FBI Director James Comey was personally aware of reports from a "credible" Western former intelligence agent about Russia's alleged "cultivating, supporting, and assisting" of President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign, The Guardian reported late Tuesday, because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) personally handed them to Comey in a Dec. 9 meeting, according to "a source aware of the meeting."
The Russia-Trump dossier began as opposition research during the campaign, but "its author was sufficiently alarmed by what he discovered to send a copy to the FBI," The Guardian says, and McCain, who was informed about the allegations from "an intermediary from a Western allied state," then "dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source," whom he was "sufficiently impressed" with to feel obliged to pass the allegations on to Comey. But FBI agents were already concerned enough about ties between Trump's inner circle and Russia that they had sought court approval to monitor campaign officials, The Guardian reports:
The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The FISA court turned down the application, asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation. [The Guardian]
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court is famously compliant with surveillance requests, declining just 11 of the more than 33,900 it had received in 33 years as of 2013 — or an approval rate of 99.97 percent (though that may be a slightly misleading number) — and no requests were denied in 2014 and 2015, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Comey, when pressed by senators on Tuesday, would not say if the FBI is still investigating any ties between Russia and the president-elect. Trump tweeted that the reports are "FAKE NEWS" and "A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!" You can read more about those alleged ties at The Guardian, and the unverified (sometimes NSFW) allegations themselves at BuzzFeed News.