Report: Members of Mueller team knew about the Steele dossier as early as July 2016

January 20, 2019

Report: Members of Mueller team knew about the Steele dossier as early as July 2016 Image Source: Screenshot

New information has come to light in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation that ties Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of Democrat-aligned prosecutors to the unverified Christopher Steele dossier.

While conducting a joint investigation into the FBI and Department of Justice’s role in the Russia probe, members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees learned that key Justice Department officials who went on to work for Mueller knew the truth about the dossier months before previously reported.

Abuse of classified information

The infamous dossier was provided by former British spy Christopher Steele and served as the basis for a Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant used to spy on a member of the Trump campaign in 2016. When petitioning the FISA court for this warrant, top DOJ officials failed to warn the judges that the dossier was unverified, funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, and provided by Russian sources.

Previous reports suggested that the Steele dossier was a closely guarded secret, accessible to only a few top officials at the bureau and Justice Department. However, according to testimony from Bruce Ohr, the fourth-ranking official at the DOJ in 2016, at least two Justice Department employees who went on to work for Mueller were aware of the dossier during its earliest stages of development.

Chief among these early DOJ conspirators was Andrew Weissman, who went on to serve as Mueller’s top deputy in the special counsel probe. Weissman has a reputation for being a “legal pit bull” and flipping defendants to collaborators.

Weismann took the lead for the special counsel in the Paul Manafort trial. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III chastised the prosecution in that case for exceeding the scope of their investigation by charging Manafort with 12-year-old bank fraud charges to get him to “sing” about President Trump.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Ellis told the prosecution. “You really care about what information he might give you about Mr. Trump and what might lead to his impeachment or prosecution.”

Following the trail

So how did Weismann, an overzealous prosecutor who worked for the Justice Department in 2016, learn about the supposedly confidential Steele dossier? House Republicans learned about the dossier’s chain of custody while questioning Ohr in a closed-door hearing on Aug. 28, 2018.

According to testimony, Ohr first met with Steele at a Washington hotel on July 30, 2016. His wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the same firm that hired Steele to conduct his research on the Trump campaign.

At that point, Steele had already completed a rough draft of the dossier, which included the wild and unproven allegation that Trump once purchased prostitutes at a Moscow hotel and asked them to urinate on a bed previously occupied by the Obama family. Ohr shared these allegations with Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, who passed the information on to disgraced FBI section chief Peter Strzok, who was later fired from the special counsel and the FBI for demonstrating obscene bias against the president.

“Bruce Ohr worked for the Department of Justice. He had absolutely nothing to do with the Russia investigation other than he inserted himself by having contact with Christopher Steele,” former Rep. Trey Gowdy, who previously chaired the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Fox News before interviewing Ohr.

Gowdy wanted to know if any other DOJ officials had access to the dossier. “Who at the department knew that you were talking to Chris Steele and [Fusion GPS co-founder] Glenn Simpson?” he asked Ohr in the hearing.

“One of them was Bruce Swartz, who is the counselor for international affairs in the Criminal Division,” Ohr answered. “A person who was working with him at the time, working on similar matters in the Criminal Division, was Zainab Ahmad; and a third person who was working on some — some of these matters, I believe, was Andrew Weissmann.”

Say what?

“Who is that last one?” Gowdy asked. “I’ve heard his name somewhere before, I think.”

Like Ohr, Weismann was not a part of the FBI’s early Trump-collusion investigation. He worked at the DOJ’s fraud section at the time, and there was no justification for Weismann to know about an ultra-sensitive political investigation involving the top Republican presidential candidate — especially given the salacious and unvetted nature of the allegations.

Just days before the 2016 election, top law enforcement officials leaked the news of Trump’s role in their ongoing Russia election interference probe. This is unsurprising, given the number of DOJ and FBI officials who had knowledge of the Steele dossier but were not a part of the investigation.

Republicans continue to investigate what impact the dossier’s unverified, Russian-supplied rumors had on the early FBI investigation of the Trump campaign. However, given the news of Weismann’s involvement, the president’s legal team now has to wonder if Mueller’s special counsel was compromised by the dossier’s vulgar allegations.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is a regular contributor at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Yahoo News.