The “Sensitive Matter Team”

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ewly-examined emails among high-ranking U.S. intel officials at the time—including then-Director James Comey and his chief of staff James Rybicki—reference a “sensitive matter team.”

Based on the context of the emails, the “sensitive matter” appears to be the Trump-Russia narrative, and political opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The research— known as the “Steele dossier”— was peddled to the press and secretly used, in part, to justify controversial FBI wiretaps against at least one Trump associate.

James Comey, former FBI Director

The emails were first obtained by the Justice Department Inspector General and recently turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray Monday asking for the identity of all members of the “sensitive matter team.”

According to Sen. Johnson’s letter, Comey chief of staff Rybicki emailed unidentified recipients on the morning of Jan. 6, 2017 stating, “[Director Comey] is coming to HQ briefly now for an update on the sensitive matter team.”

Later in the day, Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a few of the salacious, unverified allegations in the Steele dossier. The next day, Comey reported on his briefing in an email to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI General Counsel James Baker and Chief of Staff Rybicki. (All four men have since resigned or been fired from the FBI.)

“I said there was something [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper wanted me to speak to [President Elect Trump] about alone or in a very small group,” Comey wrote in the email. “I then executed the session exactly as I had planned…I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook.” (Clapper now works as a CNN contributor.)

James Clapper, CNN Contributor, former Director of National Intelligence

“Flood is Coming”

A day later, Jan. 8, FBI Deputy Director McCabe emailed Comey and Rybicki with the subject title: “Flood is coming.”

“CNN is close to going forward with the sensitive story,” McCabe wrote. “The trigger for them is they know the material was discussed in the [presidential] brief and presented in an attachment.”

Also included on that email were FBI associate deputy director David Bowdich and FBI assistant director for public affairs Michael Kortan. (Bowdich was recently appointed FBI Deputy Director. Kortan retired in February and had also served as an aide to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating alleged Trump-Russia collusion.)

Within an hour of the “Flood is coming” email, McCabe emailed then-Deputy General Sally Yates and her top aide, Principal Deputy Attorney General Matthew Axelrod, with the subject title “News.” (Yates has since been fired and Axelrod resigned.)

“Just an FYI, and as expected, it seems CNN is close to running a story about the sensitive reporting.”

On Jan. 10, CNN published a story headlined, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” The same day, BuzzFeed News published the contents of the “Steele dossier.”

Sen. Johnson’s letter to FBI Director Wray about all of this also asks for details about President-elect Trump’s briefing and communications between Comey and Clapper.

Clapper reportedly told Congress he never discussed the Steele dossier or any other intelligence related to Russia election interference with journalists. [Note added May 22 10:40p ET]: There are conflicting reports as to whether Clapper subsequently acknowledged discussing the dossier with CNN’s Jake Tapper or other journalists. [hr]

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65 thoughts on “The “Sensitive Matter Team””

  1. Thank you very much for this great reading. I believe anybody felt the tensions occurring on these issues. Nobody, with an at least partly working consciousness, can say that the debate was fair in terms of how a duly elected president was treated. So many discrepancies, speculations and ease of copying articles from other outlets is unseen in world’s history, at least in my opinion and experience.
    I’m European and am deeply concerned what difference it makes whether you fit the establishment’s desires or not. We are being spoon-fed by our news outlets in Europe too. But the only source they use in Germany, this is no joke, is CNN/MSNBC. The most bias journalist, which MUST be some sort of intelligence asset, is Thorsten Denkler (working in New York). This man also has some kind of a “higher loyalty”.
    He’s going even further, he translates articles with bad accusations on Trump and also adds some of his personal views, which were in 100% of his articles not in the favor of Trump.
    I can’t believe in what state of affairs we are. I thought times of big depression, suppression and executive mishandling are over, but it seems to be much worse, worse then anybody could’ve imagined.
    I pray for you people overseas. You must be in a horrible situation, but as the days pass, we are finally getting closer to an end. To an end of this political and social witch hunt.
    I’ve seen pictures and videos of how people got beaten up on the streets for simply being Pro-Trump. This is an absolute crisis within society and I can only assume that those who have been drug addicted in the past, must be furious about Trump’s decisions so far.
    The upcoming times, will be the hardest of all. Ever. Literally, millions of drug-addicts wont be able to consume anymore. WHOLE ships, cars and planes, fully loaded with drugs were being seized every week. The “open-black-markets” will set new, higher prices because of the broken supply-chain. South American and especially Mexican cartels will face the worst of all times, especially if Trump’s administration cooperates with the S-American countries to combat those. As we see, there is still hope. The bad things, basically everything mentioned before, has not disappeared in Obama’s admin. They just did not report on it. That time has been propagandized a la Goebbels. As I said, I would have never thought the world could once again get this far.
    One day, depending on the current German/European Administration I would plan to relocate my life overseas. The freedom you’ve been gifted with is unseen, worldwide!
    I wish you people all the best. Love, hope and prayers were being sent.
    Never stop dreaming, because not only those who are being called Dreamers have the right to do so.

  2. The stench from this gets worse by the day. It is becoming more and more obvious what was going on at the highest levels of the Justice (and I use that word laughingly) Department, FBI and CIA. The most frustrating part is that more than likely, none of the people who abused their power will suffer any consequences for it. The Swamp protects its own.

    1. The NSA fixed your misspelling of “Professional 5th Collumners” (The Swamp), WHILE you were typing,…!

    2. Immorality in these dealings reinforces Trumps claims since Fall, 2016. The corrupt media have badly tarnished their credibility AGAIN. I believe you are right, Arthur – none of these people will face any consequences, just as Crooked Hillary, who announced she accepted responsibility for the Benghazi deaths, but nothing came from her lying, criminal failures. Stench, indeed. Demoralizing feeling I get for our”government” overall – sad !

    3. That may be what happens but I think someone is going to be charged. Just depends upon whom they charge and whether or not that person may sing. Just depends on how much $$$ the person they charge is in debt to at this point. McCabe for one is in a very precarious position financially from several reports I’ve seen. Whether or not that makes him sing for his supper, we will have to see but I think if you put enough pressure on the right people, they just might get that dam to crack.

      If this entire situation doesn’t make every American citizen open their eyes and objectively take an honest look at what happened then I truly fear for our country. Whether or not you like the current president should be irrelevant. It’s the process that was used that should deeply trouble every American. Because if they (FBI, DOJ, CIA, NSA, etc.) did it once, they will do it again. This IS NOT supposed to happen in OUR COUNTRY! NOT EVER!!

      1. If it was an orchestrated coup attempt, I suppose they must have been sufficiently affected by Trump derangement syndrome to believe Trump a truly existential threat to the survival of U.S. democracy. Ironically, then, it seems to have been Democrats who, in seeking to ward off that “threat,” ended up bringing threats to democracy all that much closer. When people get as partisan as many Democrats are, they feel justified in doing just about anything, and THAT becomes an existential threat to continuing democracy.

  3. Thank you so very much for the timeline of the “Russia Chronicles”! Your entire coverage of intricate (and terrifying) interactions of our FBI/NSA/Intel communities is breathakingly good and a must-read for anyone who’s invested in the future of our country.
    Two questions:
    1) Based on the timeline and the number of covert press meetings and briefings, do you believe there was/is one person who was responsible for public relations/press management? (An obvious member of the sensitive matter team?) Perhaps this person works across departmental boundaries to keep the message on track?
    2) You tweeted yesterday (as seen on, “Just an interesting FYI fact: There are circumstances under which govt. officials have pre-granted immunity, permission to lie under oath, and pre-constructed cover stories to tell if their operations are exposed.” Was this a part of a singular case, or are there policy guidelines that are regularily used? Please elaborate.
    Again, THANK YOU for the superb reporting?

  4. I wish the President would immediately declassify all materials related to this “matter” and make them public (right after he does the same for information related to the intrusion into your electronic materials.)

  5. Beyond disturbing that Bowdich, as part of the “Sensitive Matter” team, was promoted to Deputy Director of the FBI. How is this possible? How are Jeff Sessions/Christopher Wray allowing this to happen? How is TRUMP allowing this to happen? Surely if Sharyl knows this and shares with WE THE PEOPLE, they should know it too. I personally believe there is ample evidence to fire Mueller and let the chips fall where they may. There are NOT enough votes to impeach him in the Senate, surely. OR are they purposefully giving Mueller enough rope to hang himself and all these corrupt DOJ/FBI traitors?

  6. The people involved in this covert operation have no honor. They have engaged in a secret war against conservative, limited government believing individuals and organizations. This is not about Trump per se, although his boorish personal behavior can be used as a rallying point, it is about continuing to steer the ship of state in an unwavering political course leftward. Earlier IRS abuses, apparently directed from above, prove the point. The Executive Branch of the previous administration was weaponized against any future conservative direction changes. As to the “Sensitive Matter Team”, an interagency leadership group of this nature did not just ‘spring up’ as a matter of course. It had to be organized at a higher level than the status of any of the actors on the team. That means someone in the White House, or possibly someone assumed to be in the White House shortly, to offer cover to their actions. In the time that has elapsed since the election, I’m sure the degaussers and shredders have taken care of any physical evidence, so it is doubtful that anyone will be held legally accountable, and the people taking actions in their attempted coup de’tat better hope the rule of law they so flagrantly abused continues to hold the field.

  7. One of these A-holes will flip & the whole story will come out, reflecting one of the worst chapters in American history.

    Obama & his cohorts adopted Soviet tactics to attack a political opponent. They cast a shadow of darkness over America. And the Justice Department & FBI refuse to let the sun shine in.

  8. Any day now I expect the President to be named an “Unindicted Co-conspirator” by Mueller. That’s about all he can do.

  9. Andrew D Strain

    To get this party started, didn’t Misfud (Sp?) or Halper or both plant the idea of USSR having Clinton dirt with two or three Trump campaign people? Then when these folks repeated what they were fed, that was used as a pretext for CI investigation? Not many articles highlight the way the Obama/Clinton clan created the false pretext to begin with. I think this one of the most important things to convey to the public so they understand the genesis of this. Most articles go on and on about things that occurred AFTER the bar room blather to that Aussie guy (Downer, I believe). You have to hook the fish with the fist pull, else you’ll loose ’em – so my Dad always said.

  10. R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. (ret.)

    It is worth noting that the DOJ IG has no power to subpoena anyone who is not an employee of the DoJ/FBI. Hence those who retire, are fired or work for other agencies do not fall under the IG’s jurisdiction. They are beyond his reach.

    It is also worth noting that no one has been prosecuted or convicted of leaking classified information to outside parties.

    And it would be obvious to a dead man that if you brief the President on material which his opposition funded to develop, you, or your colleagues in the intelligence services would convey the source of the information.

    People in this swamp thrive or die on the basis of what is leaked and what is withheld. My thanks to Ms. Attkinson, a talented reporter.

    1. The IG may not have the power to subpoena but a US Attorney like John Huber most certainly does. I think it goes without saying, if Horowitz discovers what he judges to be criminal conduct then Sessions will appoint a US Attorney to work in parallel with him. Just as they’re doing with Huber. So the IG not having Subpoena power is really not a big problem.

  11. Can the IG newly tasked by Rosenstein to find “FBI” spying find and report on spies hired or paid for by the CIA or DoD? The IG chosen generally is limited to looking at current employees of a particular agency (here FBI/DOJ). And even w/o jurisdictional blinkers the order Rosenstein signed is limited to the FBI. Could this be hide -the-ball again?

  12. When you watch and listen to the honest news reporting and become aware of the rampant bias and prejudice against President Trump which never ends and only worsens, the frustration of seeing that there are seemingly no consequences for these perpertrators grows daily.

    The two-tiered justice system and lack of accountability for wrongdoing is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. My sense that I am living in a democratic and just Republic have been forever shattered. Talk about Russia? How are we any different, if we are not part of the “elite.”

  13. The “Sensitive Matter” cabal are nearing the scoundrel’s last redoubt: intent’s a m-i-g-h-t-y difficult thing to prove. Already, Clapper is claiming their campaign ‘informant’ was spying on the Russians (?), not the Trump campaign, per se. And it’s doubtful they were all as foolish as Strzok, who left thousands of texts behind (on government systems), revealing both his animus towards Trump, and his conviction there was no “there” there, regarding Trump-Russia collusion – that the rationale for Crossfire Hurricane was a dry hole.

  14. Obama should have never spied on Sharyl!!! If they wouldn’t have gotten to her hard drive they’d be in jail by now! She’s doing her job!! Obama and his minions are NOT the smartest guys in the room! They are all going down!! Nice work Sharyl!

  15. Thank God for the persistence of those who have pursued this until the truth is finally coming to light, despite all the stonewalling and intransigence of the guilty parties and their facilitators, the liberal media.

  16. This is actually rather terrifying. This, right now, is a moment of existential peril for our country. If this flies, if this is allowed to happen without major repercussions, then we are well on the road to being a sort of bureaucratic dictatorship.

    Does this remind anyone of the praetorian guard of Rome removing emperors they found objectionable? This needs to be squashed, and before the election. DOJ is dragging its feet in hopes a Dem win of the House will make all this moot. I’m beside myself.

    All enemies, foreign or domestic…

  17. The President should suspend the authority of the NSA, CIA, DOJ, and FBI to redact any portion of any document unless the redaction has been cleared with an independent, non-government commission after proof of the need for redaction.

  18. Thanks for the excellent reporting, Sharyl. You’re the best out there. Will the MSM ever cover this?

    It’s amazing how the NYT and WP spin this corruption. Can you imagine if the parties were reversed?

    Of course, as with the IRS abuses and everything else, Obama knew nothing about it.

  19. Jimmy Washington

    This information is hopefully going to lead to criminal referrals from the IG for the top 3 (Clapper, Brenann, Comey) at the very least. The IG may not have subpoena powers, but can present a case that will trigger a grand jury.
    A very revealing report Ms. Attkisson. Thank you.

  20. Philip W Johnson

    Obama and Brennan laid the “Logan act trap” for General Flynn and several others with the expectation that they would fall for it and when exposed would resign when threatened with charges of treason and that the whole Trump administration would collapse leading to a constitutional crisis which would allow Obama to step forward and rescue the nation. When that ridiculous idea failed, plan B was to get the KGB to cook up a salacious document about Trump’s trip to Russia and charge him with moral turpitude if not outright treason. This Has now fallen on its face as well. Brennan, Comey, McCabe, Susan Rice and the rest now look like fools and Traitors themselves. What a sorry situation for America.

  21. The plot thickens and the cabal’s best efforts are in vain. Trump had the last laugh in the primaries and the Presidential election. His streak continues.
    I have a feeling that a grand jury will be required to bring the Obama administration law enforcement and intelligence officials to justice for abusing their official offices to favor one candidate (Hillary) over another (Trump).

  22. Patience.
    IG Horowitz is the right man to investigate at this stage. He has been looking at all the players for some time now & has the best vantage point to separate the good guys from the bad. And Huber can subpoena anyone he wants, with 80% of the case already laid out by the IG.

  23. Ms. Attkinson,

    be careful these corrupt people in Washington go after reporters, and we know that you were already targeted by hacking before. During Obama’s reign of terror, we lost 2 really good journalists under sketchy circumstances.

  24. America is screwed when these people regain power over the “justice” and intelligence apparatuses. They are not going to let a failed coup attempt like this happen again.

    Someone also needs togo after their agents who have infiltrated the media.

    1. It’s not true that it will NEVER allow a failed anything happen again because “whatever they do in the dark, will come out into the light.” It is a spiritual truth, everything becomes known at some point in time, nothing is ever secret for long……that’s why we have leakers.

  25. Thank God for journalists like Sharyl Attkisson. When I read some of the things printed in the New York Times or the Washington Post, I feel like the reporters think the public is stupid. They think we can’t see their bias and their attempts to further a particular agenda. We can. No wonder more and more people are getting their news from the Internet, talk radio or Fox News. The mainstream media is pretty much an arm of the Democratic Party. I’m amazed at the drivel they write, and the fact that they attack Fox as “propaganda.” What do they think they are? Some of the most flagrant propaganda I’ve read appears in the New York Times and WaPo.

  26. A few weeks ago Jeff Sessions told us that he assigned a guy named Huber (a US Attorney from Utah) to assist the DOJ Inspector General and that he (Huber) can indict even if the creep suspect had left the DOJ or the FBI. I never hear anybody mention this. May 22, 2018

    Thank you, Sharyl, for all your great work!

  27. Johnathan Dunfaden

    Why the “drip, drip, drip”?
    It’s organized & orchestrated; providing time to desensitize, rationalize & obfuscate one drip after another.

    Public response: “That one Stinks”, then “this one really stinks”: “Just wait until the IG report/s come out real soon now; or the Senate Committee reports, or the Congressional committee reports or the…”

    Result? Wait until, wait, wait…

    I recently find it particularly interesting that “in the know” Progressive acquaintances remain upbeat, even smug in their usual condescension.

    Their November ground game is well underway; there is conjecture it involves massive voter fraud.

    I strongly recommend signing up to be an “Election Worker” in your area.
    Ex. my state recruits for: Poll workers, Early & Absentee voting, Absentee & Questioned Ballot review, Absentee & questioned ballot logging, regional AccuVote board, AccuVote Field workers, Election Night workers.

    This November is the Big One.
    They don’t bus them in anymore, too easy to spot. Instead, they rent cars/vans from used car wholesalers, load ’em up & send ’em out.

  28. Clearly the leak was orchestrated with CNN once the breifing concluded…designed to get the Russian disinformation into the American political bloodstream…Clapper and Comey, among others, should go to jail for this.

  29. The abuse of power by the Obama administration is something like we’ve never seen before. Using the IRS for political purposes is bad enough, but to utilize the intel agencies for political gain is a call for action. If we do not address this it will lead to the downfall of our great country. Everyone involved, including the former president needs to go to jail, and it’s imperative that a message be sent to those working in our government that laws must be observed, and those that fail to do so will pay a much higher price than the average citizen for abuse of power.

  30. Ms. Attkisson: You are providing a great service to the Republic. Please do not let up. Dig more. This really stinks. I am, admittedly, a Republican and although I voted for Trump I was not an early backer nor am I a blind follower of any person or creed. I heartily back his policies at this time. But if this was happening to a Democrat, I’d be just as outraged.

  31. E. Zach Lee-Wright

    When the flak is heaviest you know you are over your target. God bless Devin Nunes and those who have his back. For the opposition, if there is no “there, there” you have nothing to fear from the release of the documents. The resistance is trying to slo-walk this to the mid-terms in hopes the Democrats retake the house and can kill off this investigation.

  32. Ms. Attkinsson,

    The unlawful access of unmasked FISA data by FBI /DOJ ” contractors” reported by Adm. Rodgers ( which almost resulted in his firing), was prior to and immediately contemporaneous with the application for the FISA warrant on Carter Page. I would like to know who those “contractors ” were, and what they were doing.

    Has CROWDSTRIKE or Fusion GPS ever done any contract work for the Obama administration?!? Naah…that would be too easy, even though the White House was ,defacto, Clinton campaign / DNC Central.

  33. Sharyl’s even-handed reporting demonstrated here is a refreshing demonstration for journalistic standards. Well done.

    As for this evolving story, a seditious plan orchestrated by the Obama Intelligence Network and FBI has far reaching implications. It justifies every move Trump has made, and frankly, how he hasn’t reacted harder is beyond me.

  34. Seems like SOP to me.

    What is not SOP is partisan congressmen excluding their opposition from a meeting with National intelligence officers to discuss highly “sensitive material”.

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