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Posted by: TEEBONE ®

02/12/2018, 18:05:57

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foreignpolicy.com

Former Senior FBI Official Is Leading BuzzFeed’s Effort to Verify Trump Dossier


By

Jana Winter



For
the last six months, a team led by a former top FBI and White House
cybersecurity official has been traveling the globe on a secret mission
to verify parts of the Trump dossier, according to four sources familiar
with different aspects of the ongoing probe.

Their
client: BuzzFeed, the news organization that first published the dossier
on U.S. President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, which is now
being sued over its explosive allegations.



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The investigation, being conducted
by FTI Consulting, is running in parallel to special counsel Robert
Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and
Russia in Kremlin-directed efforts to interfere with the 2016
presidential election. With the special counsel probe under wraps, the
BuzzFeed court case could represent the first public airing of an
investigation into the veracity of some of the dossier’s claims.

FTI
is a Washington-based business advisory firm that specializes in areas
ranging from corporate litigation to forensic accounting, and it is a
frequent post-government landing pad for FBI officials.

The
ramifications of FTI’s dossier investigation could be game-changing for
Mueller’s probe, because it “would establish outside veracity of
dossier allegations,” a source familiar with the work told Foreign Policy. Yet
news of FTI’s involvement, including the critical role of a former top
FBI official, would also be controversial because the dossier itself is
“a political football,” the source said.

The
dossier, which was funded by those connected with the Hillary Clinton
campaign and the Democratic Party, has been the subject of ongoing
controversy; while
some of its claims
have allegedly been verified, many others remain unproven. Trump and
his allies have repeatedly attacked those involved in the dossier, as
well as top FBI officials, as being involved in a partisan witch hunt.

Ferrante,
a former top FBI official who previously served as director for cyber
incident response at the U.S. National Security Council during the
Barack Obama administration, is now at FTI Consulting, where he is
leading the effort. 

Ferrante joined the FBI as a
special agent in 2005, and he was assigned to the bureau’s New York
field office, where he worked on cyber threats to national security. In
2006, he was selected as a member of the FBI’s Cyber Action Team, a
group of experts who deploy globally to respond to critical cyber
incidents.

As a top FBI cybersecurity official
tasked to the White House, Ferrante was in charge of coordinating the
U.S. government response to Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016
presidential election, among other responsibilities. Prior to joining
the NSC in 2015, Ferrante was chief of staff for the FBI’s cyber
division at headquarters under then-Director James Comey. Ferrante,
still working for the FBI but at the White House, stayed in his position
as director for cyber incident response at the NSC through the Trump
administration, until April 2017, when he left to join FTI.

At
FTI, Ferrante launched what’s now been a months-long stealth effort
chasing down documents and conducting interviews on the ground in
various countries around the world. His team directed BuzzFeed lawyers
to subpoena specific data and testimony from dozens of agencies or
companies across the country and assembled a cyber ops war room to
analyze that data, according to sources familiar with the work.

BuzzFeed is being sued for
libel by Russian technology executive Aleksej Gubarev, who argues that
the news organization was reckless in publishing a series of memos
written by former British spy Christopher Steele. Those memos — part of a
so-called dossier of information about Trump — include unverified
claims that servers belonging to a company owned by Gubarev were used to
hack the Democratic Party’s computer systems during the 2016 campaign.

BuzzFeed’s
outside attorneys initially hired FTI to verify aspects of the dossier
specifically pertaining to the Gubarev lawsuit, but its scope has since
expanded. “If it’s fact, it’s not libel, that’s the idea,” one source
told FP.

Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev, who has strongly denied those claims, mocked BuzzFeed’s efforts.

“They can hire Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or Sherlock Holmes – you can’t find what doesn’t exist,” Fray-Witzer wrote to FP.
“There is a simple reason why Buzzfeed hasn’t found any evidence to
support the allegations in the Dossier against Mr. Gubarev: the
allegations are false.”

BuzzFeed’s legal woes don’t
end with the Gubarev lawsuit. In January, Trump’s personal lawyer
Michael Cohen, who is also mentioned in the dossier, sued BuzzFeed in
connection with their publication of the document.

It’s
unclear if anyone from FTI will provide testimony before the Florida
court presiding over a libel lawsuit against the media outlet. The names
of testifying expert witnesses are expected to be disclosed later this
week, and there is a hearing currently scheduled for Thursday in
Florida.

“We can’t comment on the specific legal
tools used to defend BuzzFeed’s First Amendment rights in this case,”
BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told FP.

FTI and Ferrante declined to speak on the record.

The FBI referred FP’s
request for comment to the special counsel’s office. Peter Carr,
spokesman for the special counsel’s office, declined to comment on the
ongoing investigation.










LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATE

Democrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.





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