If you've followed the news about the Russia investigation, you've probably asked yourself who Christopher Steele is and what his role was in what's amounted to a complex web of names, dates, and locations. Of the many players involved in investigating the alleged connections between Moscow and Trump Tower, Steele's name is back in headlines this week after a report in The New Yorker published Monday, March 5. The profile offers revelatory insight on the man who authored the dossier last year regarding Russian involvement leading up to the 2016 U.S. election.
The infamous dossier, which alleged connections between Donald Trump and Russia, was published by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10, 2017, just 10 days before Trump's inauguration. The intelligence report claimed a history of Russia's attempt to interfere in the election, including hacking and efforts to sow division among the American population. The Kremlin, it alleged, also had compromising information on Trump.
Trump, for his part, has been pulling the "fake news" card on both Steele and his findings for over a year. Just last month, in a pair of tweets, he called the it the "Dirty Dossier" in one, and described it as "fraudulent" in another.
Per The Washington Post, Steele, a former M.I.6 agent for Britain, was hired in June 2016 to do opposition research on Trump and his ties to Russia. He was hired by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based firm that had been contracted in early 2016 by both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign. That fall, between June and October 2016, Steele prepared a briefing for the FBI.
Among the revelations in The New Yorker report is a memo by Steele from November 2016, which he's thought to have discussed with Robert Mueller, the FBI special counsel leading the Russia investigation that has indicted 22 individuals and entities to date. The memo, relying on a "senior Russian official," alleges that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened not only in the presidential election, but in the selection of Trump's staff appointments as well. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on the New Yorker report of this memo, but did not here back at time of publication.
Per the memo, which was not publicly released, Putin allegedly blocked former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney from becoming Secretary of State. Romney was a known skeptic of Russia who called the country a "geopolitical foe" to the U.S. in 2012. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Putin's alleged involvement, but did not hear back at time of publication.
Instead, the position of Secretary of State went to Rex Tillerson, who received an Order of Friendship from Russia in 2013 for his dealings with Russian oil company Rosneft, per The Washington Post. The Steele memo, The New Yorker reports, claims that the Kremlin sought to influence Trump to fill that seat with a person who would back off on sanctions against Ukraine and go along with Russia on security interests and Syria.
That Romney could have been pushed out of contention in favor of someone more Russia-friendly has huge implications, given the job's diplomatic scope. "These past weeks, with news breaking and reporting, so many things which I suspected but seemed too outlandish to believe are coming true," tweeted Amy Siskind, president of women's advocacy nonprofit The New Agenda. "That Putin may have had a hand in selecting Tillerson makes this even more shocking."
Other Twitter users began offering their own commentary on what the denial of Romney to the role might mean. Attorney and University of New Hampshire professor Seth Abramson pointed out that the timing of the 2016 Steele memo lines up with calls between the Trump White House and Moscow leading up to the election.
Tillerson, in a February interview with Fox News, said that a Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections was already underway, and that there's little we can do to counter it. And it doesn't look like he's put any investment into trying to stop it, either.
The Romney news comes just a day after The New York Times reported that the State Department, under Tillerson's leadership, has not spent a single dollar of the $120 million it was allotted for countering such attempts by foreign entities to inference in U.S. democracy.
Still, the original BuzzFeed report was mostly unverified allegations, and one year after its release, in January 2018, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen filed a lawsuit against both BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS, calling its findings "false and defamatory."
Though many have questioned the credibility and motivations behind the Steele dossier, The New Yorker points out that the Justice Department hasn't made any legal moves against him to suggest criminality. The information contained in the dossier, in fact, aligned with subsequent findings by the House Intelligence Committee and by charges made by Mueller.