British ex-spy Christopher Steele defended his dossier, though a Justice Department watchdog group found flaws in the research and in how the DOJ and the FBI used it.
Arthur Snell, managing director for Steele’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence, this week penned a letter to the editor titled “Trump-Russia Dossier Was Valid,” published in the United Kingdom’s the Sunday Times. It was in response to an article last month about a newly released analysis by British author Rupert Allason, who goes by the pen name Nigel West, who concluded, “There is also a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated.”
“Steele and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, firmly reject this,” Snell said. “We stand by the integrity and quality of our work.”
Snell claimed Steele and others at Orbis “have been close allies of America for more than three decades” and that “this has not been changed by the dossier.” He claimed Steele reported his salacious and unverified findings to the FBI “solely to assist” the bureau.
“Thereafter Orbis has co-operated extensively with serious U.S. investigations on Russian interference in U.S. elections, with the approval of the U.K. authorities,” Snell wrote. “This hardly suggests, as your article contends, that our actions have damaged the UK-US intelligence relationship.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December that the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation was flawed. The watchdog criticized the DOJ and the FBI for 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the surveillance of Carter Page.
Steele was hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through Democratic powerhouse attorney Marc Elias and the Perkins Coie law firm. Perkins Coie was paid more than $12 million between 2016 and 2017 for its work. Fusion GPS was paid $50,000 per month from Perkins Coie, and Steele was paid roughly $168,000 by Fusion GPS.
Following Horowitz’s report, the DOJ told the FISA court it believed the final two Page FISA warrants were “not valid.“ The FBI told the court it planned to “sequester” all the information obtained through the Page FISAs.
The report noted that FBI meetings with Steele’s sources “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting,” and bureau officials said Steele “may have some judgment problems.” The CIA referred to Steele’s dossier as “internet rumor.”
Steele’s dossier alleged there was a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership.”
Mueller’s report stated, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Allason’s nine-page analysis, done at the behest of a yet-unnamed D.C. Republican lawyer, concluded, “The dossier, as a whole, is profoundly troubling and cannot be taken at face value.”
Snell told the Sunday Times, “You ignore more recent assessments of Steele’s work by intelligence professionals such as John Sipher, Chuck Rosenberg, and Anthony Ferrante.”
Sipher, a former CIA officer, wrote in September 2017 that “the dossier is by no means a useless document” and “presents a coherent narrative of collusion.” He said in 2018 that “the dossier had a whiff of authenticity” and that Trump’s actions, along with leaks, “have added a bit more credibility to the dossier.” In December, Sipher insisted that “unverified doesn’t mean all wrong.”
Rosenberg, a former senior FBI official, claimed in December 2018 that “the dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.” He appeared on MSNBC and said that “big parts of it are holding up.”
Ferrante, who worked as a cybersecurity adviser on the National Security Council, left the White House in April 2017, joining FTI Consulting. Ferrante was hired by BuzzFeed, and the firm was paid $4.1 million to try to corroborate the claims about Trump’s ties to Russia in Steele’s research.
Ferrante compiled a report filed in federal court in a lawsuit over the dossier’s publication, finding that internet service providers mentioned in the dossier that were owned by Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev may have been used by Russian agents to support the hack of the DNC in 2016. But, unlike Steele’s dossier, Ferrante’s report did not directly link Gubarev or his executives to the hack.
“I have no evidence of them actually sitting behind a keyboard,” Ferrante said in a deposition.