Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months
Kim Sengupta, Independent, Jan 14 2017
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who investigated Donald Trump’s alleged Kremlin links, was so worried by what he was discovering that at the end he was working without pay. He decided to pass on information to both British and Pindo intelligence boxtops after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries. However, he became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. It is believed that a colleague of his in Washington, former WSJ reporter Glenn Simpson who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and also continued with the Trump case without being paid. Fusion GPS had been hired by Republican opponents of Trump in Sep 2015. In Jun 2016, Steele came on the team. He was, and continues to be, highly regarded in the intelligence world. In July, when Trump won the Republican nomination, the Democrats became new employers of Steele and Fusion GPS. In the same month, Steele sent a memo to the FBI stating that Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later, Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. A month later, boxtops involved in his campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government. Steele claimed that the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking DNP emails. No evidence of this has been made public, but the same day that Trump spoke about Crimea, he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. By late July and early August, MI6 was also receiving information about Trump. By September, information to the FBI began to grow in volume. Steele compiled a set of his memos into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. But there seemed to be little progress in a proper inquiry into Trump. The FBI seemed to be devoting their resources to tracing Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions. The New York office, in particular, appeared to be on a crusade against her. Some of its agents had a long working relationship with Rudy Giuliani, by then a member of the Trump campaign, since his days as public prosecutor and then mayor of the city. As the election approached, FBI director Comey made public his bombshell letter saying that Clinton would face another email investigation. Two days before that, Giuliani, by then on the Trump team, said:
(We have) a surprise or two you’re going to hear about in the next few days. We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn things around”
After the letter was published, Giuliani claimed he had heard from current and former agents:
There’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI.
This ‘revolution’ was over the original decision not to charge Clinton. Comey had been forced by some of his agents to announce the reinvestigation. Democrats demanded an investigation into how Giuliani acquired this knowledge, without getting an answer. In October, a frustrated and demoralised Steele, while on a trip to New York, spoke about what he has discovered to David Corn of MoJo. There was a little flurry of interest that quickly died down. Trump’s surprise election victory came and the Democrats paying Steele and Johnson no longer needed them. But the pair continued with their work, hopeful that the wider investigation into Russian hacking in Pindostan would allow the Trump material to be properly examined. It was against this background that Walnuts McCain, who had been hearing with growing alarm reports about Trump and the Kremlin, met Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow, who had spent 10 years in Russia and is highly respected for his knowledge of Russian affairs, at a security conference in Halifax, Canada. Sir Andrew stressed to Walnuts that he had not read the dossier, but vouched for Steele’s professionalism and integrity. McCain sent an emissary to London who picked up the dossier from an intermediary acting for Steele. Walnuts then took the material to Comey. Trump and Obama were briefed about the allegations as part of a report into Russian hacking a week ago. Trump remained silent about them until they were published this week and then he angrily denounced them as lies. His spokesperson said he could not recall the briefing. Steele is now in hiding, under attack from some Tory MPs for supposedly trying to ruin the chances of the government building a fruitful relationship with the Trump administration. Some of them accuse him of being part of an anti-Brexit conspiracy. A right-wing tabloid has “outed” him as being a “confirmed socialist” while at university.