The infamous “dossier” alleging collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government is filled with inflammatory, uncorroborated and in some cases clearly false claims made by unidentified sources — so much so that a longtime Trump aide mentioned in it filed a pair of lawsuits this week.
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But the unverified nature of the dossier is precisely why the FBI decided to look into the allegations, rather than accept them as evidence, and why the dossier should not be used to undermine what federal authorities have since uncovered, according to law enforcement veterans.
“There may be 90 percent of that dossier that is a complete bunch of [baloney],” said Bob Anderson, who oversaw counterintelligence cases for the FBI before heading its cyber and criminal branch. “But a piece matches with other potentially credible sources that [FBI agents] have … so now they’re going to dig a little more.”
In fact, even without the dossier, the U.S. intelligence community was in possession of information warranting an FBI probe.
“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred,” former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Judiciary Committee last year.
For the FBI, the dossier was essentially just another tip.
“This particular matter was complicated by the fact that the ‘main subject’ happened to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States,” but “we still had an obligation to look at it as part of our effort to protect the Republic from foreign threats,” according to Frank Montoya, who spent more than two decades with the FBI and another two years leading U.S. counterintelligence policy under the Director of National Intelligence.
Police routinely respond to unverified “reports” of criminal activity on city streets. Border Patrol agents routinely respond to unverified reports of illegal border crossings. Similarly, the FBI routinely commits resources to a matter based on unverified reports.
In all those cases, what happens next depends on what…