Comey: ‘Who Cares?’ Who Funded Steele Dossier Used to Get FISA Warrants to Surveil Trump Team

By Craig Bannister | December 19, 2018 | 11:37 AM EST

Former FBI Dir. James Comey (Screenshot)

“Who cares?,” former FBI Director James Comey told the House Judiciary Committee when asked why he wasn’t interested in knowing who funded the Steele dossier used to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on a member of the Trump campaign.

According to the transcript of Monday’s closed-door session with the committee, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) pressed Comey on why he didn’t care enough to ask who, specifically, was the “private client” funder of the dossier used to obtain a warrant to surveil Donald Trump Campaign advisor, Carter Page.

Asked about documents provided to him regarding the Steele dossier at the time, Comey said all that mattered to him was the content of the anti-Trump “material” – not the specific source of its funding:

Mr. Meadows: So what you're saying is that, in part of your investigation, you really didn't care who was funding Christopher Steele's work. Is that what you're saying? It didn't matter to you?

Mr. Comey: It mattered to me to understand what this material was that my folks were showing to me. And I believe, in the course of showing it to me, they communicated what you would expect them to communicate: that there may be bias associated with this information; it was first funded by political opponents on one side, then on the other side. I don't remember them ever giving me the details beyond that.

When Rep. Meadows asked Comey to confirm that he simply was not interested in knowing who the “private client” funder named in the documents was, Comey, replied, “Who cares?”

All he cared about, Comey said, was that it was funded by opponents of Donald Trump. “To me, it didn’t matter” who the private client was, Comey said:

Mr. Meadows: All right. So, when you saw this, who did you think the private client was?

Mr. Comey: I don't know that I knew.

Mr. Meadows: I didn't say you knew. Who did you think it was? Obviously -- are you saying you're so intellectually not curious that you would not say, "Who's the private client?"

Mr. Comey: Show me where the word "client" is. I'm struggling a little. I see. So the sentence reads, "The source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI."

I don't remember asking -- other than knowing it was political people opposed to Trump, I don't remember asking which firm, which law firm, those kinds of things. And I don't remember being told.

Mr. Meadows: So you're trying to share with this committee --and I want to take you -- and that's why I was asking you to verify this. You expect us to believe that you got notation that a private client is there and that you didn't -- you weren't inquisitive enough to figure out who the private client was?

Mr. Comey: Who cares? It was Republicans --

Mr. Meadows: Well --

Mr. Comey: -- opposed to Trump --

Mr. Meadows: -- it makes a big difference. I mean, if you --

Mr. Comey: Let me finish my answer. It was Republicans opposed to Trump, and then it was Democrats opposed to Trump. There was potential bias in this information. That's really important. Whether it was Sally Smith or Joe Jones, Republican, or Sally Smith, Democrat –

Mr. Meadows: Director Comey --

Mr. Comey: -- to me, it didn't matter.

Rep. Meadows objected, saying it is of great importance, given that the information was used to gain court permission to spy on an American citizen:

"It does make a difference. If someone is paying for this and you're actually using that information to surveil American citizens with a FISA application, it does matter to me and most Americans."

EXECUTIVE SESSION COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, JOINT WITH THE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, D.C. INTERVIEW OF: JAMES COMEY Monday, December 17, 2018

Pg. 115-119

Mr. Meadows: That was already asked and answered. So Mr. Gowdy, on the previous time when you were here, Director Comey, he was asking you questions as it related to Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie and when you knew what. And I guess I want to make sure that we give you an opportunity to clarify your statement, because there may be a difference between learning and being advised of something. Mr. Gowdy said, "When did you learn that Fusion GPS was hired by Perkins Coie?" And your response was, I never learned that. Certainly not while I was Director." Is that you correct?

Mr. Comey: Yeah, that's my recollection.

Mr. Meadows: All right. So when were you informed that Fusion GPS was hired by Perkins Coie? Because maybe learning and being informed are two different things. Were you informed prior?

Mr. Comey: I was not trying to slice the onion thinly here. I don't remember ever hearing the name "Fusion GPS" or the names "Perkins Coie" or "Coie." I don't even know how to say that word. I don't remember that. I remember being told that Steele's work had been funded first by Republicans opposed to Trump, then by Democrats opposed to Trump. Maybe someone mentioned it, but I don't remember it. I don't remember the specifics

Mr. Meadows: All right. So…

Mr. Comey: -- being communicated to me in any way.

Mr. Meadows: So what you're saying is that, in part of your investigation, you really didn't care who was funding Christopher Steele's work. Is that what you're saying? It didn't matter to you?

Mr. Comey: It mattered to me to understand what this material was that my folks were showing to me. And I believe, in the course of showing it to me, they communicated what you would expect them to communicate: that there may be bias associated with this information; it was first funded by political opponents on one side, then on the other side. I don't remember them ever giving me the details beyond that.

Mr. Meadows: All right. So, on the FOIA release two page document that was just released by the FBI, have you read that or at least parts of that?

Mr. Comey: Yes. The thing that says "Annex A" at the top?

Mr. Meadows: Yeah. And when it talks about that you were going in to inform the President that a private client had paid for the dossier -- I think those are the words, "private client."

Mr. Comey: No, those aren't the words. You ought to get it out.

Mr. Meadows: Well, we'll be glad to give it to you.

Mr. Comey: Yeah, I don't see the word "going in to inform the President" here.

Mr. Meadows: Well, you were using did you use the two-page as a briefer for the President?

Mr. Comey: No.

Mr. Meadows: What did you use the two pages for?

Mr. Comey: I'm going to answer this -- I have to answer this very carefully, which I will. These are two pages from a much larger classified document, classified at the TS/SCI level. And this was one of the annexes in that large document.

Mr. Meadows: Right.

Mr. Comey: There are a variety of annexes. This was not any kind of talkers. And it was something written by the intelligence community analysts who produced the larger document.

Mr. Meadows: All right. So, when you saw this, who did you think the private client was?

Mr. Comey: I don't know that I knew.

Mr. Meadows: I didn't say you knew. Who did you think it was? Obviously -- are you saying you're so intellectually not curious that you would not say, "Who's the private client?"

Mr. Comey: Show me where the word "client" is. I'm struggling a little. I see. So the sentence reads, "The source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI."

I don't remember asking -- other than knowing it was political people opposed to Trump, I don't remember asking which firm, which law firm, those kinds of things. And I don't remember being told.

Mr. Meadows: So you're trying to share with this committee --and I want to take you -- and that's why I was asking you to verify this. You expect us to believe that you got notation that a private client is there and that you didn't -- you weren't inquisitive enough to figure out who the private client was?

Mr. Comey: Who cares? It was Republicans --

Mr. Meadows: Well --

Mr. Comey: -- opposed to Trump --

Mr. Meadows: -- it makes a big difference. I mean, if you --

Mr. Comey: Let me finish my answer. It was Republicans opposed to Trump, and then it was Democrats opposed to Trump. There was potential bias in this information. That's really important. Whether it was Sally Smith or Joe Jones, Republican, or Sally Smith, Democrat –

Mr. Meadows: Director Comey --

Mr. Comey: -- to me, it didn't matter.

  1. Meadows: -- it does make a difference. If someone is paying for this and you're actually using that information to surveil American citizens with a FISA application, it does matter to me and most Americans.

Mr. Kelley: Is that a question or an argument? Because we're out of time now.

Mr. Meadows: Counselor, you can quantify it any way that you want. You get paid big bucks to figure it out. So what I'm saying, it does matter, and that's why I'm asking the question.

Mr. Kelley: Well, that wasn't a question. It was an argument.

Mr. Meadows: My question is the same. At what point did Director Comey -- sir, when did you find out that the DNC, Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS, any of the above, when were you told -- were you ever told prior to you being fired that they had either directly or indirectly financed what is now known as the Steele dossier?

Mr. Comey: I don't remember being told anything beyond Democrats and Republicans.

Mr. Meadows: We're out of time.

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