Newly released memos written by former FBI director James Comey indicate that an early 2017 briefing for then-President-elect Donald Trump about the contents of an infamous dossier was held so it could be leaked to media outlets eager to report on the dossier’s allegations. In multiple memos, Comey specifically mentioned that CNN had the dossier and wanted a “news hook” that would enable the network to report on its most salacious allegations even though they had not been verified.
No media organizations had reported the allegations at the time Comey briefed Trump.
“I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook,” Comey added in his memo about the briefing with Trump on January 6, 2017.
Of the many thousands of articles promoting a still-unproven theory of treasonous collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia, few were as significant as CNN’s January 10 story “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” Extremely well-placed sources told CNN that the Obama administration’s top intelligence appointees had briefed Obama, Biden, and Trump all about a dossier they took incredibly seriously and considered credible. And it sounded really bad, as the headline indicated.
Keep in mind that nothing we now know about the dossier had been reported at the time. It wasn’t yet reported that it was used by the FBI to provide a substantial basis to wiretap at least one Trump affiliate despite the fact it was unverified. It wasn’t yet reported that the product was bought and paid for as a Hillary Clinton campaign operation, or that it was secretly funded by the DNC using a law firm as a pass-through to hide its provenance in federal campaign filings. It wasn’t yet reported that its author’s working relationship with the FBI was terminated because he had lied to the agency about how he wouldn’t talk to the media.
There are two things in the memo that are worth highlighting as relate to that blockbuster CNN story from January 10, 2017.
First, Comey claims that briefing the president-elect was the brainchild of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“I said there was something that Clapper wanted me to speak to the [president-elect] about alone or in a very small group,” Comey wrote.
“I then executed the session exactly as I had planned,” Comey noted before going into details of what he claimed he told the president-elect. He wrote that he told him about the now-infamous prostitute pee-pee videotape claims contained in the dossier. Then he wrote:
“I said I wasn’t saying this was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuses to write that the FBI has the material or [REDACTED] and that we were keeping it very close-hold. He said he couldn’t believe they hadn’t gone with it. I said it was inflammatory stuff that they would get killed for reporting straight up from the source reports.
Such a close-hold that someone at a very high level in the Obama administration gave the information to CNN almost immediately. CNN broke the news of the dossier and Comey’s briefing of the president just four days later.