The former British spy hired to compile a compromising intelligence on President-elect Donald Trump did not set foot in Russia to compile his 35-page dossier.
Fusion GPS — a Washington, D.C.-based firm — hired Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s past dealings in Russia. Steele is a former MI6 agent who was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s. A GOP donor who opposed Trump hired Fusion GPS in 2015, but Hillary Clinton supporters took over financing the research after Trump won the Republican primary.
Steele’s dossier claims Russian intelligence agents collected “compromising” information that could be used to influence Trump, including alleged tapes of the real estate mogul cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.
The dossier also claimed Russian intelligence had contact with the Trump campaign to discuss things, like the hacking of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s Gmail account. The dossier claims Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met with Russian official Oleg Solodukhin in Prague over the summer.
Steele, however, never actually set foot in Russia during his investigation from June to December. The New York Times reported:
“As a former spy who had carried out espionage inside Russia, Mr. Steele was in no position to travel to Moscow to study Mr. Trump’s connections there. Instead, he hired native Russian speakers to call informants inside Russia and made surreptitious contact with his own connections in the country as well.”
Steele and Fusion GPS shopped the dossier around several media outlets and the memos ended up with the FBI by late fall. The dossier was included in a recent briefing intelligence officials gave to Trump and President Obama.
That prompted CNN to publish the existence of the dossier, though they noted the documents were unsubstantiated. Buzzfeed, however, posted the full dossier online prompting outrage from the Trump campaign.
Trump called Buzzfeed “a failing pile of garbage” in a Wednesday press conference, before he turned his attention to CNN. He refused to field questions from CNN reporter Jim Acostato, calling them “fake news.”
Intelligence officials have still not verified the authenticity of Steele’s dossier, and the former British spy has gone into hiding.
In another wrinkle, Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, says he never actually went to Prague. It turns out, intelligence officials told CNN it may have been a completely different Michael Cohen.
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