Former FBI general counsel James Baker told Congress in 2018 about his interactions with a liberal reporter who was “anxious” to provide the bureau with a copy of the infamous and unverified Steele dossier.
“I don’t remember specifically the date of these conversations, but I know that David was anxious to get [the dossier] into the hands of FBI. And being the person at the FBI that he knew the best, he wanted to give it to me,” Baker told lawmakers Oct. 3, 2018, according to a testimony transcript released Tuesday.
Baker was speaking of David Corn, a reporter with Mother Jones who was one of a small handful of journalists to interview dossier author Christopher Steele prior to the 2016 election.
Baker, a longtime friend of Corn’s, said the reporter provided him with memos from the Steele dossier that the FBI did not previously have in its possession.
“My recollection is that he had part of the dossier, that we had other parts already, and that we got still other parts from other people, and that — and nevertheless some of the parts that David Corn gave us were parts that we did not have from another source,” said Baker, who left the FBI in May 2018.
Baker’s testimony seems to conflict with Corn’s claims about why and when Corn shared the dossier with the FBI.
Corn told The Hill in July 2018 he provided parts of Steele’s dossier to Baker after the 2016 election “in order to see if the bureau would authenticate the documents and now comment on them.”
“Once again, it would not,” said Corn, who also told The Hill he discussed Steele’s allegations with Baker prior to the election.
Baker’s testimony paints a picture of an eager reporter who wanted to share evidence with the FBI related to Donald Trump and his campaign. He also said he recalled that Corn provided him with Steele’s information prior to the election.
“So what I remember most clearly is that at some point in time David had part of what is now referred to as the Steele dossier and he talked to me about that and wanted to provide that to the FBI,” said Baker.
“And so, even though he was my friend, I was also an FBI official. He knew that.”
Baker said he could not recall exactly when before the election Corn provided him with Steele’s memos, but Republican North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said Congress had information that they had a conversation in September 2016.
Corn published a story Oct. 31, 2016, that quoted Steele anonymously regarding allegations that the Russian government might be able to blackmail Trump.
Corn’s article led the FBI to cut ties with Steele for improperly disclosing that he was a confidential source for the bureau. That hiatus was short-lived, however, as the FBI asked Justice Department official Bruce Ohr to re-establish contact with Steele in later November 2016. Ohr communicated with Steele through at least May 2017.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, first met with an FBI official regarding his Trump investigation July 5, 2016. Counterintelligence officials have said the FBI did not receive what’s known as the Steele dossier until mid-September 2016. But top FBI officials received some information gathered by Steele in early August 2016.
Ohr told Congress he met with then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just days after he met with Steele in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2016.
Steele was working at the time for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was hired by the DNC and Clinton campaign to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
Baker said in his testimony that he knew during the investigation that Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, “was going around Washington giving [the dossier] out to a lot of different people and trying to elevate its profile.”
“And so we had heard that it had been given to members of the media, and I assume David was there for one of the people who got it from Simpson.”
Corn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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