The British government received reports containing detailed allegations of collusion between Trump organization officials and Kremlin operatives working to interfere in the 2016 general election by hacking into Democratic Party systems and engaging in online disinformation campaign, according to a report by the Guardian. The documents, passed to the British authorities last December by former M16 agent Christopher Steele, included alleged records of payments from Trump organization officials to bank accounts of Russian hackers and cyber trolls contracted by the Kremlin as part of efforts to tilt the general election in favor of Donald Trump.
Steele produced the memo after he was hired in June of 2016 by Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s alleged links with Russia.
Fusion GPS is a research group based in Washington.
If you're reading a good book, put it down. This criminal investigation is the story of our lifetime. -The Guardian https://t.co/BKRspT5V8i— TB Stone (@tbsrva) April 29, 2017
The information that the British intelligence services had received copies of Steele’s infamous Trump dossier last December, before U.S. intelligence officials became aware of its existence, was confirmed in court papers filed last week in the high court of justice in London by Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence Limited. The court papers were filed in response to a defamation lawsuit brought against Steele by Aleksej Gubarev, the Russian founder of the computer company XBT.
Gubarev was named in Steel’s memo as being involved in hacking activities. But he denied the allegation and then sued Steele and his company for defamation. He also sued Buzzfeed in U.S. courts for publishing the memo naming him.
According to the court papers, Steele passed hard copies of 16 memos he compiled to senior British security officials “on a confidential basis” because he thought that the information he had uncovered about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election was significant in relation to the national security of the U.S. and the U.K.
The memos alleged that four Trump organization representatives, including Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic in August-September 2016 to hold clandestine discussions with Kremlin agents, hackers, and online trolls. Trump organization officials allegedly discussed payments to the Russian hackers hired to break into Democratic Party and Clinton campaign systems. They also discussed how to ensure that the operations were not exposed.
However, Cohen has dismissed the allegations that he attended a meeting in Prague, saying he never visited Prague and that Steele’s dossier was “totally fake and totally inaccurate.”
Steele’s dossier alleged that between March and September 2016, Russian hackers infected Democratic Party systems with viruses to steal data. The memos claimed that the Russian FSB had earlier recruited two hackers “under duress.” The hackers were paid by Trump organization although they were under the direction and control of the Kremlin.
Steele sent a copy of the memos to Fusion on the understanding that the company would not disclose the information to any third party. However, he agreed that Fusion provided a copy to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) after he learned that Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia, had told the Arizona senator about the existence of the memo.
When McCain received the memo, he passed a copy to FBI Director James Comey early in December.
UK was given details of alleged contacts between Trump campaign and Moscow https://t.co/1aDZPDYdrF— The Guardian (@guardian) April 28, 2017
But after Steele had sent the documents to Fusion, he continued to receive “unsolicited intelligence” about Trump’s links with the Kremlin from Russian sources. Based on the additional information, he drew up another memo on December 13 and sent it to senior British intelligence officials. He also sent an encrypted copy to Fusion with instructions to hand a hard copy to McCain.
Steele said he gave the information to the U.S. and U.K. authorities because he felt under obligation due to the national security implications of the information. However, he insisted that he never gave a copy to any news organization. He only gave off-the-record briefings about the matter to a few journalists, according to the Guardian.
He also denied involvement in the decision by BuzzFeed to publish the document.
President Barack Obama and Donald Trump received copies of the dossier in January. Trump immediately denied the allegations of collusion with the Russians, saying it was part of a smear campaign orchestrated by his political opponents.
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