FBI once planned to pay Steele
Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, WaPo, Feb 28 2017
The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement. The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as Pindosi intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating the hacks of the DNC + Podesta email accounts. While Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation. Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. At the time of the October agreement, FBI officials probing Russian activities, including possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian entities, were aware of the information that Steele had been gathering while working for a Washington research firm hired by supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the people familiar with the agreement. The firm was due to stop paying Steele as Election Day approached, but Steele felt his work was not done, these people said.
Steele was familiar to the FBI, in part because the bureau had previously hired him to help a Pindo inquiry into alleged corruption in the world soccer organization FIFA. The FBI sometimes pays informants, sources and outside investigators to assist in its work. Steele was known for the quality of his past work and for the knowledge he had developed over nearly 20 years working on Russia-related issues for British intelligence. The WaPo was not able to determine how much the FBI intended to pay Steele had their relationship remained intact. The dossier he produced last year alleged, among other things, that associates of Trump colluded with the Kremlin on cyber-attacks on Demagogs and that the Russians held compromising material about him. These and other explosive claims have not been verified, and they have been vigorously denied by Trump and his allies. The FBI, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, is investigating Russian interference in the election and alleged contacts between Trump’s associates and the Kremlin. On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that he had seen “no evidence so far” of Trump campaign contacts with Russia but said a bipartisan House inquiry would proceed so that “no stone is unturned.” The revelation that the FBI agreed to pay Steele at the same time he was being paid by Clinton supporters to dig into Trump’s background could further strain relations between the FBI and the White House. Steele began his Trump ‘investigation’ in Jun 2016 after working for another client preparing a ‘report’ on ‘Russian efforts to interfere with politics in Europe.’ Pindosi intelligence had been independently ‘tracking Russian efforts to influence electoral outcomes in Europe.’ Steele was hired to work for a Washington ‘research’ firm, Fusion GPS, that was providing ‘information’ to a Demagog client (like Dave Brock – RB). Fusion GPS began doing Trump research in early 2016, before it hired Steele, on behalf of a Republican opposed to the businessman’s candidacy. The firm declined to identify its clients. Steele’s early reports alleged a plan directed by Putin to help Trump in 2016. Steele wrote in June:
Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years.
Steele’s information was provided by
an intermediary Walnuts McCain to the FBI and Pindo intel boxtops after the DNC in July, when hacked DNC + Podesta emails were first released by WikiLeaks. (According to Steele’s own deniable testimony to the WaPo, the following events then unfolded). After the convention, Steele contacted a friend in the FBI to personally explain what he had found. As summer turned to fall, Steele became concerned that the FBI was not taking the information he had uncovered seriously enough. In October, anticipating that funding supplied through the original client would dry up, Steele and the FBI reached a spoken understanding. He would continue his work looking at the Kremlin’s ties to Trump and receive compensation for his efforts. Steele’s frustration deepened when FBI Director Comey, who had been silent on the Russia inquiry, announced publicly 11 days before the election that the bureau was investigating a newly discovered cache of emails Clinton had exchanged using her private server. Steele’s frustration with the FBI peaked after an Oct 31 NYT story that cited FBI sources drawing conclusions that he considered premature. The article said that the FBI had not yet found any “conclusive or direct link” between Trump and the Russian government and that the Russian hacking was not intended to help Trump.(The end of Steele’s own deniable testimony to the WaPo – RB). After the election, the IC ‘concluded’ that Russia’s interference had been intended to assist Trump. In January, top intelligence and law enforcement officials briefed Trump and Obama on those ‘findings’. In addition, they provided a summary of the core allegations of Steele’s dossier. News of that briefing soon became public. Then BuzzFeed posted a copy of Steele’s salacious but unproven (sic – RB) dossier online, sparking outrage from Trump. Trump told reporters in January:
It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. It was a group of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap together.
He later tweeted that Steele was a “failed spy.” The development marked the end of the FBI’s relationship with Steele. After he was publicly identified by the WSJ as the dossier’s author, Steele went into hiding. Pindo boxtops took pains to stress that his report was not a Pindo government product and that it had not influenced their broader conclusions that the Russian government had hacked the emails of DNC + Podesta and released those emails with the intention of helping Trump win the presidency. DNI Clapper:
The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.
The owner of a technology company identified in Steele’s dossier as a participant in the hacks is now suing Steele and BuzzFeed for defamation. BuzzFeed apologized to the executive and blocked out his name in the published document. Comey spent almost two hours this month briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee. House Demagogs have informally reached out to Steele in recent weeks to ask about his willingness to testify or cooperate, according to people familiar with the requests. Steele has so far not responded, they said.