Anti-Trump Dossier Author Christopher Steele to be Grilled by Barr Investigators
Former British spy to meet with US authorities to answer questions on Russia probe origins
The author of the anti-Trump dossier of false claims about the president’s ties to Russia, former British spy Christopher Steele, will be grilled by investigators from the United States, according to reports.
Citing sources close to Steele on Tuesday, The Times (UK) reported that the 54-year-old ex-Mi5 agent is set to be interviewed in London by Attorney General William Barr's investigators within weeks.
The development comes as attention has returned to the dossier authored by Steele -- especially since its more sensational claims were not substantiated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose report found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
The newspaper did not specifically say who Steele would be interviewed by, although investigations into the Russia Probe origins are being led by "bulldog" prosecutor John Durham.
There are several ongoing investigations in the U.S. related to the origins of the Russia Probe, and federal investigators are probing how the Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier written by Steele was used to secure surveillance warrants for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016.
According to the Daily Caller, Steele’s decision is an apparent about-face from his reported refusal to meet with U.S. investigators regarding his infamous report.
Reuters reported in May that Steele was unwilling to meet with a federal prosecutor who Attorney General William Barr tapped to lead an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.
And Politico reported on April 17 that Steele was refusing to meet with the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general, which is looking into the FBI’s use of the dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.
Steele alleged in the dossier that the Trump campaign was part of a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
He also reported that the Kremlin was blackmailing President Donald Trump with video of him with prostitutes in Moscow in 2016.
Those allegations have been all but debunked by the special counsel’s investigation, which was unable to find a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin to influence the election.
Steele, who worked indirectly for the Clinton campaign and DNC, was interviewed by the special counsel twice in 2017 but has rebuffed congressional requests for in-person interviews.
He has largely avoided public view since BuzzFeed published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.
He backed out of appearing at a national security event that was to be held in Baltimore in early March.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, is reportedly investigating the FBI’s use of Steele as a confidential informant.
Steele first provided information to an FBI agent based in Rome on July 5, 2016. He met with FBI agents at other points before the election, as well as with members of the media, State Department and Justice Department officials.
The FBI cut ties with Steele on Oct. 31, 2016, after an article appeared which quoted Steele anonymously as a source speaking about his investigation of Trump.
But investigators re-established contact with Steele weeks after the election.
They tapped Justice Department official Bruce Ohr to serve as a back channel of sorts between Steele and the FBI.
Barr, the attorney general, has also expressed interest in the provenance of the dossier.
He testified that he is concerned that the document is Russian disinformation. Steele, who worked in Russia for MI6 until his retirement in 2009, reportedly relied on a network of sources inside Russia to compile the dossier.
The report’s apparent inaccuracies have led some intelligence experts to call for an investigation into whether Kremlin operatives planted false information with Steele in order to smear Trump.
Steele’s intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, did not respond to a request for comment.