Dossier creator Christopher Steele is scheduled to stand trial in mid-May in a defamation case whose 2017 court records were ignored by FBI agents as they wrote the last of four dossier-based wiretap warrants on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page in June of that year.
Mr. Steele filed his first sworn declaration in a London court on April 3, 2017, admitting that one of his 17 memos — though not on Mr. Page — was “unsolicited” and “raw” intelligence.
The Washington Times first disclosed the document on April 25, 2017. Republicans later told the Justice Department the filing should have set off alarm bells inside the FBI about Mr. Steele’s credibility, given his admission he had accepted gossip.
All four FBI wiretap affidavits on Mr. Page never would have been sought without the Democratic Party-funded dossier, according to Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
Mr. Horowitz disclosed in his Dec. 9 report that the FBI showed no interest in acquiring records from Mr. Steele’s court case as the bureau aggressively surveilled Mr. Page, an informal Trump campaign adviser, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.)
Mr. Horowitz said that although there had been “open source reporting … We found no evidence that the FBI made any attempts in May or June 2017 to obtain the filings to assist a determination of whether to change the FBI’s assessment …”
What’s more, the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) made the unilateral decision to ignore Mr. Steele’s April 3 filing.
“The OGC unit chief’s notes suggest that on May 1, without consulting [Justice], and relying only upon open source reporting concerning the filings, the FBI decided that Steele’s April 3, 2017 sworn statement in the foreign litigation did not warrant any changes to renewal application No. 3,” the Horowitz report said.
In all, Mr. Horowitz found that the FBI made 17 significant inaccuracies or omissions of exculpatory evidence when agents fed information to the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence. It screened the evidence and wrote the four Page affidavits from October 2016 to June 2017.
In January, the Justice Department nullified the last two FISA warrants from April and June 2017 based on Mr. Horowitz’s report.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in March 2019 said he didn’t establish that Mr. Page coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
Mr. Steele’s court flings came in the case of Russian computer entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev. He filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Steele and his Orbis Business Intelligence almost immediately after BuzzFeed published the 35-page dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.
The last of Mr. Steele’s 17 dossier memos accused Mr. Gubarev of hacking Democratic Party computers under pressure from Russian intelligence.
Mr. Gubarev, a Cyprus resident, immediately denied the allegation.
The Mueller report does not mention Mr. Gubarev. The report said the hacking was exclusively carried out by the Russian military.
Val Gurvits, Mr. Gubarev’s U.S. attorney, told The Washington Times that a London trial date is tentatively set for May 15.
“The defendants have done everything possible to delay the inevitable,” Mr. Gurvits said.
“We think the London trial is going to be very illuminating,” Mr. Gurvits said. “Steele has not pleaded ‘truth’ as a defense to the claims in London and there’s good reason for that, with respect to the claims about Gubarev and his companies, the allegations are complete nonsense. We knew that from the start, but it’s taken a long time for the truth to come out.”
Subsequent to the April 3 filing, Mr. Steele signed a second declaration in May 2017 spelling out how he came to Washington and briefed a number of journalists on Trump allegations in September 2016.
His dossier accused President Trump of heading a far-reaching conspiracy with the Kremlin to interfere in the election. Mr. Mueller found no such conspiracy, and no Trump associate was charged in such a plot.
Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote a letter to the Justice Department in early 2018 accusing Mr. Steele of lying to the FBI about not having press contacts.
The senators said that the Steele memo about Mr. Gubarev was relevant to the Page affidavits because it showed that the British ex-spy deals with unsolicited, raw intelligence.
In the face of Mr. Steele’s court declarations, the Horowitz report said, the FBI continued to assess his information as “reliable.”
Taken together, the Mueller and Horowitz reports eviscerated Mr. Steele’s anti-Trump claims.
Mr. Horowitz said Mr. Steele’s main Russia source told the FBI that he had fed Kremlin gossip to Mr. Steele, not verified information. The FBI kept this fact from Justice Department affidavit writers.
Mr. Steele says his main source never made such statements to him, and he credits his dossier with revealing Russian election meddling.
Mr. Horowitz said that, in the end, the FBI gave Mr. Steele low marks: “Much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated: that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the [FBI]; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”
Mr. Gurvits told The Times, “The Mueller report identified the real culprits in the hacking of the DNC and then the Inspector General’s report showed that much of Steele’s ‘reporting’ was based on ‘internet rumor’ and ‘hearsay.’ It’s crazy that Steele and Orbis and Fusion GPS are still trying to pretend otherwise.
“You shouldn’t be allowed to trash someone’s reputation based on gossip and rumors, but that’s exactly what happened when Steele wrote it. Buzzfeed decided it was OK to simply dump all this on the internet and say, ‘who knows if it’s true.’ It wasn’t true. That’s not reporting. And we’re confident that Gubarev and his companies will be completely vindicated in London.”