Declassified notes of the FBI’s interview with former British spy Christopher Steele show that he betrayed the FBI by leaking to the media at the direction of his client, Hillary Clinton, because the FBI had reopened the investigation into Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email server to conduct government work.
During the first hour of the interview on the first day, Steele was accompanied by his partner from Orbis Business Intelligence, Chris Burrows. Steele and Burrows apologized to the agents for leaking their dossier on President Donald Trump to the media. They decided to go ahead with the leak because then-FBI Director James Comey reopened the Clinton-email investigation. Hilary Clinton was Steele’s client for the dossier.
“STEELE explained that as the election season went on, they as the company were ‘riding two horses’—their client and the FBI—and after FBI Director James COMEY's reopening of the Hillary Clinton investigation, they had to pick ‘one horse’ and chose the business/client relationship over the relationship with the FBI,” the document states. “They followed what their client wanted, and they spoke to the press.”
Burrows told the bureau that he was concerned that the FBI never paid Orbis for the anti-Trump dossier.
The dossier played a crucial role in the FBI’s decision to apply for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, according to the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General. The warrant applications were riddled with significant errors and omissions, including one which has led to a guilty plea to a federal false statements charge by the FBI attorney involved.
Steele and Burrows told the FBI that they considered Trump their “main opponent.” Steele said he regretted speaking to Mother Jones about the dossier. The FBI terminated Steele as a source after discovering that he had leaked to the press. Steele said that after he was cut off from the FBI, he gave copies of the dossier to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) via an intermediary.
During the interview, Steele did not reveal the identity of the primary sub-source of the dossier. The man has since been identified as a Russian national who had been investigated by the FBI over his ties to Russian intelligence.
Steele told the agents that he was confident in the information he received from the primary sub-source. But in an interview with the FBI, the sub-source, Igor Danchenko, said that Steele often misrepresented his reporting, including by describing hyping up rumors he passed on as credible intelligence.
The newly declassified memo also reveals that Danchenko was introduced to Steele by Fiona Hill, the former State Department official who testified against Trump at the impeachment hearings. Hill had made the introduction in 2011, two years after the FBI began investigating Danchenko because he “may be a threat to national security.”
Hill told Steele that she was of a high opinion of Danchenko, according to the document. Hill and Danchenko had both worked at the Brookings Institution.