Adam Schiff defends Christopher Steele dossier on Trump-Russia connections saying top line was ‘all too true’

Intelligence panel chairman defends past statements after principal dossier source charged with lying to FBI

John Bowden
Sunday 14 November 2021 17:26
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Schiff defends his past statements about the Steele dossier

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee defended his past statements regarding a dossier of claims and information about former President Donald Trump created by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, on Sunday.

The veracity of much of the dossier has been disputed for years, and was never verified by US intelligence agencies. In recent days the dossier’s findings have been challenged further as a primary source, Igor Danchenko, was arrested and charged with lying to the FBI two weeks ago.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Mr Schiff was presented with clips of his past statements in news interviews about the Steele dossier in which he defended the accuracy of some of the dossier’s less outrageous but still newsworthy claims, such as the revelation that Russia’s government was actively seeking to help the Trump campaign defeat Hillary Clinton.

“What I just said in the clip you just played ended up being exactly right, which was, Steele did reveal that the Russians were trying to help elect Donald Trump, that turned out to be all too true, and in fact the Trump campaign chairman was giving internal campaign polling data to Russian intelligence while Russian intelligence was trying to elect Donald Trump,” he said.

Though many of the dossier’s more fantastical claims about the former president were never proven, a US intelligence community assessment of the 2016 election did support the allegation that Russia’s government sought Mr Trump’s victory over Ms Clinton. The allegation spread by some Democrats and pundits that the Trump campaign actively collaborated with Russia was never proven.

Mr Steele has testified that he never meant for the dossier he authored about Mr Trump’s ties to Russia to become public, though he assumedly knew that the information would be used for opposition research against the Trump campaign given that its creation was contracted through Fusion GPS, a private investigative firm, through the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The dossier was first published in full by BuzzFeed News in early 2017. Its findings were leaked to the FBI and other agencies during the 2016 election by Mr Steele, and was used as part of the basis for surveillance warrants against Carter Page, an aide to the Trump campaign, as the FBI investigated potential connections between the campaign and Russia.

Numerous top Justice Department officials have testified publicly that the dossier’s findings did not, however, play a significant role in the intelligence committee’s broader assessment about the 2016 election, including the assertion that the Russian government took steps to aide the Trump campaign.

Some Republicans have falsely characterised the intelligence community’s findings about Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election for Mr Trump as wholly based on the Steele dossier’s findings, and therefore evidence of a “deep state” conspiracy that sought to undermine his presidency.

The Justice Department has also faced criticism for using the dossier’s claims for a warrant to surveil Mr Page, though the agency has maintained that it had other evidence to suggest that Mr Page was potentially collaborating with Russia.

In reality, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application for approval to surveil Mr Page claimed that “The FBI believes that Page is coordinating election influence efforts with the Russian Government,” and also referenced the tip given to US intelligence by the Australian government resulting from another Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, boasting to an Australian diplomat that Russia’s government had thousands of emails stolen from Ms Clinton’s personal hard drives and was planning to use them against the Clinton campaign.

Last year, Mr Steele told the High Court in London that he would have done “whatever I could do to prevent” the publication of the dossier by BuzzFeed News had he known the company’s reporters had obtained the document.

“It is not in Orbis's interest for any of our intelligence work to be aired in the media or public domain, especially in raw or unanalysed form,” said Mr Steele, referring to the company he co-founded.

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