Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier
The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.
Why it matters: The FBI drew on former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.
- Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in 2019 that while Steele's report didn't play any role in the FBI's opening of its investigation, it was a key factor in the surveillance of one Trump campaign adviser, and the bureau had fallen short in ensuring that details in the dossier were accurate.
- But in his first on-camera interview since the dossier was revealed in 2017, Steele told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos: "I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it."
Of note: Steele said in the documentary, "Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier," that he did not accept findings by Mueller, the FBI and Horowitz that the dossier's claims that Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague were false.
- Stephanopoulos asked Steele why Cohen would continue to maintain that the claim was false despite turning on Trump after he was convicted and sentenced in 2018 over charges stemming from Mueller's probe.
- "I think it's so incriminating and demeaning," Steele said. "And the other reason is he might be scared of the consequences."
"I'm prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100%. I have yet to be convinced that that [the Cohen allegation] is one of them."— Steele
What else he's saying: While Mueller and Horowitz cast doubt on the veracity of salacious claims in the dossier about an alleged meeting between Trump and prostitutes at a Russia hotel, Steele said he believed a tape of this "probably" exists, but he "wouldn't put 100% certainty on it."
- When Stephanopoulos asked why such a tape had not been released, Steele replied: "I think the Russians felt they'd got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was President of the U.S."
- Steele told Stephanopoulos he decided to break his silence because "the problems we identified back in 2016 haven't gone away, and arguably have actually got worse, and I thought it was important to come and set the record straight."
Flashback: Research firm Fusion GPS commissioned Steele in 2015 to conduct opposition research for the conservative Washington Free Beacon. Steele's work was later funded by the Democratic National Committee.
- Mueller discovered more than 100 contacts among members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials and brought dozens of indictments for various crimes. Ultimately, he found insufficient evidence to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia's government to interfere in the election.
The other side: Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress and was released from federal prison last year due to the pandemic, tweeted Sunday that Steele's allegations about him had been "debunked by every one of our intelligence agencies."
- Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.