Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, best known for authoring the infamous anti-Trump dossier, has reached a deal with U.S. officials to answer questions about his work for the FBI, according to The Times of London.
The Times, citing a source close to Steele, reported that the former spy will meet with U.S. officials in London in the coming weeks.
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for Steele’s dossier via a law firm during the 2016 presidential campaign. The FBI used the dossier to obtain a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Top FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) officials signed off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to spy on Page, despite evidence that Steele’s dossier was unverified and that the former British spy was biased against Trump. The FISA application omitted the fact that the Clinton campaign funded the dossier, as well as exculpatory details of Page’s assistance to the FBI.
The DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is close to completing an inquiry into the FBI’s handling of the FISA process and whether improper political considerations played into the bureau’s surveillance of Page. Steele agreed to speak to the inspector general after learning that the soon-to-be-released OIG report is critical of him and his credibility.
A source close to Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele’s firm, told the Times that the former spy will retain a U.S. lawyer for the interview. Steele has limited the scope of the questioning to his work for the FBI. Steele also asked the DOJ to obtain permission from British officials before the interview.
An anonymous senior government source told the Times that there was no request to interview Steele. Whether to testify or not would be Steele’s decision, since he is no longer in government service, the source added.
Steele paid second- and third-hand sources with ties to the Kremlin for the raw intelligence he included in his report. None of the claims in the report that are damaging to Trump or his associates have been verified, despite yearslong investigations by the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and Congress.
In UK court filings, Steele has admitted that he was hired to produce a dossier that his client could use to challenge the results of the 2016 presidential election. According to State Department documents declassified through a Freedom of Information Act request, Steele told State Department official Kathleen Kavalec that his client was eager to see the dossier become public before the 2016 election.
The Times also reports that Steele’s dossier “led to an FBI inquiry” of the Trump campaign, which later evolved into the special counsel investigation. The newspaper doesn’t provide a source for the claim, which is different from the FBI’s official narrative that the investigation of the Trump campaign began based on comments by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
According to the FBI’s current narrative, as laid out in the final report by Mueller, the bureau opened the investigation into the Trump campaign after learning that Papadopoulos told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton, in the form of thousands of emails.
In addition to being paid to produce the dossier by Fusion GPS, the opposition research company hired by Clinton’s law firm, Steele was a paid contractor for the FBI. The bureau terminated Steele after learning that he was giving news media the same information he was giving to the FBI, in violation of the rules for confidential human sources.
The inspector general is reviewing the FBI’s confidential human sources program as part of a separate inquiry.