It is an infamous dossier that first raised questions about then-candidate Donald Trump and his ties to Russia. It was written by a one time MI6 British agent named Christopher Steele. And although he has tried very hard to prevent this from happening, a judge has recently allowed lawyers approval to question him.
U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has put the British spy another step closer to being interviewed by lawyers in a libel suit initiated by Webzilla CEO Aleksej Gubarev against Buzzfeed, the first media outlet to publish the dossier prepared by Steele. In this dossier, it was alleged that the Trump campaign team plotted with Russian agents.
The proposed interview with Steele is now part of a growing effort to break the secrecy around the dossier. The 35-page document contains multiple unverified allegations, some of which have already been discredited. The file gives details about several Trump associates and their ties with Russian operatives.
“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out,” Trump said defending his team.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stated that he wants to find out more about the dossier and how it began to be investigated. “We are interested in the history of the dossier, including how it was funded, compiled and how it was used,” a Grassley aide said.
“There’s certainly plenty of evidence that Russia worked to interfere with our democratic process … but allegations that the Trump campaign was involved stem largely from the contents of a salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier, whose creation was overseen by Fusion GPS for political purposes,” another Republican Judiciary Committee aide said. “Reports that the FBI then used the dossier as a roadmap for its investigation, attempted to hire the former British spy who was compiling it, and may have relied on it to obtain exclusive surveillance authority raises significant oversight and civil liberties concerns that warrant scrutiny,” the aide continued.
CEO Aleksej Gubarev’s name appeared In the dossier published by Buzzfeed. It alleges that he had been recruited under duress by Russian agents so that his company could participate in transmitting viruses, planting bugs, stealing data and conducting “altering operations against the Democratic Party leadership” during the 2016 elections. Gubarev has vehemently denied all of those claims.
Gubarev’s lawsuit is in the spotlight because his lawyers have stated they want to ask Steele – a former British intelligence officer stationed in Moscow – to identify the sources he relied upon to prepare the dossier.
Gubarev’s lawyer rejects the notion that his client is a surrogate for the Kremlin and that he is trying to use the U.S. courts to unmask the identities of Steele’s Russian sources.
“It’s clear that we’re not acting on behalf of the Russians,” Gubarev’s lawyer told ABC news. “We are acting on behalf of a businessman who has less ties, frankly, with Russia than he does with the United States. Forty percent of his business comes from the United States. This is not a relationship that a sane person would ever mess with.”
Steele’s attorney has already told the court that he shared his findings with a representative of Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain released a statement in January saying he then “delivered the information to the director of the FBI,” because he had been unable to assess the accuracy of the claims on his own. “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”
The funding of Steele’s research for the dossier is still a mystery. British court records have identified the clients as a Republican opponent of Trump and a Democratic fundraiser. The Judiciary Committee does not believe that it will be revealed who the clients are because customer relationships are confidential.
So it remains to be seen whether getting answers from the former British spy will ever come to fruition and be productive.
Credit: ABC News