Trump–Russia dossier(Redirected from Donald Trump–Russia dossier)
The Trump–Russia dossier, also known as the Steele dossier, is a private intelligence dossier of 17 memos that were consecutively written from June to December 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence (MI6) officer. It contains allegations of misconduct and conspiracy between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government before and during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, much of it detailing alleged collusion between the campaign and Russians to interfere in the election to benefit Trump. The contents of the dossier were published in full by BuzzFeed on January 10, 2017. Several mainstream media outlets criticized BuzzFeed's decision to publish the dossier.
Some of the dossier's allegations have been confirmed, while others have yet to be proved or disproved. Some claims may require access to classified information for verification. The media, intelligence community, as well as most experts have treated the dossier with caution, while Trump himself denounced the report as "fake news". In February 2017, some details related to conversations between foreign nationals were independently verified.
The dossier and the separate investigation preceding its creation were both part of opposition research on Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. The American research firm Fusion GPS was hired for both investigations. The first investigation into Trump was initially funded by a conservative political website, The Washington Free Beacon, before Steele was involved.
After Trump emerged as the probable Republican nominee, Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump on behalf of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Fusion GPS later subcontracted Steele to research and compile the dossier. Following Trump's election as president, funding from Clinton and the Democrats ceased. Steele continued to work on the dossier, with financing reportedly coming directly from Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS. The completed dossier and its information was then passed on to British and American intelligence services.
The dossier and the investigations preceding it were part of political opposition research on Trump. The investigation into Trump was initially funded by The Washington Free Beacon, an American conservative political journalism web site, before Steele was involved, and was later funded by Democrats.
In October 2015, during the Republican primary campaign, The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website primarily funded by Republican donor Paul Singer, hired the American research firm Fusion GPS to conduct general opposition research on Trump and other Republican presidential candidates. For months, Fusion GPS gathered information about Trump, focusing on his business and entertainment activities. When Trump became the presumptive nominee on May 3, 2016, The Free Beacon stopped funding research on him. The Free Beacon has later stated that "none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier."
In April 2016, Marc Elias, a partner in the large Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie and head of its Political Law practice, hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump. Elias was the attorney of record for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton presidential campaign. As part of their investigation, Fusion GPS hired Orbis Business Intelligence, a private British intelligence firm, to look into connections between Trump and Russia. Orbis co-founder Christopher Steele, a retired British MI6 officer with expertise in Russian matters, was hired as a subcontractor to do the job. Orbis was hired between June and November 2016, and Steele produced 16 memos during that time, with a 17th memo added in December. In total, Perkins Coie paid Fusion GPS $1.02 million in fees and expenses, $168,000 of which was paid to Orbis by Fusion GPS and used by them to produce the dossier.
According to Fusion GPS's co-owners, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, they did not tell Steele who their ultimate clients were, only that Steele was "working for a law firm", and they "gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: 'Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?'" Jane Mayer reported that when the Clinton campaign "indirectly employed" Steele, Marc Elias, the campaign's attorney, created a "legal barrier" by acting "as a firewall between the campaign" and Steele. Thus any details were "protected by attorney-client privilege. Fusion briefed only Elias on the reports. Simpson sent Elias nothing on paper—he was briefed orally." It was several months after signing the contract with Fusion GPS that Steele learned that the DNC and Clinton campaign were the ultimate clients.
The first memo, dated June, 20 2016, was sent to Washington by courier and hand-delivered to Fusion GPS. The names of the sources were redacted from the memo, "providing instead descriptions of them that enabled Fusion to assess their basic credibility."
Steele delivered his reports individually as 1-3 page memos, starting in June 2016 and continuing through December. He continued his investigation even after the Democratic client stopped paying for it following Trump's election. After the election, Fusion GPS co-owner Simpson "reportedly spent his own money to continue the investigation".
According to Steele, he soon found "troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. He said that, according to his sources, "there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit." Luke Harding states that "Steele was shocked by the extent of collusion his sources were reporting." Steele told friends: "For anyone who reads it, this is a life-changing experience." He felt that what he had unearthed "was something of huge significance, way above party politics". Howard Blum described Steele's rationale for becoming a whistleblower: "The greater good trumps all other concerns."
On his own initiative, Steele decided to also pass the information to British and American intelligence services because he believed the findings were a matter of national security for both countries. According to the testimony of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, Steele approached the FBI because he was concerned Trump, then a candidate, was being blackmailed by Russia, and he became "very concerned about whether this represented a national security threat". Steele was so "alarmed" by his findings, that he showed them to FBI agents in Rome in early July. Their reaction was "shock and horror".
Simpson later revealed that "Steele severed his contacts with [the] FBI before the election following public statements by the FBI that it had found no connection between the Trump campaign and Russia and concerns that [the FBI] was being 'manipulated for political ends by the Trump people'." He had become frustrated with the FBI, which he believed was failing to investigate his reports, choosing instead to focus on the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. According to The Independent, Steele came to believe that there was a "cabal" inside the FBI, particularly its New York field office linked to Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani, because it blocked any attempts to investigate the links between Trump and Russia.
In a court filing in April 2017, Steele revealed previously unreported information that in December 2016, shortly after the presidential election, he gave a copy of the 16 memos to "the senior British national security official and sent an encrypted version to Fusion GPS with instructions to deliver a hard copy to Senator John McCain (R-AZ). McCain, who had been informed about the alleged links between the Kremlin and Trump, met with former British ambassador to Moscow Sir Andrew Wood. Wood confirmed the existence of the dossier and vouched for Steele's "professionalism and integrity". McCain obtained the dossier from David J. Kramer and took it directly to FBI director James Comey on December 9, 2016. Comey has confirmed that counter-intelligence investigations were under way into possible links between Trump associates and Moscow, and CNN has reported that the FBI used the dossier to bolster its existing investigations.
After delivering the 16 memos, more information was received, and two more pages, the "December memo", dated "13 December 2016", was prepared. It alleged efforts by Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay those who had hacked the DNC and to "cover up all traces of the hacking operation". Cohen has denied the allegations against him, stating that he was in Los Angeles between August 23 and August 29, and in New York for the entire month of September. According to a Czech intelligence source, there is no record of him entering Prague by plane, but Respekt magazine pointed out that it's theoretically possible he could have entered by car or train from a neighboring country within the Schengen Zone. In the latter case, a record of Cohen entering the Schengen Zone via a non-Schengen area country should exist. Politico reported that his passport "would not show any record of a visit to Prague if he entered the EU through Italy, traveled to the Czech Republic, and then returned to his point of EU entry. A congressional official said the issue is “still active” for investigators."
Sources for allegations
Simpson has stated that Steele did not pay any of his sources. According to Jane Mayer, Orbis has a large number of paid "collectors" who "harvest intelligence from a much larger network of unpaid sources, some of whom don't even realize they are being treated as informants.... but money doesn't change hands, because it could risk violating laws against, say, bribing government officials or insider trading. Paying sources might also encourage them to embellish."[undue weight? ] According to Luke Harding, Steele's sources were not new: "They're not people that he kind of discovered yesterday. They are trusted contacts who essentially had proven themselves in other areas." Howard Blum said that Steele leaned on sources "whose loyalty and information he had bought and paid for over the years".
Hints of existence
By the third quarter of 2016, many news organizations knew about the existence of the dossier, which had been described as an "open secret" among journalists. However, they chose not to publish information that could not be confirmed. Finally on October 31, 2016, a week before the election, Mother Jones reported that a former intelligence officer, whom they did not name, had produced a report based on Russian sources and turned it over to the FBI. It starts with the allegation that:
The "Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance". It maintained that Trump "and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals". It claimed that Russian intelligence had "compromised" Trump during his visits to Moscow and could "blackmail him".
When the Mother Jones story broke, John Podesta, chairman of the Democratic Party, "was stunned by the news that the F.B.I. had launched a full-blown investigation into Trump, especially one that was informed by research underwritten by the Clinton campaign." Although they knew that Perkins Coie had spent money for opposition research, neither Podesta nor Robby Mook knew that Steele was on the Democratic payroll until the Mother Jones article appeared. They both maintain that "they didn't read the dossier until BuzzFeed posted it online. Far from a secret campaign weapon, Steele turned out to be a secret kept from the campaign."
Although the dossier alleges (in June 2016) that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for "at least five years", investigative journalist Luke Harding has written that they had been interested in him since his first visit to Russia in 1987. Harding also asserts that the "top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB... The spy chief [Vladimir Kryuchkov] wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans." Harding then gives a detailed description of the process of cultivation used by the KGB. He posits that the KGB may have opened a file on Trump as early as 1977, when he married Ivana Trump (née Zelníčková), and that they were closely observed and analyzed from that time on.
In October 2016, the FBI reached an agreement with Steele to pay him to continue his work, according to involved sources reported by The Washington Post. "Steele was known for the quality of his past work and for the knowledge he had developed over nearly 20 years working on Russia-related issues for British intelligence." The FBI found Steele credible and his unproved information worthy enough that, a few weeks before the election, it reached an agreement with Steele to pay him to continue collecting information, but the release of the document to the public stopped discussions between Steele and the FBI, and, according to Congressional testimony by Simpson, "Steele wasn't paid by the FBI, but was possibly reimbursed for a trip to Rome to meet with FBI officials." According to Jane Mayer, Steele "did request compensation for travelling to Rome, but he never received any."
President-Elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier by the chiefs of several U.S. intelligence agencies in early January 2017. Vice President Joe Biden has confirmed that he and the president had received briefings on the dossier, and the allegations within.
On January 10, 2017, CNN reported that classified documents presented to Obama and Trump the previous week included allegations that Russian operatives possess "compromising personal and financial information" about Trump. CNN stated that it would not publish specific details on the memos because it had not "independently corroborated the specific allegations". Following the CNN report, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier that it said was the basis of the briefing, including unverified claims that Russian operatives had collected "embarrassing material" involving Trump that could be used to blackmail him.
BuzzFeed was harshly criticized for publishing what Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan called "scurrilous allegations dressed up as an intelligence report meant to damage Donald Trump", while The New York Times noted that the publication sparked a debate centering on the use of unsubstantiated information from anonymous sources. BuzzFeed's executive staff said the materials were newsworthy because they were "in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media" and argued that this justified public release.
When CNN reported the existence of the dossier on January 10, 2017, it did not name the author of the dossier, but revealed that he was British. Steele concluded that his anonymity had been "fatally compromised" and realized it was "only a matter of time until his name became public knowledge", and, accompanied by his family, he fled into hiding in fear of "a prompt and potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow". The Wall Street Journal revealed Steele's name the next day, on January 11. Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd, for whom Steele worked at the time the dossier was authored, and its director Christopher Burrows, would not "confirm or deny" that Orbis had produced the dossier.
Called by the media a "highly regarded Kremlin expert" and "one of MI6's greatest Russia specialists", Steele formerly worked for the British intelligence agency MI6 and is currently working for Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd, a private intelligence company Steele co-founded in London. Steele entered MI6 in 1987, directly after his graduation from Cambridge University.
Former British ambassador to Moscow Sir Andrew Wood has vouched for Steele's reputation. He views Steele as a "very competent professional operator ... I take the report seriously. I don't think it's totally implausible." He also stated that "the report's key allegation—that Trump and Russia's leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign—was eminently plausible".
FBI investigators treat Steele "as a peer", whose experience as a trusted Russia expert includes assisting the Justice Department, British prime ministers, and at least one U.S. president.
On March 7, 2017, as some members of the U.S. Congress were expressing interest in meeting with or hearing testimony from Steele, he reemerged after weeks in hiding, appearing publicly on camera and stating, "I'm really pleased to be back here working again at the Orbis's offices in London today."
The dossier contains multiple allegations, some of which are currently unverified and others for which possible verification is classified. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly denied the allegations, with Trump labeling the dossier as "discredited", "debunked", "fictitious", and "fake news".
The memos allege that Russia has been cultivating a relationship with Trump for decades, that the Kremlin favored Trump in the U.S. presidential election, and took various actions during the 2016 election to promote his candidacy and oppose Hillary Clinton's. The document claims that several of Trump's associates, in particular campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump's personal attorney Michael D. Cohen, and Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, held secret meetings with Russian contacts to promote Trump's candidacy.
Other alleged activities include early knowledge about the hack of Democratic National Committee emails and planning their subsequent leaking, arranging coverups and cash payments, and promising favorable policies toward Russia if Trump was elected. The dossier does not use the word "collusion", but does allege a "well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership."
Manafort has "denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian state, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17m working as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party." Cohen has also denied the allegations against him. Page originally denied meeting any Russian officials, but his later testimony, acknowledging that he had met with senior Russian officials at Rosneft, has been interpreted as appearing to corroborate portions of the dossier.
The document also claims that Russian operators possessed "kompromat" about Trump which could make him subject to blackmail. Referring to a salacious allegation involving prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow in 2013, Trump has denied the allegation, claiming he is a "germaphobe". According to Bloomberg News, Trump's close acquaintance, Aras Agalarov, has confirmed that "Trump stayed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel that weekend." Trump's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller "privately testified that he rejected an offer by a Russian individual to send five women to then private-citizen Trump's hotel room during their 2013 trip to Moscow," stating that "he took the offer as a joke ... and Trump laughed it off." After staying outside the door for a few minutes, he left. "One source noted that Schiller testified he eventually left Trump's hotel room door and could not say for sure what happened during the remainder of the night."
Cultivation, conspiracy, and cooperation
- That "the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for at least 5 years" and that "the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN." (Dossier, p. 1)
- That Putin's "aim" with supporting Trump was "to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance." "Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia's interests." (Dossier, p. 1-2)
- That a major goal of the Russians in supporting Trump was "to upset the liberal international status quo, including on Ukraine-related sanctions, which was seriously disadvantaging the country. TRUMP was viewed as divisive in disrupting the whole US political system; anti-Establishment; and a pragmatist with whom they could do business." (Dossier, p. 28-29)
- That "[s]o far TRUMP has declined various sweetener real estate business deals offered him in Russia in order to further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him. However he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals." (Dossier, p. 1)
- That there was "evidence of extensive conspiracy between campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at highest levels and involving Russian diplomatic staff based in the US....That there was an "[a]greed exchange of information established in both directions. TRUMP's team using moles within DNC and hackers in the US as well as outside in Russia." That there was "a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership" to defeat "Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON", and that there was a "Kremlin campaign to aid TRUMP and damage CLINTON". (Dossier, pp. 7, 13)
- That "in terms of established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin, the emigre confirmed that an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years. Within this context PUTIN's priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. TRUMP and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information." (Dossier, p. 11)
- That "there was a fair amount of anger and resentment within the Republican candidate's team at what was perceived by PUTIN as going beyond the objective of weakening CLINTON and bolstering TRUMP, by attempting to exploit the situation to undermine the US government and democratic system more generally." (Dossier, p. 17)
Key roles of Manafort, Cohen, and Page
- That "the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT" had "managed" the "well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership", and that he used "foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries". (Dossier, p. 7)
- That Trump's foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, served as an intermediary for Manafort and had "conceived and promoted" the idea of leaking the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. (Dossier, p. 7, 17)
- That Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, played a "key role" in the Trump–Russia relationship by arranging cover-ups and "deniable cash payments", and that his role had grown following Manafort's departure from the campaign. (Dossier, pp. 18, 32, 34-35)
- That "COHEN now was heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of TRUMP’s relationship with Russia being exposed." (Dossier, p. 32)
- That Page was instrumental in making a deal for Trump of a 19% stake (ca. $11 billion) in Rosneft oil company in exchange for Trump lifting the anti-Russian sanctions after his election. (Dossier, pp. 31-32)
Kremlin pro-Trump and anti-Clinton
- That "PUTIN motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary CLINTON.... Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared." (Dossier, p. 7)
- That "TRUMP was viewed as divisive in disrupting the whole US political system; anti-Establishment; and a pragmatist with whom they could do business. As the TRUMP support operation had gained momentum, control of it had passed from the MFA to the FSB and then into the presidential administration where it remained, a reflection of its growing significance over time. There was still a view in the Kremlin that TRUMP would continue as a (divisive) political force even if he lost the presidency and may run for and be elected to another public office." (Dossier, p. 29)
Kompromat and blackmail: Trump
- That kompromat exists on Trump in the form of blackmailable acts of paying bribes and engaging in "perverted sexual acts" in Russia. (Dossier, pp. 1-2, 8, 11, 27)
- That Trump "hated" Obama so much that he hired the Presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow and had prostitutes perform a "golden showers" show in front of him in order to defile the bed used by President and Mrs. Obama on a previous visit. This is alleged to have happened in 2013. The alleged incident was reportedly secretly filmed and recorded by the FSB for potential blackmail. (Dossier, p. 2)
- That "TRUMP’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished." (Dossier, p. 2)
- That "Russians apparently have promised not to use 'kompromat' they hold on TRUMP as leverage, given high levels of voluntary co-operation forthcoming from his team." "As far as 'kompromat' (compromising information) on TRUMP were concerned, although there was plenty of this, he understood the Kremlin had given its word that it would not be deployed against the Republican presidential candidate given how helpful and co-operative his team had been over several years, and particularly of late." (Dossier, p. 11-12)
- That Trump had explored the real estate sectors in St Petersburg and Moscow, "but in the end TRUMP had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success". (Dossier, p. 8) That "TRUMP had visited St Petersburg on several occasions in the past and had been interested in doing business deals there involving real estate....[T]hat TRUMP had paid bribes there to further his interests but very discreetly and only through affiliated companies, making it very hard to prove.... [T]hat TRUMP had participated in sex parties in the city too, but that all direct witnesses to this recently had been 'silenced' i.e. bribed or coerced to disappear." (Dossier, p. 27)
- That Trump's "team were relatively relaxed about" "the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election campaign in support of Trump" "because it deflected media and the Democrats' attention away from Trump's business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign." (Dossier, p. 8)
- That Putin ordered the keeping of a secret dossier on Hillary Clinton with content dating back to the time of the Clinton presidency and comprised mainly of eavesdropped conversations, some from bugging devices and others from phone intercepts. That it did not contain "details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior", but focused more on "things she had said which contradicted her current positions on various issues". That it had been collated by the FSB and was managed by Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary. (Dossier, pp. 1, 3)
DNC email hack, leaks, and misinformation
- That Russia was responsible for the DNC email hacks and the recent appearance of the stolen DNC e-mails on WikiLeaks, and that the reason for using WikiLeaks was "plausible deniability". (Dossier, pp. 7-8)
- That "the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team." (Dossier, p. 8)
- That after the emails were leaked to WikiLeaks, it was decided to not leak more, but to engage in misinformation: "Rather the tactics would be to spread rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content." (Dossier, p. 15)
- That "the Kremlin supporting various US political figures, including funding indirectly their recent visits to Moscow. [The source] named a delegation from Lyndon LAROUCHE; presidential candidate Jill STEIN of the Green Party; TRUMP foreign policy adviser Carter PAGE; and former DIA Director Michael Flynn, in this regard as successful in terms of perceived outcomes." (Dossier, p. 15-16)
- That Trump's foreign policy adviser Carter Page had "conceived and promoted" the idea of "leaking the DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks during the Democratic Convention" "to swing supporters of Bernie SANDERS away from Hillary CLINTON and across to TRUMP." (Dossier, p. 17)
- That the hacking of the DNC servers was performed by Romanian hackers ultimately controlled by Putin and paid by both Trump and Putin. (Dossier, pp. 34-35)
- That Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had a secret meeting with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016, where he arranged "deniable cash payments" to the hackers and sought "to cover up all traces of the hacking operation", as well as "cover up ties between Trump and Russia, including Manafort's involvement in Ukraine". (Dossier, pp. 18, 34-35)
Kickbacks and quid pro quo agreements
- That former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was pro-Russian and requested Russian military intervention in Ukraine before he fled to Russia in 2014, told Putin he had been making supposedly untraceable "kick-back payments" to Paul Manafort, who was Trump's campaign manager at the time. (Dossier, p. 20)
- That in return for Russia's leaking the stolen documents to WikiLeaks, "the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for PUTIN who needed to cauterise the subject." (Dossier, pp. 7-8)
- That "TRUMP advisor Carter PAGE holds secret meetings in Moscow with SECHIN and senior Kremlin Internal Affairs official, DIVYEKIN," and that Igor Sechin offered Carter Page a deal for Trump of a 19% privatized stake (ca. $11 billion) in Rosneft oil company in exchange for Trump lifting the anti-Russian sanctions after his election. It is also alleged that Page confirmed, on Trump's "full authority", that this was Trump's intent. (Dossier, pp. 9, 31-32)
Russian spy withdrawn
There are those who trust the dossier, and those who question its veracity. Steele and the dossier have become "the central point of contention in the political brawl raging around" the Special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Some consider Steele a hero who tried to warn about the Kremlin's meddling in the election, and others consider him a "hired gun" used to attack Trump.
Reputation in the U.S. intelligence community
According to Paul Wood of BBC News, the salacious information in Steele's report is also reported by "multiple intelligence sources" and "at least one East European intelligence service". They report that "compromising material on Mr. Trump" included "more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg." While also mentioning that "nobody should believe something just because an intelligence agent says it", he added that "the CIA believes it is credible that the Kremlin has such kompromat—or compromising material—on the next US commander in chief" and "a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump's organisation or his election campaign".
On March 30, 2017, Wood reported that the FBI was using the dossier as a roadmap for its investigation. On April 18, 2017, CNN reported that, according to U.S. officials, information from the dossier had been used as part of the basis for getting the FISA warrant to monitor former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page during the summer of 2016. Officials told CNN this information would have had to be independently corroborated by the FBI before being used to obtain the warrant.
Susan Hennessey, a former National Security Agency lawyer now with the Brookings Institution, stated: "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. Even if this was an intelligence community document—which it isn't—this kind of raw intelligence is still treated with skepticism." Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes wrote that "the current state of the evidence makes a powerful argument for a serious public inquiry into this matter". Robert S. Litt, a former lawyer for the Director of National Intelligence, wrote that the dossier "played absolutely no role" in the intelligence community's determination that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On February 10, 2017, CNN reported that some communications between "senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals" described in the dossier had been corroborated by multiple U.S. officials. They "took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier". Sources told CNN that some conversations had been "intercepted during routine intelligence gathering", but refused to reveal the content of conversations, or specify which communications were intercepted "due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs". CNN was unable to confirm whether conversations were related to Trump. U.S. officials said the corroboration gave "US intelligence and law enforcement 'greater confidence' in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents".
British journalist Julian Borger wrote in October 2017 that "Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators", at least Steele's assessment that Russia had conducted a campaign to interfere in the 2016 election to Clinton's detriment; that part of the Steele dossier "has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it". Liberal commentator Jonathan Chait wrote in December 2017 about the dossier that mainstream media "treat it as gossip" whereas the intelligence community "take it seriously". American intelligence agencies have examined Steele and his "vast network throughout Europe and found him and his sources to be credible."
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has stated: "As I understand it, a good deal of his information remains unproven, but none of it has been disproven, and considerable amounts of it have been proven."
Varied reactions about veracity
Observers and experts have had varying reactions to the dossier. Generally, "former intelligence officers and other national-security experts" urged "skepticism and caution" but still took "the fact that the nation's top intelligence officials chose to present a summary version of the dossier to both President Obama and President-elect Trump" as an indication "that they may have had a relatively high degree of confidence that at least some of the claims therein were credible, or at least worth investigating further". The author of the dossier said he believes that 70–90% of the document is accurate. In his June 2017 congressional testimony, former FBI director James Comey called "some personally sensitive aspects" of the dossier "salacious and unverified," but he did not state that the entire dossier was unverified or that the salacious aspects were false. When Senator Richard Burr asked if any of the allegations in the dossier had been confirmed, Comey said he could not answer that question in a public setting.
Vice President Biden told reporters that while he and President Obama were receiving a briefing on the extent of Russian hackers trying to influence the US election, there was a two-page addendum which addressed the contents of the Steele dossier. Top intelligence officials told them they "felt obligated to inform them about uncorroborated allegations about President-elect Donald Trump out of concern the information would become public and catch them off-guard".
Newsweek published a list of "13 things that don't add up" in the dossier, writing that the document was a "strange mix of the amateur and the insightful" and stating that the document "contains lots of Kremlin-related gossip that could indeed be, as the author claims, from deep insiders—or equally gleaned" from Russian newspapers and blogs. Former UK ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton stated that certain aspects of the dossier were inconsistent with British intelligence's understanding of how the Kremlin works, commenting: "I've seen quite a lot of intelligence on Russia, and there are some things in [the dossier] which look pretty shaky."
Veracity of certain allegations
Russian assistance to the Trump campaign
A January 6, 2017, assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's electoral chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process," as well as ordering cyber attacks on "both major U.S. political parties".
Newsweek stated that a dossier allegation was confirmed by this assessment. ABC News stated that "some of the dossier's broad implications—particularly that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an operation to boost Trump and sow discord within the U.S. and abroad—now ring true." Referring to the ODNI assessment, former Los Angeles Times Moscow correspondent Robert Gillette wrote in an op-ed in the Concord Monitor that the dossier has had at least one of its main factual assertions verified....Steele's dossier, paraphrasing multiple sources, reported precisely the same conclusion, in greater detail, six months earlier, in a memo dated June 20."
In March 2016, George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, learned that the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails. This occurred before the hacking of the DNC computers had become public knowledge. Papadopoulos sent emails concerning Vladimir Putin to at least seven Trump campaign officials. Trump national campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos to fly to Russia to meet with agents of the Russian Foreign Ministry, after being told that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton it wanted to share with Trump's campaign. Later, on June 9, 2016, a meeting in Trump Tower was held, ostensibly for representatives from Russia to give "dirt" on Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign.
GOP position on Russian conflict with Ukraine
The dossier alleges that "the Trump campaign agreed to minimize US opposition to Russia's incursions into Ukraine". Journalist Luke Harding considers this allegation to have been confirmed by the actions of the Trump campaign: “This is precisely what happened at the Republican National Convention last July, when language on the US's commitment to Ukraine was mysteriously softened.” In July 2016, the Republican National Convention made changes to the Republican Party's platform on Ukraine: initially the platform proposed providing "lethal weapons" to Ukraine, but the line was changed to "appropriate assistance". NPR reported, "Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform." J. D. Gordon, who was one of Trump's national security advisers during the campaign, said that he had advocated for changing language because that reflected what Trump had said. The Trump campaign does not appear to have intervened in any other platform deliberations aside from the language on Ukraine.
Trump had formerly taken a hard line on Ukraine. He initially denounced Russia's annexation of Crimea as a "land grab" that "should never have happened", and called for a firmer U.S. response, saying "We should definitely be strong. We should definitely do sanctions." But after hiring Manafort his approach changed; he said he might recognize Crimea as Russian territory and might lift the sanctions against Russia.
Relations with Europe and NATO
The dossier alleges that as part of a quid pro quo agreement, “the TRUMP team had agreed… to raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for PUTIN who needed to cauterise the subject.” Aiko Stevenson, writing in the Huffington Post, noted that some of Trump's actions seem to align with "Putin's wish list", which "includes lifting sanctions on Russia, turning a blind eye towards its aggressive efforts in the Ukraine, and creating a divisive rift amongst western allies." During the campaign Trump "called Nato, the centrepiece of Transatlantic security 'obsolete', championed the disintegration of the EU, and said that he is open to lifting sanctions on Moscow." Luke Harding adds that Trump repeatedly “questioned whether US allies were paying enough into Nato coffers." Jeff Stein, writing in Newsweek, described how "Trump's repeated attacks on NATO have...frustrated...allies ...[and] raised questions as to whether the president has been duped into facilitating Putin's long-range objective of undermining the European Union."
Lifting of sanctions
The dossier says that Page, claiming to speak with Trump's authority, had confirmed that Trump would lift the existing sanctions against Russia if he were elected president. On December 29, 2016, during the transition period between the election and the inauguration, National Security Advisor designate Flynn spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, urging him not to retaliate for newly imposed sanctions; the Russians took his advice and did not retaliate. Within days after the inauguration, new Trump administration officials ordered State Department staffers to develop proposals for immediately revoking the economic and other sanctions. One retired diplomat later said, "What was troubling about these stories is that suddenly I was hearing that we were preparing to rescind sanctions in exchange for, well, nothing." The staffers alerted Congressional allies who took steps to codify the sanctions into law. The attempt to overturn the sanctions was abandoned after Flynn's conversation was revealed and Flynn resigned. In August 2017, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to impose new sanctions on Russia. Trump reluctantly signed the bill, but then refused to implement it.
Spy withdrawn from Russian embassy
One allegation is that a "leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail KULAGIN, had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation… would be exposed in the media there." The allegation seems to be confirmed, as "five months later, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016. McClatchy reported he was under investigation for his role in Russia's interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a spy."
Journalist Paul Wood also reported that, aside from the spelling error (it's actually "Kalugin"), this actually happened. Mikhail Kalugin worked at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, and, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, he was "head of the embassy's economics section". At the time he left he was under scrutiny by the FBI and considered a "spy under diplomatic cover". McClatchy reported that Kalugin was "under scrutiny when he departed...[was] an important figure in the inquiry into how Russia bankrolled the email hacking of top Democrats and took other measures to defeat Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump capture the White House." Kalugin has denied the allegation.
Carter Page meeting with Rosneft officials
Jane Mayer has stated that this part of the dossier seems true, even if the name of an official may have been wrong. Page's congressional testimony confirmed he held secret meetings with top Moscow and Rosneft officials, including talks about a payoff: "When Page was asked if a Rosneft executive had offered him a 'potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft,' Page said, 'He may have briefly mentioned it'."
On November 2, 2017, Carter Page testified before the House Intelligence Committee which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Page testified he informed Jeff Sessions, J. D. Gordon, Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager, of a planned trip to Russia and that Lewandowski approved the trip, responding "If you'd like to go on your own, not affiliated with the campaign, you know, that's fine." In his testimony, Page admitted he met with high ranking Kremlin officials. Previously, Page had denied meeting any Russian officials during the trip. His comments appeared to corroborate portions of the dossier.
Relationship between the Kremlin and WikiLeaks
Jane Mayer agrees with Steele that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks did cooperate in the release of the stolen Democratic National Committee emails, a view confirmed by the U.S. Intelligence Community. On December 9, 2016, the CIA told U.S. legislators that the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded Russia conducted operations during the 2016 U.S. election to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Multiple U.S intelligence agencies concluded people with direct ties to the Kremlin gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.
Use in 2017 Special Counsel investigation
According to Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), the dossier's allegations are being investigated by a Special Counsel led by Robert Mueller, which is also investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In the summer of 2017, Mueller's team of investigators met with Christopher Steele. As some leads stemming from the dossier have already been followed and confirmed by the FBI, legal experts have stated that Special Counsel investigators, headed by Robert Mueller, are obligated to follow any leads the dossier has presented them with, irrespective of what parties financed it in its various stages of development, or "[t]hey would be derelict in their duty if they didn't."
While Trump and some Republicans have claimed that the dossier was behind the beginning of the investigation into the Trump campaign's potential conspiracy with Russia, in December 2017, former and current intelligence officials revealed that the actual impetus was a series of comments made in May 2016 by Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos during a night of "heavy drinking at an upscale London bar" made to a top Australian diplomat in Britain. Papadopoulos revealed that he had inside information by bragging that the Kremlin had "thousands of emails" stolen from Hillary Clinton which could be used to damage her campaign. He had learned this about three weeks earlier. Two months later, when WikiLeaks started releasing DNC emails, Australian officials alerted the Americans about Papadopoulos' remarks.
Other soon-discovered factors then played into the FBI's decision to investigate Russian interference and any role played by the Trump campaign: intelligence from friendly governments, especially the British and Dutch, and then the information about a trip to Moscow by Trump adviser Carter Page. Steele's first report was sent to Fusion GPS, dated June 20, 2016, and FBI agents first interviewed Steele in October 2016. A year later, in October 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and became a cooperating witness in Mueller's investigation.
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Donald Trump called the dossier "fake news" and criticized the intelligence and media sources that published it. During a press conference on January 11, 2017, Trump denounced the unsubstantiated claims as false, saying that it was "disgraceful" for U.S. intelligence agencies to report them. Trump refused to answer a question from CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta on the subject. In response, CNN said that it had published "carefully sourced reporting" on the matter which had been "matched by the other major news organizations", as opposed to BuzzFeed's posting of "unsubstantiated materials".
James Clapper described the leaks as damaging to US national security. This contradicted Trump's previous claim that Clapper had said the information was false; Clapper's statement actually said the intelligence community had made no judgement on the truth or falsity of the information.
Russian press secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted in an interview that the document is a fraud, saying "I can assure you that the allegations in this funny paper, in this so-called report, they are untrue. They are all fake." The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, called the people who leaked the document "worse than prostitutes" and referred to the dossier itself as "rubbish". Putin went on to state he believed that the dossier was "clearly fake", fabricated as a plot against the legitimacy of President-elect Donald Trump.
Some of Steele's former colleagues expressed support for his character, saying "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."
Among journalists, Bob Woodward called the dossier a "garbage document", while Carl Bernstein took the opposite view, noting that the senior-most U.S. intelligence officials had determined that the content was worth reporting to the president and the president-elect.
Ynet, an Israeli online news site, reported on January 12, 2017 that U.S. intelligence advised Israeli intelligence officers to be cautious about sharing information with the incoming Trump administration, until the possibility of Russian influence over Trump, suggested by Steele's report, has been fully investigated.
On March 2, 2017, media began reporting that the Senate may call Steele to testify about the Trump dossier. On March 27, 2017, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley asked the Department of Justice to initiate an inquiry into Fusion GPS, who initially retained Steele to write the dossier. Fusion GPS was previously associated with pro-Russia lobbying activities due to sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act. On August 22, 2017, Steele met with the FBI and had provided them with the names of his sources for the allegations in the dossier.
Steven L. Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, has contrasted Steele's methods with those of Donald Trump Jr., who sought information from a Russian attorney in June 2016: "The distinction: Steele spied against Russia to get info Russia did not want released; Don Jr took a mtg to get info Russians wanted to give."
Jane Mayer referred to the same meeting and contrasted the difference in reactions to Russian attempts to support Trump: When Donald Trump, Jr. was offered "dirt" on Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," instead of "going to the F.B.I., as Steele had" done when he learned that Russia was helping Trump, Trump's son accepted the support by responding: "If it's what you say, I love it..."
On January 2, 2018, the founders of Fusion GPS, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch authored an op-ed in the New York Times, requesting that Republicans, "release full transcripts of our firm's testimony" and further wrote that, "the Steele dossier was not the trigger for the F.B.I.'s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp." Ken Dilanian of NBC News stated that a "source close to Fusion GPS" told him that the FBI had not planted anyone in the Trump camp, but rather that Simpson was referring to George Papadopoulos.
On January 5, 2018, in the first known Congressional criminal referral resulting from investigations related to the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley made a referral to the Justice Department suggesting that they investigate possible criminal charges against Christopher Steele for allegedly making false statements to the FBI about the distribution of the dossier's claims, specifically possible "inconsistencies" in what Steele told authorities and "possibly lying to FBI officials". Senator Lindsey Graham also signed the letter. Both Grassley and Graham declared that they were not alleging that Steele "had committed any crime. Rather, they had passed on the information for 'further investigation only'." The referral was met with skepticism from legal experts, as well as some of the other Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary committee, who had reportedly not been consulted.
On January 8, 2018, a spokesman for Grassley said he did not plan to release the transcript of Simpson's August 22, 2017 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The next day, Ranking Committee Member Senator Dianne Feinstein unilaterally released the transcript.
On January 18, 2018, the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released the transcript of the Glenn Simpson Testimony given on November 14, 2017. Democratic committee member Adam Schiff stated that the testimony contains "serious allegations that The Trump Organization may have engaged in money laundering with Russian nationals". Trump Organization's chief counsel Alan Garten called the allegations "unsubstantiated" and "reckless", and said that Simpson was mainly referring to properties to which Trump licensed his name. Democratic member Jim Himes said that Simpson "did not provide evidence and I think that's an important point. He made allegations."
On February 2, 2018, the Nunes memo, a four-page memorandum written for U.S. Representative Devin Nunes by his staff, was released to the public. The memo alleges that the FBI "may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources" to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant in October 2016 and in three subsequent renewals on Trump adviser Carter Page in the early phases of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Republican legislators argued that the memo presents evidence that a group of politically-biased FBI employees abused the FISA warrant process for the purpose of undermining the Donald Trump presidency. The Nunes memo alleged that there was excessive and improper dependence on the Trump–Russia dossier.
On February 3, 2018, Trump praised the Nunes memo and tweeted:
Donald J. Trump✓ via Twitter @realDonaldTrump
This memo totally vindicates "Trump" in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!
3 Feb 2018
"There is a Russia investigation without a dossier," Gowdy said. "So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there's going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier."
Glenn Kessler, a fact checker for The Washington Post, has analyzed an accusation made by Devin Nunes in a February 7, 2018, interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show: "The truth is that they [Democrats] are covering up that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump to feed it to the FBI to open up an investigation into the other campaign." Kessler's "Pinocchio Test" rating was: "[T]here is no evidence that Clinton was involved in Steele's reports or worked with Russian entities to feed information to Steele. That's where Nunes's claim goes off the rails—and why he earns Four Pinocchios." "Four Pinocchios" equals a "Whopper" (outright lie).
Litigation against BuzzFeed
Aleksej Gubarev, chief of technology company XBT and a figure mentioned in the dossier, sued BuzzFeed for defamation on February 3, 2017. The suit, filed in a Broward County, Florida court, centers on allegations from the dossier that XBT had been "using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct 'altering operations' against the Democratic Party leadership". In the High Court of Justice, Steele's lawyers said their client did not intend for the memos to be released, and that one of the memos "needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified". In response to the lawsuit, Buzzfeed hired the business advisory firm FTI Consulting to investigate the dossier's allegations. BuzzFeed has sued the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to force the disclosure of information it believes will bolster its defense against libel allegations.
Suspicious death of Oleg Erovinkin
On December 26, 2016, Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB/FSB general, was found dead in his car in Moscow. Erovinkin was a key liaison between Igor Sechin, head of state-owned oil company Rosneft, and President Putin. Steele claimed much of the information came from a source close to Sechin. According to Christo Grozev, a journalist at Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria, the circumstances of Erovinkin's death were "mysterious". Grozev suspected Erovinkin helped Steele compile the dossier on Trump and suggests the hypothesis that the death may have been part of a cover-up by the Russian government. Mark Galeotti, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, who specializes in Russian history and security, rejected Grozev's hypothesis. According to Luke Harding, Steele denied that Erovinkin was his direct source, but "the information could nonetheless have originated with Erovinkin" and he would be held responsible for the leak as one of the heads of Rosneft’s administration in charge of security 
Reactions to specific allegations
Allegation of collusion with Russia
Foreign Policy commented: "The most important question the dossier raises is whether Trump colluded with Russia in its interference in the U.S. presidential election. That is crucial not just because it might constitute treason, but because if it did occur, that alone would amount to kompromat. Forget the prostitutes. If Trump and the Kremlin worked together, that fact alone gives Putin something with which to pressure Trump to act in Russia's interest."
Allegation of Rosneft deal
The allegation of a 19% privatized stake in Rosneft, in exchange for lifting sanctions and dropping "Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue", has been described by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen in Newsweek as a quid pro quo deal that "colloquially, if not in the legal sense,... is called treason". In Paste, Jacob Weindling described this deal as a "potential scandal so big, words don't exist to convey it." He further stated: "I want to take a moment to stress this potential revelation. In exchange for dropping sanctions that were levied for invading an ally [Ukraine], the president of the United States would receive a personal stake in a Russian oil company. Treason doesn't even begin to describe it."
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