The former MI6 officer Christopher Steele had a “personal” relationship with Ivanka Trump and gifted her a “family tartan from Scotland” as a present, the long-awaited report by US Department of Justice inspector general, Michael Horowitz, revealed on Monday.
Horowitz’s review of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and its links with Russia includes fresh details of Steele’s interactions with the FBI, and startling claims about his relationship with the Trumps dating back to the period before he wrote a controversial dossier on Trump.
The report did not mention Ivanka Trump by name but her identity was revealed by ABC News.
The report said that contrary to what Donald Trump has claimed on Twitter Steele was actually “favorably disposed” to the Trump family. It was “ridiculous” to suggest he was biased against the then Republican candidate or that his memos on collusion, written at the behest of the Washington-based research firm Fusion GPS, were in any way biased, Steele told federal investigators.
Steele said he had visited Ivanka Trump at Trump Tower and had been “friendly” with her for “some years”. He described their relationship as “personal”. The former British government spy had even given her a “family tartan from Scotland” as a present, the report quoted him as saying.
ABC also reported that Ivanka Trump even discussed work that Steele’s firm – Orbis Business Intelligence – might do for the Trump family business.
Earlier this year Steele met with members of the inspector general’s team in London and spoke to investigators via Skype. He handed over memos setting out his two meetings in 2016 with the FBI, in which he passed on his dossier which said that the Russians had been seeking to cultivate Trump for some years, and had secretly compromised him in a Moscow hotel room.
Horowitz’s conclusions were sent to Orbis ahead of the report’s publication on Monday. This prompted Steele to issue an unusual statement via his lawyers pushing back against some of the inspector general’s key claims.
The report concludes the FBI placed too much emphasis on Steele’s work. It said Steele’s reporting was not done “in bad faith” but sometimes showed a “lack of judgement” and could involve pursuing people with “political risk but no intelligence value”.
On Monday Steele’s Washington-based law firm, Bredhoff & Kaiser, issued a lengthy rebuttal of Horowitz’s findings and defended Steele’s professional work.
It said that the Trump-Russia memos written by Steele in 2016 were derived from “credible and reliable” human sources. Subsequently his reporting was “extensively corroborated”, the lawyers said.
Some of this confirmation came from testimony given by Carter Page, Trump’s former foreign policy aide.
Page is at the centre of the Horowitz review. The president appointed Horowitz after Republicans claimed Page was the victim of “illegal” FBI spying in 2016, with a surveillance warrant issued by a federal court in part because of the dossier. The report finds that the FBI made multiple mistakes and errors in its handling of the Page case.
Page admitted that in 2016 he met with senior officials from the Kremlin and the oil firm Rosneft in Moscow. This was what the dossier reported, Steele’s lawyers pointed out. They added that Steele’s memos – published by BuzzFeed – were never “meant to be made public”. The report further quotes Steele as saying his field work was meant to be “briefed off of orally” rather than consumed as a “written product”.
Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted Steele on Twitter, describing him as a “failed spy” and his dossier as “phoney”.
The dossier says Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, launched a multi-faceted campaign to boost Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Robert Mueller confirmed “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference but cleared Trump of engaging in a criminal-level conspiracy.
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