- Christopher Steele’s intelligence firm responded to President Trump’s comments on Thursday about the “fake dossier.”
- Orbis Business Intelligence, Steele’s London-based company, said that Trump made “false claims” about the dossier.
- The dossier was all but debunked by the special counsel’s report and DOJ inspector general’s report.
- The inspector general blasted the FBI for its handling of information from Steele, who investigated Trump on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Christopher Steele’s private intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, accused President Trump of making “false claims” during a White House speech Thursday about the former British spy’s infamous dossier, which has come under intense scrutiny following a Justice Department inspector general (IG) report.
“Yesterday @realDonaldTrump made false claims about us,” reads a tweet from Orbis’s Twitter account posted Friday.
“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,” the tweet continued.
Yesterday @realDonaldTrump made false claims about us. 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. 1/3
— Orbis Business Intelligence (@OrbisBIOfficial) February 7, 2020
Trump blasted the dossier as “fake” during a White House speech on Thursday.
“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. (RELATED: Trump Blasts ‘Fake Dossiers’ And FISA Court)
Steele, a former MI6 officer, investigated Trump and members of his campaign in 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and DNC. He provided some of his information to the FBI, which used parts of the dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
In the dossier, Steele alleged that Page was a key player in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russian government. He also claimed that the Kremlin had cultivated Trump for years, and that the campaign was involved in and aware of the hack of Democrats’ emails released through WikiLeaks.
Steele’s Trump-related claims were all but debunked by the special counsel’s report and the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s surveillance of Page.
The special counsel found no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, or that anyone on the Trump campaign was a Russian agent. The report also said that nobody on the campaign was involved in the theft of Democrats’ emails.
The IG report further undercut Steele’s reporting.
It said that Steele’s primary source of information told the FBI in January 2017 that information in the dossier was inaccurate or embellished. Steele himself told his FBI contacts on Oct. 3, 2016 that a sub-source for several key claims in the dossier was a “boaster” and “embellisher.”
The IG report blasted the FBI for relying on Steele’s information, and for failing to disclose its flaws to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorized four surveillance orders against Page.
The report also said that some of Steele’s associates told FBI agents in November and December 2016 that the retired spook had shown poor judgement in the past.
In response to Trump, Orbis cited analysis from a former CIA officer and a former FBI official who have been highly critical of the president.
“For a detailed, balanced assessment of our 2016 work take a look at this from former CIA officer and Russia expert John Sipher,” Orbis said, pointing to a Sept. 6, 2017 report that Sipher published at Just Security.
For a detailed, balanced assessment of our 2016 work take a look at this from former CIA officer and Russia expert John Sipher:https://t.co/ki8VaVfiK0
— Orbis Business Intelligence (@OrbisBIOfficial) February 7, 2020
In an early version of the article, Sipher falsely claimed that a Sept. 23, 2016 news article at Yahoo! News provided independent verification of Steele’s work. The Yahoo! piece, written by Michael Isikoff, said that U.S. law enforcement officials were investigating whether Carter Page met with Kremlin insiders Igor Sechin and Igor Diveykin during a trip to Moscow in July 2016.
Sipher, a former CIA officer, asserted that the article bolstered the dossier’s credibility. But Sipher corrected the article after The Daily Caller notified Just Security that Isikoff’s article was based on information he obtained from Steele.
Steele met with several reporters in September 2016 as part of an effort to disseminate his information about Trump.
Though there is no evidence to support Steele’s claims about Page, Sipher asserted that the former Trump aide did meet with Sechin and Diveykin.
“We learned that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, he met with close Putin ally and Chairman of the Russian state oil company, Igor Sechin,” he wrote.
“Renowned investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that Page met with both Sechin and Divyekin during his July trip to Russia. What’s more, the Justice Department obtained a wiretap in summer 2016 on Page after satisfying a court that there was sufficient evidence to show Page was operating as a Russian asset,” the piece continued.
Sipher’s updated story notes that Isikoff’s report “may have relied on Steele himself.” But he added that “U.S. intelligence officials were confident enough in the information received about Page’s meeting Russian officials to brief senior members of Congress on it.”
Sipher’s analysis that the dossier was bolstered by the Justice Department obtaining authorization to surveil Page is also undercut by the IG report. In response to the report, the Justice Department conceded that two of the four surveillance warrants are “not valid.” (RELATED: DOJ Says Two Carter Page FISAs Are ‘Not Valid’)
Orbis also cited a Dec. 14, 2018 report that Chuck Rosenberg, a former top aide to Jim Comey, wrote at Lawfare.
“The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven,” Rosenberg wrote.
One of Steele’s most intriguing claims about Trump-Russia collusion was all but debunked shortly after Rosenberg’s article came out.
In the dossier, Steele alleged that in August 2016, then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague to meet with Kremlin insiders to discuss paying off hackers. Cohen vehemently denied Steele’s claims during congressional testimony in 2019, after he began cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation. The special counsel’s report also indicated that Cohen did not go to Prague.
Rosenberg has acknowledged in the wake of the damning IG report that he would have written his analysis differently.
“With what is out there now, I think we would have written our article a bit differently. We did the best we could with what we had at the time, he told The Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2019.
“The IG report adds important information about the provenance of the dossier (and some of that certainly calls Steele’s methodology and his raw intelligence into question),” he added.
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