Posted 44 days ago
A senior FBI official ordered an ‘enhanced validation review’ of dossier author Christopher Steele to be shut down, prompting a senior FBI agent to request a transfer off of the team investigating the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia. Joseph Pientka, the FBI agent, told a Senate panel last year that he initiated a review of Steele in November 2016. It was ordered shut down by Bill Priestap, the chief of FBI counterintelligence at the time. Pientka told Senate investigators that he requested a transfer from the Trump-Russia team back to the Washington Field Office. Priestap, who retired from the FBI in 2018, has been accused elsewhere of withholding information about Steele that undercuts the credibility of the dossier.
A senior FBI agent requested a transfer from the team investigating the Trump campaign’s possible links to Russia after his request to validate Christopher Steele as a confidential source was shut down, he told a Senate panel last year, according to newly released transcripts.
Joseph Pientka, an FBI supervisory special agent, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 27 that Bill Priestap, who was chief of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, ordered the “enhanced validation review” to be shut down due to concerns about leaks.
Pientka said he initiated the review of Steele in November 2016, after the FBI cut ties with the former British spy because of his contacts with journalists.
By that point, the FBI had used information from a dossier compiled by Steele to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide who is accused in the dossier of being the Trump campaign’s conduit to the Kremlin.
Steele’s contacts with the media regarding the dossier raised concerns within the FBI, and led to the bureau cutting him off as a confidential human source. Michael Gaeta, who was Steele’s FBI handler, told the Senate panel that Steele’s actions made him “completely untrustworthy.”
Pientka said that he sought a review of Steele because of the dossier’s significance to the FISA applications and to Crossfire Hurricane, the name for the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign.
“I recognized the significance of his reporting, the use in a FISA application. I had questions about our intel validation was ongoing in the Counterintelligence Division, and all of that contributed to my professional disagreement,” he said.
“This is the process, this is what we do, this is what we always do.”
Pientka explained that the review he sought was separate from analysis that was continually conducted by intelligence analysts in the FBI’s counterintelligence division.
“My request was to the FBI director of intelligence for them to do what is considered an enhanced validation review, something outside and independent of the Counterintelligence Division.”
Pientka said that he was told that the enhanced review was “turned off” at Priestap’s direction, which led him to request a transfer off of the Crossfire Hurricane team.
“I had a professional disagreement with stopping the enhanced validation review,” Pientka said.
“This was a concern that you were so passionate about that it made you terminate your associ... (Read more)
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