Remember, when most of the news is, “all coronavirus, all the time,” much more of consequence is still going on. In addition to bringing you virus news, we’ve been trying to call attention to the stories that, without COVID-19 sucking all the air out of the room, would rightly be front and center. And there’s a stunning story that broke last night about British ex-spy and creative anti-Trump fiction writer Christopher Steele.
Chuck Ross of THE DAILY CALLER NEWS FOUNDATION has obtained the transcript to a deposition from March 17-18 by Christopher Steele for a defamation case in Britain related to the “dossier.” This was a suit brought against Steele by the owners of Alfa Bank –- Petre Aven, German Khan, and Mikhail Fridman –- over a memo in the “dossier” that claimed they had made payments to Vladimir Putin. Their lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, was challenging Steele on the accuracy of that memo, and also his relationship with his “primary sub-source” for the information.
Since the IG report contains a rebuttal from Steele’s lawyers that mentions recordings and documents “meticulously” backing up his information, Tomlinson asked Steele about their existence. Conveniently, they do NOT exist; it’s impossible now to say how “meticulous” they were. And the source himself has testified to the FBI that Steele exaggerated and/or misrepresented what he had said, which was only “rumor and speculation.” Here’s how the questioning of Steele by Alfa Bank’s lawyers went:
Q: (Tomlinson) The “Primary Sub-Source’s” debriefings by Orbis [Steele’s company] were meticulously documented and recorded.
A: (Steele) At the time.
Q: But none of these documents exist, so they have all been destroyed.
A: At the time, Mr. Tomlinson, when we wrote the report.
Q: But you say it was meticulous, but no one is in a position to check that because the records don’t exist.
A: They no longer exist, but that is my assertion, indeed, my assertion under oath.
Further questioning revealed that Steele retained no contemporaneous emails or notes except for those with the FBI. He had used a personal email account for everything related to the Fusion GPS project, and those records were deleted.
And, specifically, the notes for “Report 112,” the memo on Alfa Bank, were not kept.
Q: You have no record of anything, have you?
A: I haven’t got any records relating to the creation of 112.
Q: Or indeed, any of the other memoranda?
A: No, THEY WERE WIPED IN EARLY JANUARY 2017. [Emphasis mine.]
It's true: communications with Fusion GPS on his company’s computer network were wiped on January 5, 2017. A Hushmail account he’d used in late December 2016 was also wiped. And no, I don’t mean, like “with a cloth.”
It was five days later that BUZZFEED published the “dossier.”
As Chuck Ross reports, Steele’s source allegedly used a number of contacts inside and outside of Russia to gather tips about Donald Trump, his associates, and Kremlin officials. Steele said the Trump campaign took part in a “well-coordinated conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. After almost two years of investigating, the special counsel found no evidence of such a conspiracy, and newly declassified footnotes from IG Horowitz’ report shows that the FBI was well aware that Steele might have been receiving Russian disinformation.
Specifically, they suspected the stories regarding Michael Cohen’s trip to Prague and Trump’s antics with hookers at a Moscow hotel were false. (And, indeed, they were.)
But that didn’t stop them from using these stories and the rest of the unverified garbage in Steele’s “dossier.” They swore the information was VERIFIED when they applied to the FISA Court for a warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Even during the Alfa Bank testimony, Steele would not reveal the name of his primary source. Whoever it was, they had done business with Orbis for “several years.” Steele said his sources got paid retainers of $3,000 to $5,000 a month. Nice work, a little extra money for making up stuff.
Ross’s report doesn’t go into this, but I assume Alfa Bank’s defamation lawsuit might also relate to the completely debunked story about computer “pings” emanating from their bank tower to signal between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Yes, there were lots of anti-Trumpers who thoroughly bought into this ridiculous story, with no evidence at all.
For context, here’s Ross’s report from December of last year on the rebuttal by Steele’s attorneys of the IG report. It’s kind of funny in light of what we’ve just learned to read that “the lawyers did not say what, if anything, Steele plans to do with the recordings of the source.” The humor derives from the fact that STEELE HAD ALREADY GOTTEN RID OF THEM, all the way back in January of 2017. Pretty good joke, except that the joke was on all of us. I hope Alfa Bank cleans up big on this lawsuit. But, hey, where does President Trump go to sue?
Incidentally, remember when I recently asserted that not only did the Russians NOT want to help Trump, but they wanted to help Hillary win (not just “create chaos,” as we always hear)? Well, David Krayden, also of the DAILY CALLER NEWS FOUNDATION, has just written about that very thing.
As you likely know, the report submitted Tuesday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence supports the U.S. intel community’s assessment, back in January of 2017, that Russia “meddled” in the 2016 election to help Trump win. This conclusion seems extremely illogical, considering that the particular stories the FBI suspected were Russian misinformation –- the Michael Cohen trip to Prague and the prostitutes in the Moscow hotel –- were extremely damaging to Trump.
As Krayden notes, the committee released the document in a highly edited form that does not include any reference to the recently declassified files that point to a Russian disinformation campaign.
Former CIA officer and National Security Council Chief of Staff Fred Fleitz wrote an op-ed for FOX NEWS that addresses the flaws in this report, pointing out that its findings directly contradict those of the House Intelligence Committee from March 2018. Given all that we know, I would agree with Fleitz and go with the House findings that the intel community’s findings were tainted by anti-Trump forces. Most notable among the problems with the Senate report cited by Fleitz is its over-reliance on the potentially politically-charged observations of the CIA.
Fleitz calls former CIA Director John Brennan “the most politicized intelligence chief in American history.” He says that Brennan relied on “low-quality intelligence that failed to meet intelligence community standards [the Steele dossier?] to support the claim that Russian officials wanted Trump to win...” and “suppressed high-quality intelligence suggesting that Putin actually wanted the more predictable and malleable Clinton to win the 2016 election.”
Thank you! As I’ve said, this is the only conclusion that makes sense.
So, why did the Senate committee come to the opposite conclusion as the House and endorse John Brennan’s narrative that the Russians wanted to help Trump win? Fleitz speculates about that in his superb op-ed, a must-read. He says that the vice chairman, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, essentially ran the show. Well, that would explain a lot.