The FBI team investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election cultivated and maintained numerous sources close to Donald Trump during the election and the transition period when Trump was entering the White House.
The FBI sources include one person who was in direct contact with Trump and who was utilized by one FBI agent to, “obtain insight into the incoming Trump administration.” Another source was described as voluntarily providing the FBI team probing Trump with large volumes of documents.
Yet another FBI source held a position in the Trump campaign and another was described as a Trump “supporter.” Another source was documented as attending a private gathering with Trump.
These disclosures and others were made inside the Justice Department’s previously released 476-page Inspector General report on the FBI’s Russia collusion investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
Some of the generalities of the use of these sources were outlined in the executive summary at the opening of the IG report. The executive summary, however, states, “We found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs or UCEs within the Trump campaign or tasked any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign.”
Both the summary itself and the larger section on the use of CHS’s deep inside the report detail a more complicated picture. While the FBI may not have officially tasked sources to report on the Trump campaign, it did accept information from sources who volunteered to provide the details, the IG report relates. Also an FBI agent contacted a source to “obtain insight” into the incoming Trump administration and another source provided information on Trump campaign officials. Another source was documented as being scheduled to obtain a briefing with Trump and it wasn’t clear whether that source reported back with any information.
The section of the report about the sources has not received significant news media attention.
The largely overlooked revelations raise major questions about the longstanding claim that the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign, showing the extent to which the agency run by James Comey maintained a bevy of informants within Trump’ orbit. This in addition to obtaining successive warrants to spy on Carter Page, the energy consultant who temporarily served as a tangential Trump campaign adviser.
A section on page 336 of the extensive report reveals the IG’s team learned during its review that the FBI maintained Confidential Human Sources (CHS’s) who had “either a connection to candidate Trump or a role in the Trump campaign.” CHS’s are utilized by the FBI to gather information on a target.
One source was described as holding a position that was redacted from the public version of the report and another source was documented whose details were also redacted.
One of these sources surrounding Trump is described as voluntarily bringing the FBI vast sums of information and documentation that the source was not officially tasked with providing. The Handling Agent for that source, described in this article as Source #1, told the IG that this source regularly provides “a ton of information on all sorts of things” to the FBI without being tasked to do so. Source #1 also brings “reams of information” to into meetings with the handling agent.
In March 2017, Source #1 voluntarily provided his/her Handling Agent with five sets of documents on a series of topics. The Handling Agent said that Source #1 provided documents and information because he/she “thought it was of interest to the U.S. government.”
The documents and information from Source #1 were placed in FBI files and were provided to the Crossfire Hurricane team investigating Trump, the IG report documents. Regarding the materials from Source #1, the Crossfire Hurricane team did not find “anything significant” in something that was redacted from the public report.
One human source, referred to in this article as source #2, provided the Crossfire Hurricane team with what the IG report characterized as “general information” in August 2016 about former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and adviser Carter Page.
Page was the subject of government surveillance using successive FISA warrants that partially relied upon the infamous dossier as justification for the spying. The dossier was financed by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee.
Source #2 was described as someone who “knew candidate Trump and had been in contact with the candidate.” The Handling Agent claimed this source provided information about Page that was “open-source information” that could be found “[a]II over the Internet.” The IG report does not describe what Source #2 provided the FBI about Manafort.
The IG report further relates that an FBI agent contacted the handling agent for Source #2 immediately after Trump won the November 2016 election and asked for “a read-out from” Source #2 “regarding possible positions in administration.”
In late November 2016, the Handling Agent met Source #2 and penned an official document stating one purpose of the meeting was “to obtain insight regarding the incoming Trump Administration following the recent U.S. Presidential elections.”
The unnamed FBI agent who sent the Handling Agent to that meeting claimed to the IG that he made the request because he thought Source #2 could be given “a position somewhere in the administration” which would become a “sensitive matter that we would need to handle differently.”
The Handling Agent claimed in his interview with the IG that to him the phrase “obtain insight” into the incoming Trump administration was really just about asking Source #2 for his “[p]ersonal opinion,” and he was just making “small talk” with Source #2. The Handling Agent claimed the information he gleaned from Source #2 was “not investigative in nature” and wasn’t put into any FBI case file.
The FBI’s top counterintelligence agent, Bill Priestap, told the IG that if he had known about the contact with Source #2 to “obtain insight” into the incoming Trump administration such action would have raised concerns.
Referring to the phrase “obtain insight,” Priestap said he “hope[d] it was misstated [in the document], because we don’t, well, it’s not what we should be doing.”
The IG also discovered an October 2016 email written by an Intelligence Analyst on the Crossfire Hurricane team that contained information about another Confidential Human Source, described here as Source #3.
The email copied information from a case file for Source #3, stating the source was “scheduled to attend a ‘private’ national security forum with Donald Trump” in October 2016, after which Source #3 will provide “an update on the Trump meeting.”
The IG could not get to the bottom of what transpired with Source #3. None of the Crossfire Hurricane case agents told the IG they had any recollection of knowing that any source was scheduled to attend a gathering with Trump.
One FBI agent claimed he did not remember Source #3 “at all.”
The Handling Agent for Source #3 sought to clarify that the information in the email describing the source as going to attend a gathering at a hotel. The agent claimed the gathering was “more of a … campaign speech or campaign discussion” and “more like a campaign stop than a meeting.”
The Handling Agent claimed he could not recall if Source #3 actually attended the gathering with Trump, adding that he “would certainly not be tasking a source to go attend some private meeting with a candidate, any candidate, for president or for other office, to collect the information on what that candidate is saying.”
The IG could not find evidence that Source #3 told the FBI about any meeting or event with Trump.
Meanwhile, another FBI Confidential Human Source, characterized here as Source #4, was described as holding a position in the Trump campaign at one point. The IG report shows that by the time Source #4 told his/her Handling Agent about the campaign role that source was no longer part of the Trump campaign.
An FBI internal document says Source #4 would be utilized only as a “passive listening post regarding any observations [he/she] has of the campaign so far” and that the source would not be tasked for anything further at the time the document was written.
The IG report describes yet another source as being a Trump supporter.
The IG report says that although the Crossfire Hurricane team was aware of all these sources during the2016 presidential campaign, the FBI team felt the Trump informants would not have furthered the investigation and so they were purportedly not tasked further.
One FBI agent was quoted in the IG report as saying that members of the Crossfire Hurricane team “never [had] any intent, never any desire … to collect…campaign or privileged information with regard to the presidential election.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.