Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the writer of the “Steele Dossier,” that claimed Russian officials had compromising information on former President Donald Trump, defended the dossier’s claims in his first on-camera interview since it was revealed in 2017.
Steele said in an excerpt from an upcoming ABC News documentary broadcast on Sunday that he decided to sit down for an interview now to “set the record straight” on his role in the film.
Investigation of Russian election interference in 2016. On Sunday, ABC aired a portion of the documentary that included parts of Steele’s interview, with the full video scheduled to air on Hulu early Monday morning.
“Most of the world first heard your name about five years ago, but you stayed silent up until now. Why speak out now?” host George Stephanopoulos asked.
“I think the first and most important (reason) is that the problems we identified back in 2016 haven’t gone away, and arguably have actually got worse, and I thought it was important to come and set the record straight,” Steele said.
Steele’s unverified dossier became one of the most disputed aspects of the FBI’s investigation against Trump and Russia, which led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Despite the FBI’s efforts to verify salacious allegations and years of congressional investigators looking into the claims linking the former president and Russia, many of the allegations, such as the so-called “pee tape,” were never verified.
Mueller’s report also found that another accusation made by Steele, that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in 2016 to meet with Russian officials, was false.
Steele reinforced his opinion that the majority of the allegations in the dossier are accurate.
“I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it,” Steele said.
The FBI’s use of Steele’s dossier to secure a foreign surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was the focus of a scathing Justice Department inspector general report issued in 2019.
The report found that the FBI’s Russia investigation was properly initiated, but it raised serious concerns about Steele’s sources for the dossier, including the fact that his primary source told the FBI that they discussed Trump’s alleged sexual activities “in jest” and that the tape was “rumor and speculation.”
According to BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier in its entirety, Steele confirmed his confidence in the most disputed claim in the unverified dossier: that Russia has footage of Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite.
According to CNN, top intelligence officials presented then-President Trump with claims from the Steele Dossier in January 2017. There is no evidence that the tape exists, and Trump has denied that the alleged incident occurred.
Steele stated that he believes Russia has “kompromat” against Trump, and when asked by ABC if he believes Russia has a tape of Trump with prostitutes in a Russian hotel, Steele stated that the tape “probably” exists, but that Russia has assessed “it hasn’t needed to be released.”
“And today, do you still believe that that tape exists?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I think it probably does, but I wouldn’t put 100% certainty on it,” Steele said.
“So how do you explain that if the tape does indeed exist, it hasn’t been released?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Well, it hasn’t needed to be released,” Steele said. “I think the Russians felt they’d got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was President of the US.”
Steele stood by several of his initial dossier’s claims, including Cohen’s trip to Prague. During a Congressional hearing in 2019, Cohen denied under oath ever visiting the Czech Republic and has cooperated with authorities looking into Trump.
The FBI confirmed Cohen did not visit Prague in 2016, according to a 2019 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Steele argued that Cohen may still be lying about visiting Prague despite cooperating with investigators on other things, saying that the trip to Prague would be “very self-incriminating to a very great degree.”
“Since he’s gone to prison since he’s turned on President Trump, he’s told every single story. Why wouldn’t he admit to this?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I think it’s so incriminating and demeaning,” Steele said. “And the other reason is he might be scared of the consequences.”
In a statement to CNN, Michael Cohen refuted Steele’s claims, saying, “I eagerly await his next secret dossier which proves the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and that Elvis is still alive.“
When asked if he thought the credibility of his case had suffered after the Justice Department inspector general was unable to prove his claim about Cohen’s trip to Prague, Steele said that he was “not yet convinced” that Cohen had not gone to Prague.
“Do you think it hurts your credibility and all that you won’t accept the findings of the FBI in this particular case?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I’m prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100% accurate. I have yet to be convinced that that is one of them,” Steele said.