Former FBI Director James Comey had an inside man at the White House, feeding the bureau information about President Trump and his aides in 2017.
Now this individual, who after leaving the government was hired by BuzzFeed to verify parts of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, may be tied to an investigation into alleged surveillance abuses by the DOJ and the FBI being conducted by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
This previously unreported mole in the White House appears in a new report by RealClearInvestigations that explored possible misconduct by Comey for what two U.S. officials described as essentially “running a covert operation against” the president even as he was assuring Trump he was not the subject of any investigation.
Anthony Ferrante, a longtime FBI official, worked as a cybersecurity adviser on the National Security Council. Officials said Ferrante was working in the White House even while the FBI held him on reserve status. All the while, he was sharing information about Trump and his aides back to FBI headquarters.
One former National Security Council official said Ferrante’s unique position was highly irregular.
“In an unprecedented action, Comey created a new FBI reserve position for Ferrante, enabling him to have an ongoing relationship with the agency, retaining his clearances and enabling him to come back in [to bureau headquarters],” the official said, adding that the NSC division supervisor was “not allowed to get rid of Ferrante” and that the arrangement appeared to be “in direct conflict with the no-contact policy between the White House and the Department of Justice.”
Ferrante left the White House in April 2017, not long before Trump fired Comey as FBI director.
He went on to join FTI Consulting, a business-advising firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. Through this firm, Ferrante was hired by BuzzFeed to investigate the dossier composed by Steele, to try and corroborate the unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia that appear in the research.
Ferrante was replaced in the White House by another FBI official, Jordan Rae Kelly, who signed security logs for Ferrante to enter the White House while he was contracted by BuzzFeed. Kelly left the White House last year and also joined FTI Consulting.
The FBI declined to comment for this report.
The dossier was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017 after reports came out that Comey privately briefed then-President-elect Trump on select allegations from Steele’s work at a Trump Tower briefing. This meeting in New York, which came one day after Comey met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office with some of his top administration officials, is now under scrutiny by Horowitz’s team.
In what has become an urgent area of consternation for Republican lawmakers, the FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants filed to surveil onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Four FISA warrant applications and renewals were filed from October 2016 through June 2017 against Page. Steele was hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS and his dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
While under contract for BuzzFeed, Ferrante compiled a report that was filed in federal court as part of a lawsuit over the publication of the dossier. He found that internet service providers mentioned in the dossier that were owned by Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev may have been used by Russian agents to support the hack of the DNC and the campaign chairman of Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 election. Unlike Steele’s dossier, Ferrante’s report did not directly link Gubarev or his executives to the hacking. “I have no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard,” Ferrante said in a deposition.
It is unclear whether Ferrante is still working for BuzzFeed. A spokesman for the outlet declined to comment on questions from the Washington Examiner about Ferrante. Ferrante did not immediately return an emailed request for comment from the Washington Examiner and a spokeswoman at FTI Consulting declined to comment to RealClearInvestigations, as did Comey’s attorney.
Horowitz’s team has reviewed more than 1 million records and conducted more than 100 interviews, including with Comey and Steele. The information provided by Steele was reportedly interesting or credible enough to justify extending the length of the investigation, which Attorney General William Barr earlier this year had predicted would be completed by May or June.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins said over the weekend he expects the inspector general’s report to be released this fall. The RealClearInvestigations report puts a release date sometime in September.
Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr is conducting a review of the origins of the Russia investigation, and he has said he is working very closely with Horowitz. The inspector general can recommend prosecutions, and U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr tasked to lead the review, has the ability to convene a grand jury and to subpoena people outside of the government.