In an interview with Yahoo News' "Skullduggery" podcast this week, former FBI general counsel James Baker said that the FBI was "quite worried" that then-FBI Director James Comey telling President Trump about the allegations made in the unverified, Democrat-funded Steele dossier would appear to be J. Edgar Hoover-esque blackmailing. He also admitted that while the FBI took the dossier "seriously," it did not necessarily take it "literally."
"We were quite worried about the Hoover analogies, and we were determined not to have such a disaster happen on our watch," Baker told "Skullduggery" hosts Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, in comments highlighted by Fox News Wednesday. The FBI, he suggested, wanted to make it clear to Trump that they were not carrying on the blackmailing "legacy" of Hoover.
As noted by the Washington Examiner, Baker also made the rather stunning comment that the FBI took the salacious, politically motivated dossier "seriously" but "didn't necessarily take it literally."
The dossier, which was compiled by a former British agent and paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, contained a series of outlandish accusations, none of which have been verified. Despite the unverified and political nature of the anti-Trump dossier, it played a key role in the Obama FBI securing a FISA warrant to surveil, or as Trump puts it, "spy," on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Though Baker suggests that the bureau didn't believe the dossier was fully reliable, he says they felt "obligated to deal with it." Pressed on what the bureau did to confirm the still unverified claims in the dossier, he refused to answer directly, saying only that they came up with an "investigative plan" for the ultimately failed attempt to validate it, "especially with respect to the number of sources and sub-sources that Steele supposedly had according to the dossier," the Examiner notes.
Asked if the FBI trusted Steele and his dossier at the time, Baker pointed to a footnote in the FISA warrant he signed off on that makes clear that they believed the former British agent to be "reliable" and "credible." That footnote also infamously failed to point out that the dossier was funded by Democrats.
Baker's comments come amid multiple investigations into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Along with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's investigation, Attorney General William Barr recently announced the appointment of Connecticut's top prosecutor John Durham to look into the matter. As The New York Times reports, Durham has a long history of "investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.’s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees."
"His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russia’s election interference and Trump associates," the Times explained Monday. "The department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is separately examining investigators’ use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions. And John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation."