FactCheck.org® A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
Barr wrote in his memo that “the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
But Ratcliffe is wrong to say the dossier “started all of this.” Competing memos from the Republicans and the Democrats on the House intelligence committee both say that information about George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, had prompted the FBI investigation in July 2016.
Papadopoulos had contacts with Russian intermediaries during the campaign, according to the Justice Department, and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts. While he was a Trump campaign adviser, Papadopoulos met with a professor with connections to Russian government officials who told him “about the Russians possessing ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails,'” and he tried to arrange a meeting between the Russian government and the campaign, the DOJ’s statement of the offense said.
A memo released Feb. 2, 2018, by the Republicans on the House intelligence committee raised concerns about the use of the dossier in an application from the DOJ and FBI under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct electronic surveillance on Carter Page, another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. But it said the “Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”
The Democrats on the House intelligence committee agreed with that, saying in a memo released Feb. 24, 2018, that the FBI investigation started “more than seven weeks” before the FBI received Steele’s intelligence reporting in mid-September of that year.
The two sides disagree about how essential the dossier was to the FISA court application to monitor Page. But one of the few points of agreement is that the FBI investigation began with information on Papadopoulos.
After the GOP memo was released, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, also a member of the intelligence committee, said the dossier didn’t have any effect on the Russia investigation. “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” Gowdy said on Feb. 4, 2018, on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Gowdy mentioned other incidents that had nothing to do with the dossier, including Papadopoulos’ contacts with the professor and the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting Donald Trump Jr. arranged with what he was told was a “Russian government attorney” offering incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. “So there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”