intelligence collected, but noted that the document did not include information provided by Steele in its body.
The back-and-forth over Steele’s reporting being included in the final ICA for Obama was between the CIA and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who, despite the inaccuracies and uncorroborated nature of Steele’s reporting, said he wanted to include that information, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz first revealed in his FISA report last year.
McCabe told the Justice Department inspector general’s office he believed the Steele reporting needed to be included in that ICA because “President Obama had requested ‘everything you have relevant to this topic of Russian influence.’”
But, CIA officials pushed back, arguing that Steele’s reporting was simply “internet rumor,” and merited inclusion only as an appendix in the final report.
McCabe, at the time, argued that including it as an appendix was simply “tacking it on” in a way that “would minimize” the information and prevent it from being properly considered—despite former FBI Director James Comey’s assertion that Steele’s reporting was “not ripe enough, mature enough, to be a finished intelligence product.”
Ultimately, “the FBI’s view did not prevail,” and the final ICA report included Steele’s reporting only as a short summary in an appendix.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also reviewed the inclusion of Steele’s reporting in the ICA during his review of alleged misconduct related to FISA.
His report, released late last year, found that there were “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in FISA warrants for former Trump campaign aide Page. Those warrants relied heavily on Steele’s reporting, despite the FBI not having had specific information corroborating allegations against Page that were included in Steele’s reporting.
Meanwhile, Grassley and Johnson, in a letter last month to then-acting DNI Richard Grenell, also requested ODNI make available a declassified version of a House Intelligence Committee report “on Russian Active measures.”
Ratcliffe, who recently took over for Grenell, on Wednesday explained to the senators that that report was not in his jurisdiction to release — and instead, that committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would have to make the decision on whether to make a declassified version of that report available to the public.
An intelligence community source told Fox News on Wednesday that Ratcliffe transmitted a letter to Schiff regarding that report last week. It is unclear whether Schiff and committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will move to release that report.