New details are emerging about the FBI’s arrangement with the former British spy who compiled the infamous opposition research dossier on Donald Trump.
According to The New York Times, FBI agents met in early October with the former spy, Christopher Steele, to discuss his future work on the dossier. Steele had started compiling research in June on Trump’s potential ties to Russia. He was working for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was a client of an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
The Times reports that Steele and the FBI settled on a $50,000 payout if the ex-MI6 agent could corroborate information contained in his dossier.
As The Times notes, the payment was never made, perhaps suggesting that Steele was not able to confirm information in his memos.
Mr. Steele met his F.B.I. contact in Rome in early October, bringing a stack of new intelligence reports. One, dated Sept. 14, said that Mr. Putin was facing “fallout” over his apparent involvement in the D.N.C. hack and was receiving “conflicting advice” on what to do.
The agent said that, if Mr. Steele could get solid corroboration of his reports, the F.B.I. would pay him $50,000 for his efforts, according to two people familiar with the offer. Ultimately, he was not paid.
The report raises questions about the degree of confidence that the FBI had in the dossier. And that level of confidence is important because the FBI reportedly relied on the dossier in a September application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
A Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court judge granted that warrant, meaning that the court agreed there was probable cause to believe that Page was working as an agent of the Russian government.
A July 19 memo from Steele’s dossier alleges that the Trump campaign used Page as an intermediary in a “well-developed conspiracy” to help Trump during the election. The source of that claim has since been identified as Sergei Millian, a Belarusian-American businessman who has a history of exaggerating his business ties. (RELATED: Alleged Trump Dossier Source Has History Of Overstating Business Ties)
Another July 19 memo from the dossier alleges that Page, a low-level adviser on the campaign who never met Trump, met secretly with Kremlin officials and Igor Sechin, the president of Russian oil giant Rosneft, to discuss relaxing Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.
Page, an energy consultant, has denied having the secret meeting and says he has never met Sechin.
One question that the Times report raises is whether the FBI wanted Steele to get “solid corroboration” of all of his reports or just some of them. Many of Steele’s memos do not refer to the Trump campaign. Instead, they discuss internal Kremlin deliberations about meddling in the election. (RELATED: FBI Relied On Dossier To Obtain FISA Warrant On Carter Page)
The Washington Post last month broke the news that the FBI made an informal agreement with Steele, who runs Orbis Business Intelligence in London.
The Post’s report says that the agreement between Steele and the bureau fizzled out because the dossier “became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.”
Despite that claim, Steele’s dossier was not publicly revealed for several months after his FBI agreement. The document was not published until Jan. 10 by BuzzFeed News. Steele’s last memo for the dossier is dated Dec. 13.
That memo makes several claims that are now the subject of a lawsuit against BuzzFeed. The memo alleges that a Russian tech executive named Aleksej Gubarev operated a computer hacking network that targeted Democrats during the election. Gubarev denies the claim and is suing BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier with his name in it.