Author of Infamous Steele Dossier Claims Putin May Have Served Him Tea
12:12 GMT 23.10.2021 (Updated: 12:28 GMT 23.10.2021)
© Sputnik / Михаил КлиментьевVladimir Putin drinking tea. File photo.
© Sputnik / Михаил Климентьев/
In 2016, former MI6 officer Christopher Steele put together an opposition research report containing a series of salacious and sensational claims targeting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia. The dossier, which helped launch the Russiagate conspiracy, was later discredited as a fabrication from start to finish.
Christopher Steele has claimed that he may have met Vladimir Putin, and said that the future Russian president may have poured him a cup of tea while the spy was on assignment in St. Petersburg in 1992.
“It’s possible he even served me a couple of tea, although hopefully not with poison in it,” Steele said, speaking to Sky News in an interview published Saturday.
The ‘poison tea’ comment was a likely reference to the debunked claim that Russia’s security services killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 by spiking his beverage with a deadly radioactive substance.
Steele, who worked in the British Embassy in Moscow between 1990 and 1993, also recalled meeting Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, after organising a meeting between the Soviet president and then-British Prime Minister John Major.
“I was waiting outside with the cars. And somehow Mr. Gorbachev, who was at that point the most famous person in the world, I would say, appeared by the cars without my ministers. The whole world’s press was there and I was left to talk to him,” Steele said. “He asked me what I did in the Embassy, and I said that I kept a close eye on him and he thought that was funny.”
Steele also recalled an encounter he allegedly had with future British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while in university, saying Johnson, an Oxford man, headed a debate team during a visit to Cambridge, where Steele was studying social and political studies, and served as president of the Cambridge Union. Remembering his impression of the future Tory politician at the time, the ex-spy said that “not entirely sober was my recollection”.
“I do remember it was particularly rowdy that night and I had to intervene quite a lot from the chair to keep order in the chamber,” Steele added.
Commenting on the infamous Trump-Russia dossier that made him famous, Steele insisted that the claims made within were real. “I think the vast majority of it is real. I think it’s largely accurate. I mean if you were to say to me, is every crossed t and dotted i right, the answer is probably ‘no’. That’s very typical of intelligence work. What matters is that the main thrusts of it are right, and the majority of the details is right,” he said.
Asked about the credibility of his sources, Steele stressed he was “pretty confident that the majority of the sources were highly reliable, and others were certainly moderately to highly reliable, which is a good position to be in when you’re doing intelligence work”.
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16 October 2021, 15:24 GMT
In 2016, Christopher Steele’s private intelligence company compiled an opposition research dossier for the Hillary Clinton campaign, alleging that Russian intelligence had amassed compromising information on Donald Trump, including an alleged ‘pee tape’ of Trump partying with a pair of Russian prostitutes who urinated on a hotel bed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow in 2013. The report was eventually leaked to the press, and in 2017, Steele was outed as its author.
Along with the “pee tape” claims, the 17-memo dossier alleged that there was an “extensive conspiracy between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin,” that Trump jointly funded hacking teams seeking to sabotage the election with Russia, that the hacking was funded in part by the Russian Embassy in Washington, that the Trump campaign secretly received anti-Democratic Party intelligence from the Kremlin, that Moscow told Mr. Trump it had incriminating evidence on him, and that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pad secretly travelled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Putin aides to try to cover up the election conspiracy.
All of these allegations and a host of others were debunked by the Mueller report, the comprehensive three-year probe into suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election, and alleged collusion between the Kremlin and Trump. The 400+ page report found no such evidence of a conspiracy, and suggested that alleged Russian meddling was limited to bot and troll campaigns on social media – the scale of which US tech companies later admitted were insignificant.
Notwithstanding its outlandish and debunked claims, the dossier ended up assisting the FBI in launching its secret investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016, with the agency using it for at least one wiretap against a Trump associate, even as other intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence, “expressed concerns” about the document’s sourcing.
Steele later admitted that there was “a chance” that Russian intelligence may have deliberately fed him disinformation, while maintaining that this was “very unlikely.” In 2019, former Trump Russia aide and Ukraine impeachment witness Fiona Hill told Congress behind closed doors that the dossier was “very likely” bogus.
A separate 2019 probe by the Department of Justice concluded that one of Steele’s key sources was a “boaster” who might be inclined toward “embellishment” of information, while an FBI investigation found that a key source was a businessman spreading “word of mouth and hearsay,” with the “pee tape” specifically being nothing but “rumour and speculation” retold “in jest.”
This week, Steele gave a separate interview to ABC News, insisting that he continues to “stand by the work” he did, his sources and “professionalism”.
18 October 2021, 13:51 GMT
Notwithstanding revelations that his report was essentially a fabrication from start to finish, and the fact that the dossier helped to damage Russia-US relations and start US intelligence agencies off on a wild goose chase, Steele has never been held legally accountable for his work.