A new report from Agence France-Presse claimed that Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer behind the dossier that drove the investigation into alleged links between Donald Trump and Russia, did not want the document to be released to the public. As cited by Raw Story, Steele is currently being sued for defamation by tech entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev over BuzzFeed's publication of the controversial document.
In a statement released in court on Wednesday, Steele said he was unaware at the time of the dossier's publication that BuzzFeed reporters had a copy and would have done "whatever [he] could" to stop publication of the file.
"Our business depends on the confidentiality of our clients and sources. If these are exposed to the world, no one will contact Orbis to do discreet work on their behalf."The document was created by Steele's private firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. The project was funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee and was alleged to be raw intelligence, although the information reportedly contained Russian disinformation.
Although Steele claimed he did not want his research to go public, Raw Story reported that he provided off-the-record briefings with reporters after clients made requests to his firm. The former MI6 agent also said that the BuzzFeed article was a combination of two separate reports that he had compiled. One allegedly contained pre-election information that was initially funded by a conservative United States newspaper before being picked up by Clinton's campaign. The second, Steele says, came after the president's reelection and was crafted of his own volition.
According to Steele, the first report ended up in the hands of the FBI and U.S. State Department, while the second was provided to late Arizona Sen. John McCain and a United Kingdom national security official. He claimed that the second copy was written in the case that his sources for the first were compromised by Trump and his allies.
The Steele dossier has received a great deal of attention for its role in driving Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia. The inquiry ultimately concluded that there was no coordination between the president's team and the Kremlin.
A subsequent investigation of Mueller's probe by the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz found many instances of misconduct in the FBI's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Unredacted footnotes from the inquiry revealed that at least two statements in Steele's project were false and originated from a Russian disinformation campaign.