Federal Judge Orders FBI to Search for More Christopher Steele Docs

Christopher Steele talks to reporters.

After years of legal wrangling, a federal judge has given the FBI 60 days to cough up records of their communications with former British spy Christopher Steele after he was terminated as a confidential human source.

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch first sought FBI documents on Steele in May of 2017 through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The court initially sided with the FBI but reopened the case in 2018 when evidence emerged that Steele was an FBI informant. Judicial Watch again asked the FBI to search for their Steele records, but the FBI continued to stonewall, declining to confirm or deny that they even existed.

Now, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper has put an end to the cat-and-mouse game.

“Those records might either bolster or weaken Steele’s credibility as a source,” Judge Cooper said in his ruling. “That information, in turn, could provide a basis on which to evaluate the FBI’s performance of its law-enforcement duties, including its judgment in selecting and relying on confidential sources, especially in connection with such a politically sensitive subject.”

Steele, the Trump-hating author of the Clinton and DNC-funded dirty dossier, has taken some major hits to his credibility since Judicial Watch first asked for the documents in 2017.

The FBI, however, used Steele’s unverified dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant in 2016 to spy on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

According to documents released in August of 2018, the Bureau in 2016 made eleven payments to Steele, who was at the time working for the Democratic opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by the Perkins Coie law firm on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign. Incredibly, Steele’s Democratic funding was never disclosed to the FISA court.

Beginning in late July of 2016, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr began communicating with Steele and transferring information from Steele and Fusion GPS to the Bureau. FBI records uncovered by Judicial Watch show that Steele was cut off as a “confidential human source” in November 2016 after he disclosed his relationship with the FBI to the media.

Despite this, Ohr communicated with Steele regularly for another full year, until November 2017, according to his testimony.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2019, Judicial Watch continued to request Steel's records post-dismissal, and the FBI continued to refuse to search for them, contending that any records discovered would be exempt from disclosure on privacy grounds.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Cooper held that any privacy interests Steele may have in keeping the documents secret are outweighed by the public’s interest in disclosure:

Steele’s privacy interests are far different from those courts usually consider under Exemption 7(C), where disclosure would make public for the first time an individual’s affiliation with law enforcement, whether as agent, cooperator, or target," Cooper stated. "The balance therefore tilts in favor of disclosure. Accordingly, the Court will order the FBI to conduct a search for records post-dating Steele’s service as a confidential source.

In a statement Monday, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton claimed that the FBI is still "protecting Christopher Steele and the Clinton spy ring at Fusion GPS."

“The court was right to turn aside the FBI’s fake concerns for Clinton spy Christopher Steele’s privacy and order the agency to search for more records on its use of Steele and his Dossier to target President Trump,” Fitton said. “That the FBI is still protecting Christopher Steele and the Clinton spy ring at Fusion GPS should tell you there is much more corruption to be exposed in the coup efforts against President Trump.”