Contra right-wing media, US officials have verified core aspects of the Trump dossier
Research ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ
Right-wing media have waged a months-long attempt to discredit the 35-page dossier produced by a former British intelligence officer that contains allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Various right-wing commentators have described its contents as “unreliable,” “discredited,” “largely debunked,” and "evidence of ... collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation," including a Washington Times story that Trump promoted this week. But, according to numerous reports, American intelligence officials have “verified” various “core” aspects of the dossier.
Trump promoted a Wash. Times story claiming that “Democrats have embraced” the “unreliable” dossier, which is “evidence of significant, indirect collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation”
Wash. Times: “There is public evidence of significant, indirect collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation” because “Democrats have embraced the Russian-sourced dossier.” In a July 11 article, The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough accused Democrats of “willfully” spreading “disinformation” from “a Russian-fed dossier written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele” who was retained by a research firm called Fusion GPS. According to the Times, because “Democrats have embraced” what the author characterized as “discredited information” in Steele’s dossier, “there is public evidence of significant, indirect collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation.” From the July 11 article:
While the mainstream news media hunts for evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, the public record shows that Democrats have willfully used Moscow disinformation to influence the presidential election against Donald Trump and attack his administration.
The disinformation came in the form of a Russian-fed dossier written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. It contains a series of unverified criminal charges against Mr. Trump’s campaign aides, such as coordinating Moscow’s hacking of Democratic Party computers.
Some Democrats have widely circulated the discredited information. Mr. Steele was paid by the Democrat-funded opposition research firm Fusion GPS with money from a Hillary Clinton backer. Fusion GPS distributed the dossier among Democrats and journalists. The information fell into the hands of the FBI, which used it in part to investigate Mr. Trump’s campaign aides.
The same Democrats who have condemned Russia’s election interference via plying fake news and hacking email servers have quoted freely from the Steele anti-Trump memos derived from creatures of the Kremlin.
In other words, there is public evidence of significant, indirect collusion between Democrats and Russian disinformation, a Trump supporter said.
In the dossier, Mr. Steele clearly states that his anti-Trump accusations are from the Kremlin, which means some Democrats have been willingly repeating Moscow propaganda for public consumption in Washington.
No Democrats have embraced the Russian-sourced dossier more than members of the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Moscow’s interference in the election. [The Washington Times, 7/11/17]
Other right-wing media have attempted to invalidate Steele’s dossier as “false,” “discredited,” and “largely debunked” for months
Fox News panel characterized Steele’s work as “debunked,” “totally false,” and “clickbait.” A Fox News panel attempted to discredit the Steele dossier by calling it “debunked,” downplaying the significance of the document “as clickbait,” and branding the allegations in the dossier as “totally false.” From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:
CHARLES HURT: One of my favorite stories of the past week is -- my colleague at the [Washington] Times, Rowan Scarborough, did a piece about if Democrats want to find Russian collusion, there's obviously the Ukrainian Embassy situation. But if you want to look for Russian collusion, you can look at the debunked Steele dossier that went through all of this stuff, that Democrats have been mimicking and have been repeating it at every turn since then, and even though it's all been debunked. But, my goodness, talk about -- and listed throughout that dossier is the fact that all this information came from the Kremlin or people working for the Kremlin. It's a marvelous story and it's a great point -- it's one of those things that is so obvious under everyone's noses. But the media just completely ignores it because, as you're saying, they just want to go after Donald Trump.
RACHEL CAMPOS-DUFFY (CO-HOST): It doesn't fit their narrative.
MELISSA FRANCIS (CO-HOST): If you looked at the response on social media and everything in the wake of this [Donald Trump Jr.] story, smart Americans, like you said, who know better, the first thing they're were talking about is, "Boy, this sounds an awful lot like that dossier story" that came out that Democrats were pushing, that people were running with, that was totally false. It was another trap, another situation-- there's nothing new here, but I don't know that two wrongs make a right.
LISA KENNEDY (CO-HOST): But it wasn't published, though -- we should be factually accurate about that. BuzzFeed published it as clickbait, and then other news organizations basically quoted the BuzzFeed story. Everyone knew --
CAMPOS-DUFFY: But there were members of Congress on the Democrat side who were repeating it as if it were true, and it got legs.
HURT: And quoting it at length.
CAMPOS-DUFFY: Yeah, exactly.
KENNEDY: I understand that, but the thing is, people are sophisticated enough to understand what fake news is, and that story died pretty quickly, and it ultimately didn't hurt the president, who was elected president of the United States.
FRANCIS: Because it was ridiculous. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/13/17]
Fox’s Sean Hannity: Steele’s dossier is “fake.” Fox host Sean Hannity described Steele’s dossier as “fake,” saying that, therefore, “another one of the destroy-Trump media’s Russia collusion conspiracy theories is falling apart.” From the July 10 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): As President Trump’s legal team pointed out, they think that this meeting [between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer associated with the Kremlin] could have been a setup made to give the appearance of Russian collusion and that the person responsible for orchestrating all of this -- now pay attention, you’re not hear this in the mainstream media -- is connected to Fusion GPS. That is the [opposition] research firm that produced the fake Christopher Steele dossier -- remember, the British spy -- on Donald Trump. And, by the way, as the New York Post has reported, Fusion GPS has several ties to the Democrats, including Clinton allies and even Planned Parenthood. And, according to The Washington Times, Christopher Steele said in a court filing that that dossier was never supposed to be made public and that BuzzFeed should never have published it. So, once again, another one of the destroy-Trump media’s Russia collusion conspiracy theories is falling apart. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/10/17]
Fox’s Kevin Corke: Fusion GPS was “backed by the Democrats” and “may have been behind a largely-debunked dossier.” Fox News chief White House correspondent Kevin Corke characterized Steele’s dossier as “largely debunked.” From the July 10 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
KEVIN CORKE: I also want to bring this up, Bill, and I think this is important part of the story. You heard Reince Priebus allude to this. This woman, apparently, was associated with a group called Fusion GPS. It’s a research -- opposition research firm. They’ve been backed by the Democrats, and they -- you may remember this too -- they may have been behind a largely debunked dossier that claimed to have blackmail material on the president, and that’s why there are some questions this morning about what was the true intention of her having this meeting to begin with? [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 7/10/17]
Fox’s Jesse Watters: “The fake Russian dossier” story is another one “of these fake news stories coming out of CNN.” Fox host Jesse Watters asserted that the Steele dossier is similar to other “fake news stories coming out of CNN” and branded Steele’s work “fake.” From the June 20 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): The relationship between the press and the president pretty bad one. A lot has to do with CNN. They’ve broken scoops like the president likes two scoops of ice cream. The president -- is he afraid of stairs? They were involved with the fake Russian dossier. The other day they had to retract the story about that [former FBI Director] Jim Comey was going to come out and say that the president was under investigation. There's been a whole lot of these fake news stories coming out of CNN. Do you understand sometimes the animosity coming from the White House towards an outlet like CNN? [Fox News, The Five, 6/20/17]
Ann Coulter: “The defamatory Trump dossier” was “Russian produced” and “is the only evidence we have of Russia trying to collude.” According to conservative commentator Ann Coulter, Steele’s dossier was “defamatory” and “Russian-produced,” adding that Steele’s dossier “is the only evidence we have of Russia trying to collude.” From the June 9 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
ANN COULTER: By the way, I do want to correct you on one thing with your last guest. You said there’s no evidence of Russia interfering with the election. Actually, there is, with Russia trying to influence the election and colluding with Americans, and that’s with the defamatory Trump dossier. Whatever happened to that? That was a Russian-produced dossier used by, first, Never Trumpers, then the Hillary Clinton campaign, then the FBI, and broadcast hysterically by CNN. That was a Russian-produced dossier. That is the only evidence we have of Russia trying to collude. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 6/9/17]
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway: Fusion GPS was “the Democratic research firm that produced the debunked dossier.” The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway asserted that Fusion GPS research “produced” the dossier, and claimed that it has been “debunked.” From The Federalist’s May 3 article:
Multiple U.S. senators are now demanding that FBI Director James Comey disclose whether Fusion GPS, the Democratic opposition research firm that produced the debunked dossier on President Trump’s alleged Russia ties, was itself a Russian agent working on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s regime. In a letter sent to Comey in March, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) dropped a bombshell and disclosed that a complaint against Fusion GPS had been filed with the Department of Justice alleging that the oppo firm “violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by working on behalf of Russian principals to undermine U.S. sanctions against Russians.”
On Wednesday, another senator joined the mix with pointed questions for the embattled FBI head. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who has been a vocal critic of President Trump, peppered Comey with questions about ties between Fusion GPS and what Graham termed “the Russian intelligence apparatus.” [The Federalist, 5/3/17]
Breitbart: Steele “worked for” Fusion GPS, and his “wild and unproven” dossier “continues to lose credibility.” According to Breitbart’s Aaron Klein, Steele produced the “wild and unproven” dossier while working “for a firm that was reportedly paid by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans.” Klein concluded that Steele’s dossier “continues to lose credibility.” From Breitbart’s May 4 article:
The document was drafted by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who worked for a firm that was reportedly paid by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Trump.
The line of questioning about the dossier came in exchanges between Comey and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley.
The dossier, meanwhile, continues to lose credibility. In recent court documents, Steele conceded that part his work still needed to be verified.
The dossier contains wild and unproven claims about Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the widely-mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed. [Breitbart, 5/4/17]
Fox News: Steele’s “discredited dossier” was “created” by Fusion GPS, whose “hands may not be clean.” A March 31 article posted to Fox News’ website portrayed Steele’s work as “a discredited dossier” that was “produced” by “Washington-based Fusion GPS … with help from ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.” From the March 31 article:
The company that created a discredited dossier for President Trump’s campaign rivals and was later used by the FBI in its probe of possible links between Trump and Russia has its own Kremlin connection, according to a powerful U.S. Senator.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into Washington-based Fusion GPS, which produced the 35-page Trump dossier with help from ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Grassley wants to know why the FBI might seek evidence tying Trump to Russia from a firm whose own hands may not be clean.
Fusion GPS was hired to generate negative press coverage on the Russians’ behalf, Grassley said.
Fusion GPS maintained in a statement to Fox News Friday that it is not required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, because it partnered with a U.S. law firm to ensure compliance with the law. The company did not respond to inquiries about the dossier, its relationship to Russia or any business dealings with the FBI. [Fox News, 3/31/17]
Right-wing media have implied that that the dossier itself is Russian disinformation: “They were relying and they were spreading information directly sourced to the highest level of the Russian government”
Fox’s Hannity: Steele was “relying” on “information directly sourced to the highest level of the Russian government.” In an attempt to discredit the Steele dossier as Russian disinformation, Fox’s Hannity asserted that Steele was “relying” on “information directly sourced to the highest level of the Russian government.” From the July 12 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
HANNITY (HOST): Now check out this headline from The Washington Times: Quote, "Democrats intentionally used disinformation from Russia to attack Trump, campaign aides." The writer's well-known, Rowan Scarborough, well-respected, he's talking about the fake, the discredited -- remember Christopher Steele? The dossier on Donald Trump? -- and he points out that Steele's dossier and sources included, and I'm quoting, "‘a senior Russian foreign ministry figure,’ a … ‘top-level Russian intelligence officer active inside the Kremlin,’” a “‘senior Russian government official,’” and a ‘“senior Kremlin official.’” So, in other words, they were relying and they were spreading information directly sourced to the highest level of the Russian government.
Now, instead of stopping all of this and the foreign effort to interfere in our elections, well, the dossier was passed around for months and months and months, eventually published by BuzzFeed, routinely cited by Democrats who repeated the false claims from the document to attack President Trump. Remember? That was about the Ritz-Carlton and hookers? And I won't go any further. Not to mention it ended up in the hands of John McCain. He gave it to the FBI. That led to an investigation.
Then there's the group behind this phony dossier, Fusion GPS. As The New York Post has reported, it has several ties to the Democrats, including Clinton allies. So, the double standard here is stunning, it's spectacular, and as we have seen, time and time again, Democrats are willing to put their party and politics before anything else. Even if it means lying to you. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/12/17]
Wash. Times’ Charles Hurt: “Listed throughout that dossier is the fact that all this information came from the Kremlin or people working for the Kremlin. … it's one of those things that is so obvious under everyone's noses.” The Washington Times’ Charles Hurt implied that the information in Steele’s dossier is, itself, Russian disinformation, saying, “Listed throughout that dossier is the fact that all this information came from the Kremlin or people working for the Kremlin. ... It's one of those things that is so obvious under everyone's nose.” From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:
CHARLES HURT: One of my favorite stories of the past week is -- my colleague at the [Washington] Times, Rowan Scarborough, did a piece about if Democrats want to find Russian collusion, there's obviously the Ukrainian Embassy situation. But if you want to look for Russian collusion, you can look at the debunked Steele dossier that went through all of this stuff, that Democrats have been mimicking and have been repeating it at every turn since then, and even though it's all been debunked. But, my goodness, talk about -- and listed throughout that dossier is the fact that all this information came from the Kremlin or people working for the Kremlin. It's a marvelous story and it's a great point -- it's one of those things that is so obvious under everyone's noses. But the media just completely ignores it because, as you're saying, they just want to go after Donald Trump. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/13/17]
Rush Limbaugh: The dossier “has been attributed to Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS because that’s probably who the Russian agents passed it on to in order to get it into circulation.” Rush Limbaugh asserted that Steele’s dossier was “written by the KGB” and “passed on” to Steele “in order to get it into circulation.” From the July 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): My friends, we have to go back to the famous dossier, which, I further confirm today, that John McCain and Jim Comey were instrumental in this dossier becoming a basis and formidable part of every bit of the investigation of Trump. Now, as best we can tell, despite the doubters, as best we can tell, Donald Trump Jr. received nothing from the [Russian lawyer]. Nobody can produce whatever they think it was. The people who think that there’s no way that immigration was actually what was on the [Russian lawyer’s] mind, they still don’t have any idea of what was passed on, what did Donald Trump Jr. receive.
However, the dossier is a different issue, and that’s on the Democrats. The Democrats did recei-- that dossier comes from Russia. I found a piece today by a Stanford Russian export, Hoover Institution, who read, back in January 12th, who read the dossier.
Now, it is reported that a British MI6 agent actually wrote the dossier. This Russian Soviet expert at Stanford says, “No way. This was written by KGB people.” He can tell by the sentence structure, he can tell by which words in it are capitalized, he can just tell that the Russians wrote the dossier. It has been attributed to Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS because that’s probably who the Russian agents passed it on to in order to get it into circulation.
Once McCain heard about it, he sent an aide across the Atlantic to get a hard copy. Comey got a copy of it, Brennan at the CIA got a copy, and we’re off to the races on the Trump investigation on the basis of a phony 36-page dossier written by the KGB. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/13/17]
US officials have reportedly “verified” various “core” aspects of Steele’s dossier, and intelligence professionals have described Steele as “very credible” and a “meticulous professional with a formidable record”
CNN: American intelligence “intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Evan Perez reported in February: “For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.” Sciutto and Perez noted that while “none of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier,” American intelligence “intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.” From the February 10 report:
For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump's inauguration.
None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals. Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs.
But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials. CNN has not confirmed whether any content relates to then-candidate Trump.
The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement "greater confidence" in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say. [CNN, 2/10/17]
The New Yorker: American intelligence has “confirmed some of” the dossier’s “less explosive claims, relating to conversations with foreign nationals,” and, “at its core, a lot of it is bearing out.” According to The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa, by early February, United States intelligence officials had “confirmed some of” the Steele dossier’s “less explosive claims, relating to conversations with foreign nationals.” According to an intelligence official who spoke to The New Yorker, the U.S. intelligence community is “continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier, and, at its core, a lot of it is bearing out.” From The New Yorker’s March 6 article:
According to current and former government officials, prurient details in the dossier generated skepticism among some members of the intelligence community, who, as one put it, regarded it as a “nutty” product to present to a President. But, in the weeks that followed, they confirmed some of its less explosive claims, relating to conversations with foreign nationals. “They are continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier, and, at its core, a lot of it is bearing out,” an intelligence official said. Some officials believe that one reason the Russians compiled information on Trump during his 2013 trip was that he was meeting with Russian oligarchs who might be stashing money abroad—a sign of disloyalty, in Putin’s eyes. [The New Yorker, 3/6/17]
BBC: “US officials ‘verified’ a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election,” and the US intelligence community viewed Steele as “credible,” which is “their highest praise.” According to a March 30 BBC report, “The roadmap for the [Russia] investigation, publicly acknowledged now for the first time, comes from Christopher Steele,” and “US officials ‘verified’ a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump's election - that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.” From the BBC report:
The BBC has learned that US officials "verified" a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump's election - that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy.
The roadmap for the [Russia] investigation, publicly acknowledged now for the first time, comes from Christopher Steele, once of Britain's secret intelligence service MI6.
Steele's work remains fiercely controversial, to some a "dodgy dossier" concocted by President Trump's enemies.
But on this vitally important point - [Russian diplomat Mikhail] Kalugin's status as a "spy under diplomatic cover" - people who saw the intelligence agree with the dossier, adding weight to Steele's other claims.
But then they knew him already.
I understand - from former officials - that from 2013-16, Steele gave the US government extensive information on Russia and Ukraine.
This was work done for private clients, but which Steele wanted the US authorities to see.
One former senior official who saw these reports told me: "It was found to be of value by the people whose job it was to look at Russia every day.
"They said things like, 'How can he get this so quickly? This fits exactly with what we have.' It was validated many times."
In light of his earlier work, the US intelligence community saw him as "credible" (their highest praise).
The FBI thought the same; they had worked with Steele going back to his days in MI6. [BBC, 3/30/17]
CNN: Steele’s work is “one of the sources of information the [FBI] has used to bolster its investigation” into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. According to an April 18 CNN.com report, U.S. investigators used allegations originating from Steele’s work “to support” American findings that would eventually be used “to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate,” Carter Page. The piece noted, “US investigators say they have corroborated some aspects of the allegations, particularly the conversations between foreign nationals that took place as described in the reports." From CNN.com’s April 18 report:
The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.
The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.
This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.
Officials familiar with the process say even if the application to monitor Page included information from the dossier, it would only be after the FBI had corroborated the information through its own investigation. The officials would not say what or how much was corroborated.
US law enforcement and intelligence officials have said US investigators did their own work, separate from the dossier, to support their findings that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump.
US investigators say they have corroborated some aspects of the allegations, particularly the conversations between foreign nationals that took place as described in the reports. [CNN.com, 4/18/17]
Wired: While the Steele dossier “shouldn’t be accepted as fact,” it “shouldn’t be dismissed as fiction” either. The document “is still useful,” as some “claims could be verified—and may have been already.” In an article published soon after the Steele dossier was publicly released, Wired’s Andy Greenberg explained that while all allegations in the dossier “shouldn’t be accepted as fact,” the document itself should not “be dismissed as fiction” either. An ex-CIA analyst told Greenberg that the dossier is still useful as, according to the article, some “claims could be verified—and may have been already.” Susan Hennessey, a former lawyer for the Office of General Counsel at the NSA, noted in the article, “The intelligence community and law enforcement seem to be taking these claims seriously. That itself is highly significant. But it is not the same as these allegations being verified. … Even if this was an intelligence community document—which it isn't—this kind of raw intelligence is still treated with skepticism." From the January 11 article:
But just as important as the source of the report is that source's sources, says ex-CIA analyst Aki Peritz. "We don’t know how long they’ve been reporting, if they’re verifiable, truthful sources," says Peritz, now an adjunct professor at American University. "Absent understanding who the sources actually are and their ability to gain correct information, it’s really hard to make heads or tails out of this."
Peritz notes, though, that the report is still useful. Some of its claims could be verified—and may have been already—with more investigation.
The fact that both Obama and Trump were briefed on the report in a meeting with the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence suggests that US intelligence agencies at least consider its contents important, if not altogether true, says Susan Hennessey, a former NSA lawyer.
“My general take is that the intelligence community and law enforcement seem to be taking these claims seriously. That itself is highly significant. But it is not the same as these allegations being verified," says Hennessey, who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Even if this was an intelligence community document—which it isn't—this kind of raw intelligence is still treated with skepticism."
The intelligence report, in other words, shouldn’t be accepted as fact. But neither should it be dismissed as fiction. As with all raw intelligence, the intelligence community's task will be separating the two. And with its subject set to control the world’s most powerful office—and the agencies involved—in just over a week, the time left to do so may be quickly running out. [Wired, 1/11/17]
The Guardian: Government officials who are familiar with Steele’s work have described him as “an experienced and highly regarded professional” who has “a formidable record.” According to The Guardian, officials who are familiar with Steele’s past work in his capacity as head of MI6’s Russia desk describe him as “a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.” According to The Guardian, a former British foreign office official “who has known Steele for 25 years” said, “Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.” While the foreign office official “acknowledged that the Steele dossier was not perfect,” the official “pointed out that intelligence reports always came with ‘gradations of veracity’ and included phrases such as ‘a high degree of probability’.” From The Guardian’s January 12 article:
On Thursday night, as the former spy was in hiding, having fled his home in the south-east of England, former colleagues rallied to defend him. One described him as “very credible” – a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.
The former Foreign Office official, who has known Steele for 25 years and considers him a friend, said: “The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false – completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.”
The official added: “If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”
The Foreign Office official who spoke to the Guardian on Thursday acknowledged that the Steele dossier was not perfect. But he pointed out that intelligence reports always came with “gradations of veracity” and included phrases such as “a high degree of probability”. “You aren’t dealing with a binary world where you can say this is true and this isn’t,” the official said.
He added: “The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously. They were sufficiently persuaded by the author’s track record to find the contents worth passing to the president and president-elect.” [The Guardian, 1/12/17]
Fusion GPS subcontracted, but did not “produce,” the dossier, and there is “no evidence” that work Fusion GPS did for a Russia-linked client in 2013 and its “work on the Trump dossier were connected”
Vanity Fair: Fusion GPS’ Trump research was initially funded by a Republican, and Steele was “subcontracted by Fusion” to compile information. According to Vanity Fair’s Howard Blum, “In September 2015,” at the request of “a ‘Never Trump’ Republican,” Fusion GPS’ founder Glenn Simpson “was hired to compile an opposition-research dossier on Donald Trump.” According to Blum’s reporting, after Trump “locked up the [Republican] nomination” in the summer of 2016, Steele was “subcontracted by Fusion.” From Vanity Fair’s April 2017 report:
In September 2015, as the Republican primary campaign was heating up, [Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson] was hired to compile an opposition-research dossier on Donald Trump. Who wrote the check? Simpson, always secretive, won’t reveal his client’s identity. However, according to a friend who had spoken with Simpson at the time, the funding came from a “Never Trump” Republican and not directly from the campaign war chests of any of Trump’s primary opponents.
But by mid-June 2016, despite all the revelations Simpson was digging up about the billionaire’s roller-coaster career, two previously unimaginable events suddenly affected both the urgency and the focus of his research. First, Trump had apparently locked up the nomination, and his client, more pragmatic than combative, was done throwing good money after bad. And second, there was a new cycle of disturbing news stories wafting around Trump as the wordy headline splashed across the front page of The Washington Post on June 17 heralded, INSIDE TRUMP’S FINANCIAL TIES TO RUSSIA AND HIS UNUSUAL FLATTERY OF VLADIMIR PUTIN.
Simpson, as fellow journalists remembered, smelled fresh red meat. And anyway, after all he had discovered, he’d grown deeply concerned by the prospect of a Trump presidency. So he found Democratic donors whose checks would keep his oppo research going strong. And he made a call to London, to a partner at Orbis he had worked with in the past, an ex-spy who knew where all the bodies were buried in Russia, and who, as the wags liked to joke, had even buried some of them.
“Are there business ties in Russia?” That, Steele would offer to Mother Jones, was the bland initial thrust of his investigation after he was subcontracted by Fusion for a fee estimated by a source in the trade to be within the profession’s going rate: $12,000 to $15,000 a month, plus expenses. [Vanity Fair, April 2017]
Wash. Post: “There’s no evidence that the work Fusion GPS did for” a Russia-linked client in 2013 “and their work on the Trump dossier were connected.” According to The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, in 2013, Fusion GPS was subcontracted to conduct research on behalf of an American law firm “which was representing Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus.” According to Rogin’s reporting, “Fusion GPS began its separate work on the Trump-Russia connections in October 2015, working for unnamed Republican clients,” and its previous work on behalf of Prevezon “had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election.” Rogin noted, “It’s entirely possible that the firm was working on two separate Russia-related projects for clients who had opposing interests, roughly at the same time.” From the July 11 report:
This week’s revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer have shined a new spotlight on a small Washington opposition research firm that worked with her on a legal case for years and then subsequently commissioned a dossier full of salacious allegations of the Russian government’s attempts to collude with the Trump presidential campaign.
The firm, Fusion GPS, will be one subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next week that was planned well before the story broke of Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Fusion GPS says it had no involvement in the meeting although it did work on a lawsuit that involved Veselnitskaya for more than two years. The firm’s work on the Trump dossier was on a different timeline.
Even before Trump’s legal team suggested the Veselnitskaya meeting was a dirty trick to set up the younger Trump, pro-Trump media outlets had been calling on federal and Senate investigators to look into the activities of the firm, which is run by two former journalists and has done research for both Republicans and Democrats alike.
Fusion GPS has said that it was working for the law firm BakerHostetler, which was representing Prevezon, a Russian holding company based in Cyprus, in its defense against Justice Department allegations that Prevezon laundered money stolen in the fraud Magnitsky uncovered. Veselnitskaya was Prevezon’s lawyer. Fusion GPS started working on the case in 2013 and the case settled in May with no admission of guilt by Prevezon.
Fusion GPS told me its work on the Prevezon case had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election and they were not involved in the outreach to the Trump campaign.
Fusion GPS began its separate work on the Trump-Russia connections in October 2015, working for unnamed Republican clients. After Trump won the primary, Democratic funders continued to push the effort. Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who compiled the dossier, was brought on in May 2016.
There’s no evidence that the work Fusion GPS did for BakerHostetler on behalf of Prevezon and their work on the Trump dossier were connected. In fact, the former seems to advance Russian interests while the latter is hugely problematic for the Russian government. It’s entirely possible that the firm was working on two separate Russia-related projects for clients who had opposing interests, roughly at the same time. [The Washington Post, 7/11/17]
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