Top FBI official linked to reporter who broke Trump dossier story
House Republicans are investigating contact between the FBI’s top lawyer and a Mother Jones reporter in the weeks before the left-leaning outlet broke the first news story about the existence of a disputed dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and the Kremlin, according to two congressional GOP sources who described documents linking the two men.
The GOP sources said the documents — made available recently to lawmakers by the Department of Justice — revealed that James Baker, the FBI’s general counsel, communicated with Mother Jones reporter David Corn in the weeks leading up to the November 2016 election. Corn was the first to report the existence of the dossier on Oct. 31 and that it was compiled by a former high-level western spy.
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The Washington Post reported Thursday that Baker had been reassigned within the FBI, though the reason for the move was unclear.
Corn denied that Baker was a source for his story on the dossier.
“I’m not going to discuss my sources. But in order to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate information, I will say that James Baker was not my source for this story,” he said in a statement to POLITICO.
The congressional sources said there’s no conclusive evidence that Baker aided Corn’s reporting or acted as a source. But Republicans are pointing to the connection to cast suspicion about whether FBI officials had a hand in directing the details of the dossier to reporters, and the two sources said they expect it to be a focus of GOP investigators’ upcoming lines of inquiry.
Baker’s connection to Corn comes as Republicans in Congress have been raising questions about the FBI’s handling of the now-famous Steele dossier, named for Christoper Steele, the British former intelligence agent subsequently identified as the author of the document.
The FBI declined to comment on the matter.
Corn’s story indicated direct contact with Steele: “[A] former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump — and that the FBI requested more information from him,” he reported.
Corn then added that a “senior U.S. government official not involved in this case but familiar with the former spy,” told him that the agent “has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the U.S. government.”
The news of Baker’s reassignment came just days after congressional Republicans began asking questions about his contacts with media.
Baker was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as counsel for Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI, who testified to the House Intelligence Committee in the panel’s ongoing Russia probe.
During the closed-door session, Republicans grilled McCabe about who at the department was authorized to talk to the media. One Republican at Tuesday’s intelligence committee interview with McCabe laid out a “hypothetical” example of the FBI’s general counsel meeting with a Mother Jones reporter.