Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who compiled the hoax dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump and Russia, refuses to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigation into the origins of the Obama administration’s spying on then-candidate Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to Reuters.
A Reuters source close to Steele’s private investigation outfit, Orbis Business Intelligence, said the ex-spy has chosen not to answer questions from Connecticut’s U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was recently appointed by Attorney General William Barr to examine the probe’s origins. Reports of Steele’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Durham comes days after President Trump gave Barr authority to declassify intelligence materials related to the probe and ordered several law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and FBI to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s review.
In 2016, Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS tasked by attorneys for the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to dig up dirt on President Trump. Steele’s dossier was partly used by the FBI to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil members of the Trump campaign, namely, onetime Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page. FBI officials did not disclose explicitly to the FISA court that the dossier was paid for by the DNC or the Clinton campaign. However, the bureau did indicate that the document was produced as opposition research.
In a recent interview with the Fox News Channel, Barr specified his department is examining if “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” at the beginning of the FBI’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign. “I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions, and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate, and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together. In a sense, I have more questions today than when I first started,” the attorney general told anchor Bill Hemmer.
While Steele has ruled out cooperating with Durham’s review, the source told Reuters that the former spook may still assist the Justice Department in another investigation into the FBI’s handling of two of its most high-profile probes in recent years. “The source close to Steele’s company said Steele would not cooperate with Durham’s probe but might cooperate with a parallel inquiry by the Justice Department’s Inspector General into how U.S. law enforcement agencies handled pre-election investigations into both Trump and Clinton,” according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, a dispute has erupted over whether fired FBI Director James Comey or then-CIA Director John Brennan pushed for the Steele dossier to be included in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference. In a recent interview with the Fox News Channel, former House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) suggested: “Whoever is looking into this, tell them to look into emails” between Comey and Brennan from December 2016. However, in a statement to Fox News, an unnamed former CIA official fingered the former FBI chief as the culprit.“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” the official told the news outlet.
A spokesperson for Durham declined to comment on Reuters’ report.