Documents released on Saturday related to the wiretapping of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page reveal information that contributed to the government’s application to monitor Page originated with the State Department under the Obama administration in October 2016.
That detail may be particularly relevant since numerous officials from John Kerry’s State Department have been fingered for playing roles in the distribution – and in one case, possibly also the compilation – of the largely discredited, 35-page anti-Trump dossier which focused in significant part on Page.
Much of the interaction between the State Department and the dossier author took place just prior to the October 2016 date mentioned in the newly released Page documents. Dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British spy, was commissioned to produce the questionable document by the controversial Fusion GPS opposition research firm, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
State Department official Jonathan Winer admitted to exchanging documents and information with Steele, and passed the dossier contents to other officials at the State Department. Winer also admitted to receiving information from Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal that originated with Cody Shearer, a shadowy former tabloid journalist who has long been closely associated with various Clinton scandals. Winer conceded that he passed Shearer’s anti-Trump material to Steele.
On Saturday, a heavily redacted version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) application along with several renewals were released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Most of the more than 400 pages were redacted. The second bullet point in each of the applications reveals that the information of Page’s “status” was first provided to the FBI by the State Department in October 2016.
That section states:
The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a US person, and an agent of a foreign power, described in detail below. The status of the target was determined in or about October 2016 from information provided by the US Department of State.
The rest of that section is redacted. Unredacted sections in the application do not provide any further clues about which information was provided by the State Department.
Kerry’s State Department has been under scrutiny for its ties to the dossier and for its possible role in aiding in the FBI’s contacts with dossier author Steele.
First there is State Department official Winer. After his name surfaced in news media reports related to probes by House Republicans into the dossier, Winer authored a Washington Post oped in which he conceded that while he was working at the State Department he exchanged documents and information with dossier author and former British spy Christopher Steele.
Winer further acknowledged that while at the State Department, he shared anti-Trump material with Steele passed to him by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, whom Winer described as an “old friend.” Winer wrote that the material from Blumenthal – which Winer in turn gave to Steele – originated with Cody Shearer.
Winer served under Bill Clinton’s administration as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement. He wrote in his Washington Post oped that he rejoined the State Department in 2013 at the insistence of John Kerry.
In the Post piece, Winer related that while he was at the State Department, he repeatedly passed documents from Steele related to Russia to State officials, including to Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat who worked under the Clintons and served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Kerry.
“Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful,” he wrote.
Winer wrote that in the summer of 2016, Steele “told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials.”
Winer says that he met with Steele in September 2016 to discuss details that would later become known as the anti-Trump dossier. Winer wrote that he prepared a two-page summary of Steele’s information and “shared it with Nuland, who indicated that, like me, she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.”
Besides bringing Steele’s dossier information to the State Department, Winer conceded that he also passed information from Blumenthal to Steele, specifically charges about Trump that originated with Shearer.
Winer described what he claimed was the evolution of his contacts with Blumenthal regarding Shearer’s information, which he says he passed to Steele:
In late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-Contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at the Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.
What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources. On my own, I shared a copy of these notes with Steele, to ask for his professional reaction. He told me it was potentially “collateral” information. I asked him what that meant. He said that it was similar but separate from the information he had gathered from his sources. I agreed to let him keep a copy of the Shearer notes.
Shearer has numerous close personal and family connections to the Clintons and has reportedly been involved in numerous antics tied to them. National Review previously dubbed Shearer a “Creepy Clinton Confidante” and “The Strangest Character in Hillary’s Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
In his Washington Post oped, Winer does not say whether he knew at the time he interfaced with Steele that the ex-British spy was working for Fusion GPS, or that Fusion was being paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign via the Perkins Coie law firm.
Besides Winer, there is Victoria Nuland, a senior official in Kerry’s State Department, who gave the green light for the FBI to first meet with Steele regarding his wild claims about Trump and Russia, according to a recently released book. It was at that meeting that Steele initially reported his dossier charges to the FBI, the book relates.
The book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, is authored by reporters by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.
The book documents Steele told Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson that he believed the claims that he uncovered about Trump represented a “grave national security threat” that needed to be reported to the FBI. Simpson eventually allowed Steele to report the dossier’s claims to the FBI, the book reports.
Steele sought out Rome-based FBI Special Agent Michael Gaeta, with whom he had worked on a previous case. Before Gaeta met with Steele on July 5, 2016, the book relates that the FBI first secured the support of Nuland.
Regarding the arrangements for Steele’s initial meeting with the FBI about the dossier claims, Isikoff and Corn report:
There were a few hoops Gaeta had to jump through. He was assigned to the U.S. embassy in Rome. The FBI checked with Victoria Nuland’s office at the State Department : Do you support this meeting ? Nuland, having found Steele’s reports on Ukraine to have been generally credible, gave the green light.
Within a few days, on July 5, Gaeta arrived and headed to Steele’s office near Victoria station . Steele handed him a copy of the report. Gaeta, a seasoned FBI agent, started to read . He turned white. For a while, Gaeta said nothing . Then he remarked, “I have to report this to headquarters.”
The book documents that Nuland previously received Steele’s reports on the Ukrainian crisis and had been familiar with Steele’s general work.
Nuland previously served as chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott under Bill Clinton’s administration, and then served as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.
Nuland faced confirmation questions prior to her most recent appointment as assistant secretary of state over her reported role in revising controversial Obama administration talking points about the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks. Her reported changes sought to protect Hillary Clinton’s State Department from accusations that it failed to adequately secure the woefully unprotected U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, an extensive New Yorker profile of Steele named Kerry’s chief of staff at the State Department, John Finer, as obtaining the contents of a two-page summary of the dossier and eventually deciding to share the questionable document with Kerry. Finer received the dossier summary from Winer, the magazine reported.