Presidential daughter Ivanka Trump, reportedly met British spy and Russia expert Christopher Steele for the first time in 2007, when he “sat next” to her at the ultra-high-end London nightclub Annabel’s. This took place at a dinner where then-future Prime Minister David Cameron was the featured speaker, according to a report published Wednesday by The Times. But according to one former member of Britain’s parliament, the meeting may have been more than a chance encounter.
Steele, at the time, was still a secret agent for Britain’s spy service MI6, specializing in gathering intelligence on Russia. Two years after meeting Ivanka Trump, he retired and formed a private intelligence firm, Orbis. It was in his private capacity that he authored the now-infamous “dossier” alleging deep ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia — a dossier that Donald Trump and Republicans have claimed to be the spark that set off the FBI’s investigation on the president’s alleged ties with the country.
A Department of Justice inspector general’s report issued on Monday debunked the Republican claim, showing that the “Steele Dossier” played no role in starting the FBI’s investigation. But the report also revealed that Steele — whom Republicans have portrayed as somehow biased against Trump — was actually longtime friends with the president’s oldest daughter.
However, former Conservative Party parliament member Louise Mensch said that there may be more to the “friendship” between Steele and Ivanka Trump than revealed by the DOJ inspector general. Mensch has since gained notoriety for her controversial reporting on the Trump-Russia scandal, mostly on her own Twitter account.
The dinner at which Steele was seated next to Trump was sponsored by a group of businessmen interested in “funding political research,” according to the Times report.
Mensch wrote on her Twitter feed that she could “infer that MI6 saw this dinner with Ivanka as connected to Russian intelligence” because the spy agency sent one of the top agents on their “Russia desk” to the affair.
Because the reporter who wrote the Times article, Lucy Fisher, is trusted by the British intelligence community, she added that the story may be seen as “Steele’s friends” leaking details so that the public would “understand he was doing his job” when he ingratiated himself with Trump.
If Mensch’s interpretation of the Times reporting is accurate, it would indicate that MI6 suspected the Trump family of Russia ties as far back as 2007 — eight years before Donald Trump began his run for president. Steele may have continued to pursue the family’s connection with the country when he talked with Ivanka Trump about helping her family in “finding appropriate business partners in Russia and China,” as the Times reported.