Investigators in the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller met this summer with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous and uncorroborated Trump dossier.
The report, from CNN, indicates that Mueller’s team of investigators are fully vetting the dossier, which Steele compiled after being hired last June by an opposition research firm hired by an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
According to CNN, the U.S. intelligence community, including the FBI, took Steele’s dossier more seriously than has been acknowledged in public.
The 35-page dossier, which was made public when BuzzFeed published it in January, alleges that members of the Trump campaign directly colluded with Russian operatives before the election. It also claims that the Kremlin used blackmail material against Trump.
Trump and others named in the dossier have vehemently denied the allegations, and some inconsistencies have appeared in the document.
It has been unclear how deeply investigators relied on the dossier, though the FBI reportedly cited the document in an application for a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Page is accused in the dossier of serving as the Trump campaign’s middleman to Kremlin operatives, a charge he has strongly denied.
The revelation that Steele met with Mueller’s team comes a day after the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed frustration that the former MI6 agent had refused to meet with the panel as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the campaign.
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the committee, said on Wednesday that investigators had “hit a wall” regarding the dossier because of Steele’s reluctance to discuss the document. Burr said that the committee was unable to assess the credibility of the dossier without talking to Steele, who operates a private intelligence firm in London. (RELATED: Senate Intel Committee Doesn’t Know If Steele Dossier Is Credible)
Steele relied on paid sources to obtain the information in the dossier, which consists of 17 memos dated between June 20 and Dec. 13.
CNN’s new report about the meeting with Steele contains a new insight into how the CIA relied on the dossier. And the report could undercut a claim made by former CIA Director John Brennan during a House Intelligence Committee hearing back in May.
According to CNN, “the intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele’s research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.”
But during a May 23 hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Brennan said that he had little knowledge of the dossier and denied that the CIA relied on it.
Do you know if the FBI paid for a portion of the Steele dossier?
“Did the CIA rely on it?” South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy asked Brennan in the hearing.
“No,” Brennan replied.
Asked why that was the case, Brennan said: “Because we didn’t. It wasn’t part of the corpus of intelligence information that we had. It was not in any way used as a basis for the intelligence community assessment that was done.”