Former British spy Christopher Steele defended his anti-Trump dossier at a private event at Oxford University on Friday, in his first public remarks about the salacious document in the three-plus-years since it was published.
“I stand by the integrity of our work, our sources and what we did,” Steele said at the Oxford Student Union.
Steele’s glowing self-assessment is in stark contrast to the findings of the special counsel’s investigation and a Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s information to obtain four warrants to wiretap Page. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) blasted the FBI in the wake of the inspector general’s report, accusing the bureau of submitting false and misleading information related to Page, Steele, and the dossier.
The report found that the FBI was unable to corroborate Steele’s allegations regarding Page or other Trump associates. It also said that Steele’s only direct source for information disputed much of what was in the dossier.
The Steele source’s interviews with the FBI in early 2017 “raised doubts about the reliability of Steele’s descriptions of information in his election reports,” according to the report.
The special counsel’s probe also found no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, as Steele alleged in the dossier.
Those findings appear not to have deterred Steele, a former MI6 officer, from doubling down on his most infamous project.
“Trump himself doesn’t like intelligence because its ground truth is inconvenient for him,” Steele said at the Oxford event, which was closed to the public.
“The reality check is that Russia is a hostile state as it is run at the moment, it is out to destabilize the West and it is nefarious in the way it goes about its business.”
Steele had not until Friday spoken publicly about the dossier, BuzzFeed News published Jan. 10, 2017, though he has issued several statements through attorneys and his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, defending the dossier.
Steele’s lawyers issued a statement Dec. 10, 2019, criticizing the inspector general’s report and suggesting that Steele’s primary dossier source gave false information to the FBI. Steele’s attorneys said that he “meticulously recorded” the source. The attorneys have not responded to requests for further information from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The founders of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that hired Steele on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign, have spoken out publicly to defend Steele and the dossier.
Steele said in the dossier that Page was part of the Trump campaign’s “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government. The dossier also alleges that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials to discuss paying off computer hackers.
The special counsel’s report and inspector general’s report poured cold water on both allegations. The reports said Cohen never visited Prague. The special counsel also found no evidence that any Trump associates conspired with Russians or acted as agents of Russia.
Steele himself indicated to his FBI contacts before the 2016 election that a sub-source for the dossier was unreliable. The inspector general’s report said that Steele told the FBI that the sub-source was a “boaster” and “egotist.”