Earlier this month Attorney General William Barr appointed prosecutor John Durham to look into the FBI’s investigation of the Trump administration in 2016. Today, Reuters reports that one of the people Durham would want to talk to about that investigation is refusing to cooperate:
The former British spy who produced a dossier describing alleged links between Donald Trump and Russia will not cooperate with a prosecutor assigned by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to review how the investigations of Trump and his 2016 election campaign began, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
Christopher Steele, a former Russia expert for the British spy agency MI6, will not answer questions from prosecutor John Durham, named by Barr to examine the origins of the investigations into Trump and his campaign team, said the source close to Steele’s London-based private investigation firm, Orbis Business Intelligence…
The source close to Steele’s company said Steele would not cooperate with Durham’s probe but might cooperate with a parallel inquiry by the Justice Department’s Inspector General into how U.S. law enforcement agencies handled pre-election investigations into both Trump and Clinton.
That last paragraph is a bit confusing. Steele “might cooperate” with the IG probe? We’ve already heard rumors that the IG probe takes aim at Steele and his dossier. That probe is allegedly all but finished and will be released in the next couple of weeks. If so, isn’t it a bit late to announce you might cooperate with that investigation? By this point, either you have or you haven’t.
In April, the NY Times published a story acknowledging that a lot of the major claims made in the Steele dossier didn’t pan out. Most importantly, the bit about Trump colluding with Russia for a number of years was false. And that led the Times to suggest one of two possibilities for why the dossier was off the mark. Possibility one, the report was full of hearsay and people along the chain misheard or added to what they were told. But the really interesting possibility was possibility two: Maybe the dossier was full of garbage because it was part of a Russian disinformation campaign:
Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.
Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said…
Last year, in a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Buzzfeed, Mr. Steele emphasized that his reports consisted of unverified intelligence. Asked whether he took into account that some claims might be Russian fabrications, he replied, “Yes.”
But even though Steele claims his dossier was raw intelligence which he knows might have contained disinformation, he still did his best to get its most serious accusations published in the Washington Post and the NY Times prior to the election. They turned him down but Mother Jones magazine did not. That site published an article playing up the allegations, complete with quotes from Steele himself, in October 2016. Steele was also doing his best to run the dossier up the chain at the FBI and at the State Department where he told Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec that his client was in a hurry to see the information get out before the election:
Steele’s client “is keen to see this information come to light prior to November 8,” the date of the 2016 election, Kavalec wrote in a typed summary of her meeting with Steele and Tatyana Duran, a colleague from Steele’s Orbis Security firm.
This looks a lot like reckless partisanship rather than solid intelligence work. I suspect that’s why Steele isn’t eager to talk about any of this to an American prosecutor.