The Steele Dossier

In early January, BuzzFeed published a set of documents describing information acquired by a private intelligence firm. The dossier had been in the possession of the FBI and intelligence organizations since late summer and was the basis for several news stories and Congressional comment.

The information was on Russian connections with Donald Trump’s campaign. It consists of reports from various sources on conversations by campaign operatives and Russian officials. The sources are not identified, but some seem to be privy to conversations at high levels within the Russian government.

The compiler of the dossier is reported to be Christopher Steele, who formerly worked for MI6, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, and who was working for Orbis Business Intelligence, his partnership with a colleague. Steele began collecting this intelligence in early 2016 for opposition researchers in the Republican primary and then in the presidential campaign. He found the material sufficiently alarming to pass it along to the FBI and British intelligence. Fearing that the FBI was ignoring the material, Steele continued to collect information.

Steele went into hiding when his identity was divulged.

Steele is felt to be reliable by those in the intelligence community who were willing to comment. David Corn quotes a senior US administration official (in 2016). Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow, and John Sipher, a former CIA agent, were quoted on Steele’s reliability.

The dossier was available from late summer 2016 to Senator John McCain and numerous journalists.

When the dossier became public, Trump’s reaction was that it was “fake news”, “phony stuff”, “crap” and the work of “sick people” from his political opponents. Vladimir Putin dismissed it as a crude fake and the people behind it as “worse than prostitutes.”

But the FBI and CIA have been taking the document seriously. It was briefed in January to both President Obama and President-elect Trump and is the subject of continuing investigation. There is said to be additional information beyond the dossier. Some conversations are said to have been confirmed, but not the more sensational details.

 

What is in the dossier?

It is worth looking at the dossier and its claims in detail. The many connections of the Trump businesses, campaign, and now administration to Russia are new in American politics. Several Congressional investigations are now promised, along with the CIA and FBI investigations. There is a large story, of all those connections and how they may influence President Trump and his administration. That large story is made up of many smaller stories like National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s phone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kiselyak, the plan for Ukraine delivered by Michael Cohen, Trump’s rhetorical love for Vladimir Putin, his business deals going back decades, the material of the Steele dossier, and more. Details of these stories can illuminate the connections that make up the large story. I provide a few insights here.

As Emptywheel notes, the numbering on the individual reports in the dossier suggests that other reports exist. Many explanations are possible for this: the numbering of company intelligence reports, as they are called, is sequential across several investigations and the numbers not included are part of other investigations; the omitted reports are trivial or are primarily composed of information (names, addresses, phone numbers) that would be inadvisable to release; there are probably others.

The intelligence reports are raw, meaning that they simply report what has been told to the investigators. Documentary evidence is the best confirmation, but none of that appears in the dossier. Many of the reports are attributed to trusted associates of highly placed Russian officials. It can be difficult to distinguish sources in the dossier; different descriptions may refer to the same person. For example, sources identified as a Russian émigré and ethnic Russian close to Trump may be the same person. Another problem is distinguishing whether a story comes through different people from a single source. The nature of most of the reports, of conversations conveyed by a single intermediary, removes some of that uncertainty.

A theme runs through the dossier: Russian hackers stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and released them, selectively, through Wikileaks in order to damage Hillary Clinton. The efforts were coordinated between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Backlash in the United States to the revelation of Paul Manafort’s connections to the Kremlin’s man in Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, caused concern in the Kremlin and replacement of Sergei Ivanov with Anton Vaino. Putin’s motivation is to cause discord in the United States and Europe, facilitating a return to nineteenth-century great power politics. Questions of kompromat and financial payoffs of the Trump campaign are raised.

I have broken down the Steele dossier into individual allegations and their sources. The entire breakdown can be found here. I’ll work through the major claims in the dossier and their support within the dossier, presented here in the table form of the breakdown. I am not evaluating the truthfulness of the claims. That requires material outside the dossier.

The Trump team has been working with Russia for some time.

Allegation Source CIR
Russian regime has been supporting and cultivating Trump for at least five years. Senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure (Source A)

Former top level Russian intel officer still active inside the Kremlin (Source B), via trusted compatriot

080

20 Jun 2016

The Trump team and Kremlin have been sharing intelligence for at least eight years Russian émigré figure close to Trump’s campaign team, via a trusted associate 097

30 Jul 2016

The FSB has a file of kompromat on Clinton, based on things she has said. That file is not available to the Trump team. A Kremlin operation hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and parceled them out to Wikileaks to publicize.

Russia is involved in extensive cyber operations in many countries. FSB is lead organization. Former senior intel officer 086

26 Jul 2016

Trump has accepted intelligence on electoral rivals, particularly Hillary Clinton. Senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure (Source A), via trusted compatriot

Close associate of Trump who managed and organized recent trips to Moscow (Source D), apparently reporting directly

080

20 Jun 2016

FSB has a file of kompromat on Clinton, focused on internally contradictory things she has said. Former top level Russian intel officer still active inside the Kremlin (Source B), via trusted compatriot. 080

20 Jun 2016

Clinton file controlled by Peskov, not available to Trump. Senior Kremlin official (via trusted compatriot?) 080

20 Jun 2016

Well-developed “conspiracy” of cooperation between Trump campaign and Russian leadership to defeat Clinton. Paul Manafort and Carter Page, others, are intermediaries.

Russian regime behind leaks of DNC emails to Wikileaks for plausible deniability.

Three elements: Agents/facilitators within the Democratic Party itself; Russian émigré and associated offensive cyber operators in US; state-sponsored cyber operators in Russia.

Mechanism for transmitting this intel involves “pension” disbursements fo Russian emigres living in US as cover, using consular officials in New York, DC, and Miami. Tens of thousands of dollars involved.

Trump campaign to provide info to Russia on business oligarchs and their families and activities in the US; also agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as campaign issue and raise NATO/US defense commitments in Baltics/E Europe to deflect attention from Ukraine.

Attention on Russia diverts press and public attention from Trump’s dealings in China and developing markets, involving bribes and kickbacks.

Ethnic Russian close associate of Trump (Source E) 095

no date

After Paul Manafort’s connections to Victor Yanukovich were exposed in the mainstream media, concern mounted in the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

High degree of anxiety in Trump team on disclosure of DNC emails because of accusations against them and in Kremlin because things threatened to spiral out of control

Kremlin wanted situation to calm but for plausible deniability to be maintained, so situation unlikely to be ratcheted up

Kremlin has more kompromat on Clinton, but not known when it will be released

Plenty of kompromat on Trump but cooperation means it will not be released

Russian émigré figure close to Trump’s campaign team, via a trusted associate 097

30 Jul 2016

Kremlin behind leaked DNC emails still technically deniable, will not risk position with more leaks. Spread rumors and misinformation about existing leaks, make up new content

Audience is educated American youth; Clinton would be bogged down with reconciling American public

Despite problems, Putin generally satisfied with results

Close colleague of Ivanov 101

10 Aug 2016

Wikileaks release of DNC emails moved voters from Sanders to Trump. Trump campaign had underestimated reaction to emails, against Trump. Trump camp looking to television to remedy this. Some anger in Trump camp against Putin for overreach Ethnic Russian associate of Trump, who heard it from Carter Page 102

10 Aug 2016

Issue of Russian hacking has become incredibly sensitive and Putin ordered government insiders not to discuss it in public or private

Putin receiving advice from three separate expert groups: Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak and MFA with Yuriy Ushakov; Ivanov backed by SVR. First urges caution, second boldness. Anton Vaino replaced Ivanov because he was uninvolved.

Senior member of Russian Presidential Administration, via trusted compatriot

Corroborated by former top level Russian intel officer and Kremlin insider

111

14 Sep 2016

Thinking about releasing more Clinton emails. Final decision up to Putin

Growing element in Moscow’s strategy to shift consensus in Moscow’s favor no matter who won

Senior member of Russian Presidential Administration, via trusted compatriot

 

111

14 Sep 2016

Putin and colleagues disappointed that Clinton’s leaked emails didn’t have more of an effect on the campaign Senior Russian leadership figure

Foreign Ministry official

speaking separately in confidence to a trusted compatriot

130

12 Oct 2016

More hacked emails in pipeline to Wikileaks, but best material already out. Senior Russian leadership figure, speaking in confidence to a trusted compatriot 130

12 Oct 2016

Putin angry at subordinate’s (s’?) overpromising wrt results and blowback. Foreign Ministry official, speaking in confidence to a trusted compatriot 130

12 Oct 2016

The Kremlin is said to have kompromat on Trump as well. One lurid example was given. Trump is so without shame on sexual matters and his supporters so willing to accept whatever he does, that it is hard to know what material might be useful for blackmail. Financial matters are more likely and a possible reason why Trump won’t release his income taxes.

Sex-related:

Prostitutes hired to urinate on bed where Obamas slept in Moscow Ritz Carlton. Close associate of Trump who managed and organized recent trips to Moscow (Source D), apparently reporting directly

Source E, not further identified

Source F, female staffer at hotel when Trump stayed there

080

20 Jun 2016

“Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material…to blackmail him” Former top level Russian intel officer still active inside the Kremlin (Source B), via trusted compatriot 080

20 Jun 2016

Trump had participated in sex parties, but all direct witnesses had been bribed or coerced to disappear Source in services/tourist industry 113

14 Sep 2016

The financial picture is mixed:

Kremlin has offered, Trump has declined lucrative real estate deals. Senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure (Source A), via trusted compatriot 080

20 Jun 2016

Secret meeting between Carter Page and Igor Sechin.

Rosneft president (CEO) raised issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects of removing Ukraine-related sanctions. Page reacted positively.

Russian source close to Sechin 94

19 Jul 2016

Diveykin, senior police official in Presidential Administration, also met with Page. Diveykin brought up a kompromat file on Clinton, suggested it could be shared with Trump campaign and suggested that Russia has kompromat on Trump. Official close to Presidential Administration head Sergei Ivanov, via compatriot 94

19 Jul 2016

Trump paid bribes to further his real estate interests in St. Petersburg.

 

Source in the St. Petersburg political/business elite 113

14 Sep 2016

In meeting between Putin and Victor Yanukovych on August 15, Yanukovych told Putin that he had authorized substantial kickback payments to Manafort, but left no trail.

Putin and others were skeptical about Yanukovich’s ability to cover his tracks and feared the payments were a political liability.

Well-placed Russian figure 105

22 Aug 2016

Secret meeting between Sechin and Carter Page in July 2016

Offered Page/Trump brokerage of 19% of privatized stake in Rosneft for lifting of sanctions

Page implied that sanctions would be lifted if Trump were president and gave the impression he was speaking for Trump

Close associate of Rosneft president Igor Sechin, via a trusted compatriot 134

18 Oct 2016

Two other points mentioned only once in the dossier:

Plenty of kompromat on Trump but cooperation means it will not be released Russian émigré figure close to Trump’s campaign team, via a trusted associate 097

30 Jul 2016

Leading figures in Alpha (Alfa) group on good terms with Putin. Significant favors done in both directions; advice on US to Putin

Mikhail Fridman communicates with Putin directly and via Oleg Govorun, who has been the delivery boy for large amounts of illicit cash to Putin when he was mayor of St Petersburg

Alfa held kompromat on Putin and his corrupt business practices from the 1990s

Top-level Russian government official, via trusted compatriot in September 2016 112

14 Sep 2016

There is other material in the dossier, including reports on Trump associate Michael Cohen and Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin, which are disputed.

Much more can be done with the breakdown of the Steele dossier. I am collecting relevant information within its framework and plan more posts.

 

Top photo: Journalists outside Christopher Steele’s offices shortly after his identity was made public.

One comment

  1. The Blog Fodder · February 22

    Thanks for all your hard work. We shall see where this leads.
    Trump said he was a great negotiator. Threatened China with abandoning the One-China policy. Phone call with China. backs down on threat, says One-China it is. Few days later China grants him Trump name copyright he had previously been unsuccessful in getting with three court cases. Maybe Trump is a good negotiator after all.

    Like

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