Something you don’t take literally probably shouldn’t be used in a FISA application. Just spitballing here.
These former FBI officials have spun themselves in so many knots at this point that nothing they are currently saying makes any sense. James Baker is no exception. The former top FBI lawyer appeared on the “Skullduggery” podcast to defend his handling of the pile of garbage that is the Steele dossier.
Former FBI General Counsel James Baker is defending the FBI’s handling of the Trump dossier, saying “we took it seriously” but “we didn’t necessarily take it literally” and did not treat it as “literally true in every respect.”
In fact, the FBI was aware of numerous falsehoods in the dossier from the start, yet they continued to take it “seriously” anyway. Why and based on what?
Baker of course won’t say.
The dossier, packed with salacious and unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia, was written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele and formed a key part of the FISA applications used to justify surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Sitting down with Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman for a “Skullduggery” podcast released on Wednesday, Baker said the FBI treated the dossier as “something that we were obligated to deal with and obligated to assess. He did not provide any details on what, if anything, the FBI verified in the dossier.
The reason he won’t say is because they didn’t take any steps to verify it at all. Not anything meaningful anyway. How do I know that? Because when he’s pressed on the issue, this is his response.
Isikoff asked Baker what his overall assessment of the credibility of the allegations made in Steele’s dossier was as of October 2016 when it was used extensively before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Baker referred to the redacted Page FISA application with “a long footnote that goes into describing our assessment of Steele” that he said “successfully endeavors at least what we knew at the top of the organization about Steele and his reliability at that time, and to put the court on notice … about matters regarding Steele’s credibility so the court could make an assessment.”
The footnote to which Baker referred does not cast doubt on even the most outlandish of Steele’s allegations but rather makes it clear the FBI trusts Steele: “Based on Source #1’s [Steele’s] previous reporting history with the FBI, whereby Source #1 [Steele] provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes Source #1’s [Steele’s] reporting herein to be credible.”
In other words, they simply took Steele’s word for it. It didn’t matter to them that glaring errors were already readily apparent within the dossier. It didn’t matter that most of Steele’s sources were Russian agents who had every reason to sow disinformation. The DOJ also knew of Steele’s bias towards Trump via communications with Bruce Ohr.
Despite all that, they presented the dossier as credible to the FISA court with no evidentiary basis whatsoever. The only reason you do that is for political reasons, i.e. to have an insurance plan (as Strzok and Page discussed) just in case Trump wins.
Why is James Baker speaking out now? Because he’s the one who personally signed off on the the Carter Page FISA warrant. That means he carries a large burden of the responsibility for its legality. It’s no coincidence that all these implicated former Obama officials are making the media rounds. It’s also no coincidence that publications like The New York Times are now trying to run cover by shifting narratives around and pre-spinning bad behavior. They know the coming IG report is going to be brutal and they want to get ahead of it as best as possible.