Christopher Steele waded back into American politics on Friday as the British ex-spy’s private investigative firm rebuked criticism from President Trump and defended the Trump-Russia dossier.
“Yesterday @realDonaldTrump made false claims about us,” Steele’s company Orbis Business Intelligence tweeted on Friday morning. “He wildly exaggerated our fees and, contrary to his claims, we have never stated any of our reporting is ‘fake’. We stand by the integrity of our research on Kremlin interference in the 2016 election and support for Trump.”
During a lengthy impeachment acquittal victory-lap speech at the White House yesterday, Trump repeatedly criticized what he saw as politically motivated investigations against him. The president harshly criticized Steele, whose salacious and unverified dossier was used extensively by the FBI and the Department of Justice to obtain surveillance warrants against Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
“Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid for, millions of dollars, the fake dossier,” Trump claimed. “And now, Christopher Steele admits that its a fake because he got sued by rich people. I should’ve sued him too, but when you’re president, people don’t like you suing.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation was deeply flawed. The DOJ watchdog criticized the DOJ and the FBI for 17 ” significant errors and omissions” related to its spy court surveillance of Page.
Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn was hired by the Clinton campaign and the DNC through Democratic powerhouse attorney Marc Elias and his Perkins Coie law firm. Perkins Coie was paid more than $12 million between 2016 and 2017 for its work representing Clinton and the DNC. 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 ” invalid.” Meanwhile, the FBI told the court it planned to ” sequester” all the information obtained through the Page FISAs.
Horowitz’s report criticized Steele directly, noting 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.”
The FISA Court ordered a review of all FISA filings handled by Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI lawyer who altered a key document about Page while seeking to renew the third warrant. He is now under criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham, a Connecticut prosecutor who was tasked by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Russia inquiry.
“So we had a campaign — little did we know we were running against some very, very bad and evil people with fake dossiers, with all of these horrible, dirty cops that took these dossiers and did bad things,” Trump said Thursday.
Steele’s company disputed the charge.
“For a detailed, balanced assessment” of its 2016 work, Steele’s company directed its Twitter followers to a 2017 article by former CIA officer John Sipher and a 2018 piece by former senior FBI offer Chuck Rosenberg, both written before Horowitz finished his investigation.
The DOJ’s watchdog made it clear that the FBI could not confirm any of Steele’s central claims about Page while relying upon the dossier.
“We determined that prior to and during the pendency of the FISAs the FBI was unable to corroborate any of the specific substantive allegations against Carter Page contained in the election reporting and relied on the FISA applications, and was only able to confirm the accuracy of a limited number of circumstantial facts, most of which were in the public domain,” Horowitz concluded.