Who authorized the $1-million FBI payment offer to Christopher Steele, revealed in court testimony?
The testimony of FBI supervisory analyst Brian Auten in the trial of Igor Danchenko is shocking. CNN reports:
Shortly before the 2016 election, the FBI offered retired British spy Christopher Steele "up to $1 million" to prove the explosive allegations in his dossier about Donald Trump, a senior FBI analyst testified Tuesday.
The cash offer was made during an overseas October 2016 meeting between Steele and several top FBI officials who were trying to corroborate Steele's claims that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to win the election.
FBI supervisory analyst Brian Auten testified that Steele never got the money because he could not "prove the allegations."
Auten also said Steele refused to provide the names of any of his sources during that meeting, and that Steele didn't give the FBI anything during that meeting that corroborated the claims in his explosive dossier.
Auten was testifying at the criminal trial of Igor Danchenko, a primary source for Steele's dossier, who is being prosecuted by special counsel John Durham. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty to five counts of lying to the FBI about his sourcing for some information that ended up in the dossier. His trial kicked off Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Auten was questioned mostly by Special Counsel John Durham. But nowhere have I seen reference to a question about the authorization for such an offer. Who were the "several top FBI officials"? Did any of them have the authority to offer a million dollars in cash to a source?
I've never worked at the FBI or for any federal agency. But my understanding is that authorization for a one-million-dollar payment is not a routine use of petty cash. One characteristic of federal agencies is that bureaucrats protect themselves from questions about misuse of funds by documenting everything involved in spending money — all the more so when an individual is to be offered a life-changing sum such as a million bucks.
What budget would have been tapped to make such a payment to Steele? Who approved the obligation that the FBI would have been under if Steele had been able to come through? Where are the documents requesting authorization and laying out the purpose?
It's just a wild guess on my part, but I would think that the director of the FBI, James Comey at the time, would have had to approve such an expenditure. If and when Republicans take majority control of one or both houses of Congress, I look forward to his being subpoenaed to testify about the bureaucratic details of this offer that was intended to sway a presidential election toward the Democrat candidate.
Correction: James Comey, not Christopher Wray, was Director of the FBI at the time