Former CIA Moscow Chief Not Surprised By Evidence Of Russian Disinformation In Steele Dossier

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • A former CIA station chief who theorized in 2018 that the Steele dossier was the product of Russian disinformation was vindicated by information declassified earlier in April. 
  • Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA clandestine officer, wrote in January 2018 that Steele might have fallen victim to a Kremlin-led disinformation effort. 
  • The Justice Department’s inspector general uncovered information supporting that theory. 
  • Hoffman lays blame at the feet of John Brennan, the former CIA director. 

Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA chief of station for Moscow, was not surprised by revelations earlier in April that Kremlin operatives might have fed disinformation to dossier author Christopher Steele.

Hoffman in early 2018 was a lone voice among former intelligence community veterans when he floated the theory that Russians fed disinformation to Steele, a former MI6 officer who investigated Donald Trump on behalf of the DNC and the Clinton campaign. (RELATED: Investigate The Steele Dossier As Russian Disinformation, Intel Experts Say)

“The Steele dossier fits the Kremlin playbook,” was the title of a Jan. 28, 2018, opinion piece Hoffman wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

“The dossier was part of a Russian espionage disinformation plot targeting both parties and America’s political process,” the former clandestine services officer wrote.

At the time Hoffman published the piece, Steele’s explosive allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government had neither been debunked nor verified. But Democrats and many in the media touted Steele’s reports as strong evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, citing the retired spy’s supposed reputation as a top-flight intelligence operative.

Hoffman’s theory posited that not only was Steele’s information inaccurate, but that it was the product of a Kremlin disinformation campaign aimed at sowing political discord in the United States. The theory largely failed to break through the media chatter that saw Trump-Russia collusion as all but a foregone conclusion.

But Hoffman’s theory received a major boost between April 10 and 15 with the declassification of footnotes from the Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe.

Former CIA director John Brennan listens during a panel at The Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The footnotes contained three bombshell revelations.

The FBI received evidence, one footnote stated, in early 2017 that Russian operatives might have fed disinformation to Steele for two of the dossier’s most explosive allegations: that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin operatives, and that Russia had a sex videotape of Trump with prostitutes in Moscow.

The U.S. intelligence community gave the FBI a report in June 2017 that said two Russian intelligence operatives knew in July 2016 that Steele was investigating Trump, according to another footnote. A third footnote stated that the FBI knew in 2015 that Steele had ties to at least five Russian oligarchs.

“This is a very, very valuable little operation, a classic example of asymmetric information that cost Vladimir Putin hardly nothing,” Hoffman told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Monday.

“The benefit for Putin is he’s trying to make our intelligence services, trying to take a shot at them, because that’s the biggest threat to Russia, the FBI and CIA.”

The Russian disinformation campaign was likely aimed at dividing the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Democrats and Republicans, Hoffman said.

“That is the multifaceted benefit of the Steele dossier for Putin,” Hoffman told the DCNF.

Hoffman’s theory has been that the Kremlin was well positioned to detect Steele’s investigation of Trump given his past position with MI6. Russia’s infiltration of the DNC’s email system also could have provided an avenue for the Kremlin to learn that Steele was working for Democrats.

The Kremlin would have exploited its awareness of Steele’s Trump-related activities without tipping their hand, he added.

“When they saw that, they would never expose that they knew it. They would simply use it to their advantage,” he said. “That’s the way they work.”

Hoffman also questioned the role played by his former boss, former CIA Director John Brennan.

“This is a Russia thing. CIA should know all about Russia,” Hoffman said. “Brennan should have stopped it, and he could have prevented it from being a self-inflicted wound.”

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