Police routinely respond to unverified “reports” of criminal activity on city streets. Border Patrol agents routinely respond to unverified reports of illegal border crossings. Similarly, the FBI routinely commits resources to a matter based on unverified reports.
In all those cases, what happens next depends on what investigators find. The FBI’s Russia-related probe is no different.
“There’s no way in hell the [FBI] is going to open an investigation off of one document,” said Anderson, who left the FBI in 2015. “They may open what’s called a ‘preliminary inquiry’ and look for other pieces of information” warranting a full investigation, but that “could take a day, it could take five years.”
In the Trump-Russia case, it took at most three weeks.
In early July 2016, Steele — described by Montoya as a “proven,” “well-regarded” and “known entity” in the intelligence community – approached an FBI associate with a worrisome tale: Sources he was speaking with overseas told him then-presidential candidate Trump maintained a “compromising relationship with the Kremlin,” perhaps even to the point where Trump could be blackmailed.
“Chris said he was very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat and said … he thought we were obligated to tell someone in government, in our government about this information,” Glenn Simpson, the man who hired Steele to conduct opposition research on Trump, told Senate staffers in a transcript released Tuesday. “He said he was professionally obligated to do it.”
The allegations Steele laid out to the FBI in July 2016 in the dossier were shocking. They were salacious. And they were completely unverified by the U.S. government — at least at that point.