Ex-spy ad­mits claim in anti-Trump dossier un­ver­i­fied

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Christo­pher Steele, the ex-Bri­tish spy who wrote the in­fa­mous anti-Don­ald Trump dossier, ac­knowl­edges that a sen­sa­tional charge his sources made about a tech com­pany CEO and Demo­cratic Party hack­ing is un­ver­i­fied.

In a court fil­ing, Mr. Steele also says his al­le­ga­tions against the pres­i­dent and his aides about a sup­posed Rus­sian hack­ing con­spir­acy were never sup­posed to be made pub­lic, much less posted in full on a web­site for the world to see on Jan. 10.

He de­fends him­self by saying he was betrayed by his client, adding that he fol­lowed proper in­ter­nal chan­nels by giv­ing the dossier to Sen. John McCain to alert the U.S. govern­ment.

Mr. Steele has not talked pub­licly about his dis­puted op­po­si­tion re­search project, but for the first time he is be­ing forced to talk in a Lon­don court via his lawyers.

Bar­ris­ters for Mr. Steele and his Or­bis Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence firm filed their first de­fense against a

defama­tion law­suit brought by Alek­sej Gubarev, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the net­work so­lu­tions firm XBT Hold­ings.

Mr. Steele ac­knowl­edges that the part of the 35-page dossier that iden­ti­fied Mr. Gubarev as a rogue hacker came from “un­so­licited in­tel­li­gence” and “raw in­tel­li­gence” that “needed to be an­a­lyzed and fur­ther in­ves­ti­gated/ver­i­fied.”

Democrats in Washington have em­braced the un­proven dossier as an ar­gu­ment for ap­point­ing a high-pow­ered com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate Pres­i­dent Trump and his men.

In his fi­nal De­cem­ber dossier memo — his 16th — Mr. Steele ac­cused Mr. Gubarev and his web-host­ing com­pa­nies of hack­ing the Demo­cratic Party com­puter net­works with porn and bug­ging de­vices. Mr. Gubarev calls the charge fic­tion and filed suit in Fe­bru­ary.

Mr. Steele’s court fil­ing por­trays him as a vic­tim of Fu­sion GPS — the Washington, D.C., firm that hired him with money from a Hil­lary Clin­ton backer.

Fu­sion spe­cial­izes in op­po­si­tion re­search for Democrats and cir­cu­lated the Steele dossier among re­porters in an ef­fort to in­jure the Trump can­di­dacy and pres­i­dency. Mr. Steele said he never au­tho­rized Fu­sion to do that.

“The defendants did not … pro­vide any of the pre-elec­tion mem­o­randa to me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions or jour­nal­ists. Nor did they au­tho­rize any­one to do so,” Mr. Steele says through his lawyer. “Nor did they pro­vide the con­fi­den­tial De­cem­ber mem­o­ran­dum to me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions or jour­nal­ists. Nor did they au­tho­rize any­one to do so.”

“At all ma­te­rial times Fu­sion was sub­ject to an obli­ga­tion not to dis­close to third par­ties con­fi­den­tial in­tel­li­gence ma­te­rial pro­vided” by Mr. Steele and his firm Or­bis, the court fil­ing reads.

Mr. Steele says the ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with Buz­zFeed, the lib­eral news web­site whose edi­tor, Ben Smith, de­cided to post the en­tire 35 pages — memos from June to De­cem­ber — on Jan. 10 even though Mr. Smith said he doubted the far-flung al­le­ga­tions were true.

That mo­men­tous web post­ing sent Mr. Steele into hid­ing. He re-emerged March 7 in Lon­don, made a brief state­ment to the press and went inside his Or­bis of­fice.

The Steele dossier’s ma­jor charge is that the Trump cam­paign en­tered into an elab­o­rate con­spir­acy with Rus­sian agents to hack Demo­cratic Party com­put­ers.

The Trump White House de­nies the charge, as do at least four people ac­cused of law­break­ing by Mr. Steele’s un­named sources.

The fi­nal Steele memo in De­cem­ber tar­gets not only Mr. Gubarev but also Michael D. Co­hen, Mr. Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney.

That memo, af­ter ac­cus­ing Mr. Gubarev, then re­counts from pre­vi­ous memos a sup­posed trip Mr. Co­hen took to Prague in late Au­gust to meet with Rus­sian agents and de­vise a plan to cover up the pur­ported Trump team’s role in the hack­ing.

Mr. Co­hen calls the dossier “fab­ri­cated.” He has shown that he was in Cal­i­for­nia at the time and has never been to Prague. He told The Washington Times he has in­structed his own at­tor­neys to in­ves­ti­gate su­ing Mr. Steele.

The fact that Mr. Steele ac­knowl­edges that he put un­ver­i­fied “raw in­tel­li­gence” in his De­cem­ber memo casts fur­ther doubt on his re­search tech­niques for the en­tire 35-page dossier.

Although Mr. Steele por­trays him­self as a vic­tim of Fu­sion and Buz­zFeed, he ac­knowl­edges in his court fil­ing that he pro­vided “off the record brief­ings to a small num­ber of jour­nal­ists about the pre-elec­tion mem­o­randa in late summer/ au­tumn 2016.”

The nar­ra­tion of the in­volve­ment of Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Chair­man Mr. McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, a vo­cal critic of Pres­i­dent Trump, reads like a spy novel.

Sir An­drew Wood is a former Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Moscow and now is an as­so­ciate at the Or­bis firm. Af­ter the Nov. 8 elec­tion, Mr. Wood met with Mr. McCain and David J. Kramer, a former as­sis­tant secretary of state who is di­rec­tor of hu­man rights and democ­racy at The McCain In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Lead­er­ship at Ari­zona State Univer­sity. By that time Mr. Steele had writ­ten 15 memos for the dossier.

As a re­sult, Mr. Wood ar­ranged for Mr. Kramer to meet Mr. Steele “in or­der to show him the pre-elec­tion mem­o­randa on a con­fi­den­tial ba­sis,” the court fil­ing says. The meet­ing oc­curred on Nov. 28 in Sur­rey, Eng­land.

“Mr. Kramer told [Mr. Steele] the in­tel­li­gence he had gath­ered raised is­sues of po­ten­tial na­tional se­cu­rity im­por­tance,” the court fil­ing says.

Mr. Kramer re­turned to Washington, and Fu­sion agreed to give a hard copy of the dossier to Mr. McCain “on a con­fi­den­tial ba­sis via Mr. Kramer,” ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing.

Mr. McCain then asked Mr. Steele, through Mr. Kramer, to pro­vide any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion on Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cially has con­cluded that Rus­sia di­rected a hack­ing op­er­a­tion into Demo­cratic Party email servers and orchestrated the re­lease of stolen emails via Wik­iLeaks to help the Trump cam­paign.

Mr. McCain has con­firmed pub­licly that he per­son­ally turned over the dossier to FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey. But at that time, the FBI al­ready had ob­tained the dossier from other sources and had been us­ing it to in­ves­ti­gate the sup­posed Trump-Rus­sia con­nec­tion.

Af­ter­wards, Mr. Steele con­tin­ued to re­ceive “raw in­tel­li­gence,” in­clud­ing the Gubarev al­le­ga­tions. He then wrote the De­cem­ber memo af­ter his work for Fu­sion had ended.

He pro­vided that memo to Bri­tish na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and to Fu­sion through an “en­ci­phered email,” with in­struc­tions to pro­vide a copy to Mr. McCain.

The court fil­ing says Mr. Steele has worked with Fu­sion for “a num­ber of years” and was hired in June to be­gin in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Trump. June is the month that the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee dis­closed pub­licly it had been hacked, and its cy­ber­sleuths sin­gled out Rus­sia as the likely cul­prit.

Mr. Steele does not men­tion an­other Amer­i­can con­tact he made: The New York Times re­ported that the FBI, dur­ing an October meet­ing in Rome, of­fered him $50,000 to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Trump. Pre­sumedly, Mr. Steele would con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the pres­i­dent as a sur­ro­gate for the FBI. The deal, how­ever, did not go through.

Some Repub­li­cans have ques­tioned why the FBI would try to put a Demo­cratic-paid op­po­si­tion re­searcher on the pay­roll, es­pe­cially one who pro­duced a dossier that re­mains un­proven. The Times said the FBI wanted Mr. Steele to pro­vide more proof of his charges.

Mr. Gubarev also is su­ing Buz­zFeed for li­bel in Florida, where XBT has an of­fice and where his firm We­bzilla is in­cor­po­rated.

The law­suit calls Buz­zFeed’s post­ing “one of the most reck­less and ir­re­spon­si­ble mo­ments in mod­ern jour­nal­ism.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Christo­pher Steele ad­mit­ted hav­ing no proof Rus­sians hacked the Democrats.

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