Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the infamous "dossier" on President Donald Trump's relations with Russia, was questioned for 16 hours by the Ministry of Justice's internal watchdog in June]. The interview is part of an ongoing investigation by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice, Michael Horowitz, last year, we are sorry to survive a one-time Trump campaign consultant based in part on information from Steele, a former MI6 agent who had been working with the office as a confidential resource since 2010.
Horowitz's team was intensely focused on assessing Steele's credibility as the source for the office. Initially, however, Steele was reluctant to speak with the US investigators because his involvement in an internal DOJ investigation as a foreign national and retired British intelligence agent may have been inappropriate.
Steel's allies have repeatedly stated that the dossier was not the original basis for the FBI's investigation of Trump and Russia.
The detailed two-day interview took place in London, while Trump was on a state visit to the UK. The sources said and deepened in Steele's extensive work on global-level Russian intervention efforts, in his methods of gathering intelligence, and in his insights into Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, whom the FBI ultimately oversaw. The FBI's decision to issue Page with a warrant – an arrest warrant they had applied for and received after Page had already left the campaign – is at the center of Horowitz's investigation.
The interview was initially controversial, the sources added. But the investigators found the testimony of Steele ultimately credible and even surprising. The takeaway has upset some US officials questioned in the investigation – they argue that it should not have taken a foreigner to convince the Inspector General that the FBI acted properly in 2016. Steele's American lawyer was present at the interview.
The interview was first published by Reuters.
During the 2016 elections, Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump's Russia relations. His work was partly funded by a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee.
Steele has since become a villain for Trump allies claiming anti-Trump DOJ officials have conspired to undo the 2016 election results. Conservatives have also picked up on Müller's conclusion that there was no criminal plot between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, as evidence that Steele's sensational dossier was a scam. Information may dampen the expectations of the president's allies, who claimed that Steeles sensational dossier was abused by the bureau to spy on the campaign.
Page was on FBI radar since 2013 when interacting with undercover Russian secret agents in New York City. A trip to Moscow in the summer of 2016 aroused the bureau's suspicion that according to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FBI approval was granted in October 2016, allowing the bureau to intercept its electronic communications.
Steele's defense attorneys found that the information he provided in the FISA warrant for monitoring Page was not far away. According to Steeles sources, in July 2016, Page met high-ranking Russian officials in Moscow, including CEO of state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft.
Page publicly denied the claim until he was oathed by the legislature in 2017, recognizing that he had met "senior presidential administration officials" and Rosneft's director of investor relations during his trip. Page originally claimed only that he had gone to Moscow to give the opening speech at the New Economic School.