Credit for catching this goes to Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller who has been mining this territory for a while now. Today, Attorney General Barr was asked about the possibility that the Steele Dossier, with its claims of longstanding collusion between Russia and Trump, might have been part of the Russian disinformation campaign surrounding the 2016 election.
“How do we know that the Steele dossier is not itself evidence of [a] Russian disinformation campaign, knowing what we know now that, basically, the allegations made therein were secondhand, hearsay or unverified?” Sen. John Cornyn asked. “Can we state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of the Russian disinformation campaign?” had added.
“No, I can’t state that with confidence,” AG Barr replied. He continued, “And that is one of the areas that I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”
Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.
Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said…
Last year, in a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Buzzfeed, Mr. Steele emphasized that his reports consisted of unverified intelligence. Asked whether he took into account that some claims might be Russian fabrications, he replied, “Yes.”
The assumption made all along by most of the national media has been that it was vitally important to focus on the dossier because it could be true and if so, would be certainly fatal to Trump’s presidency. But if the dossier itself were part of the Russian disinformation campaign then, in effect, the media’s fixation was damaging the legitimately elected president based on a foreign enemies’ lie. Given that Mueller concluded significant claims in the dossier were not true, that’s a real possibility worth considering.
A bit later Sen. Cornyn asked why the Obama-era FBI hadn’t given the Trump campaign a “defensive briefing” about the Russians’ interest in interfering in the 2016 campaign. Barr replied, “I think under these circumstances one of the things I can’t fathom [is] why it did not happen.”
Here’s one possibility for why it didn’t happen: The Trump’s campaign was already under suspicion. Once the campaign was viewed as a potential collaborator with Russia rather than a potential victim, not giving a defensive briefing made sense. You wouldn’t want to tip off the campaign you were investigating for possible criminal conspiracy that you were on to them. The problem, of course, is that it wasn’t true.
Here’s Barr being questioned by Sen. Cornyn. This is queued up to the question about the dossier. The question about the defensive briefing comes near the end of this clip.