The footnotes in a letter from Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (full pdf below) outline a series of previously unknown emails between top FBI and DOJ officials as they discuss the Steele Dossier and prepare for a release by CNN.
The emails show that hours before FBI Director James Comey briefed President-Elect Trump on the dossier, Comey’s chief-of-staff James Rybicki e-mailed staff that Director Comey “is coming into HQ briefly now for an update from the sensitive matter team.”
On January 8th, 2017, two days after the Comey briefing, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe wrote an e-mail to top FBI officials (James Comey, James Rybicki, David Bowdich and Michael Kortan), with the subject: “Flood is coming.”
47 minutes later Andrew McCabe then emails across the street to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her deputy assistant Matthew Axelrod. Andrew McCabe uses the subject line “News” in his e-mail to alert the Main Justice officials.
The letter from Senator Johnson then goes on to outline how CNN reported breaking news of the dossier on January 10th, using the ‘hook’ created by a leak of the briefing Comey gave to president-elect Trump. CNN headlined their report: “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” A few hours later, BuzzFeed News published the contents of the “Steele dossier.”
Within the letter Senator Johnson asks Director Chris Wray to provide a list of all members of the “sensitive matters team” referenced by James Rybicki. Additionally, Johnson requests Wray to provide all details about how FBI officials “first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele dossier.”
From the footnotes we can see the emails were first obtained by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General (Michael Horowitz) and turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
What makes this interesting is the emails are: all post-election; all seemingly unrelated to any of the three known primary IG investigative inquiries; and all provided by the OIG to congress, without prior request (that we know of). Much like the Page/Strzok text message release, this email release seems specifically intended to spur further congressional inquiry, and broaden the general public awareness.
Why would IG Horowitz send these to congress? Well, there’s not much he can do with them. All of the outlined participants/recipients are no longer within the DOJ or FBI except David Bowditch (now Asst. Director under Wray); however, they do provide an expanded awareness and understanding of the post-election ‘small group‘ activity.
Here’s the full letter: