Confronting his critics, Christopher Steele defends controversial dossier in first major interview
The British ex-spy opens up in the ABC News documentary "Out of the Shadows."
Former British spy Christopher Steele is stepping out of the shadows to "set the record straight" about his bombshell dossier for the first time since his name splashed across headlines in early 2017, defending his work, his name, and the decision to include some of its most controversial elements.
ABC News Special
George Stephanopoulos sits down with former MI6 spy Christopher Steele for his first interview since the publication of intelligence reports now known as the "Steele dossier."
"I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it," Steele told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in the forthcoming documentary, "Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier" -- an exclusive preview of which aired Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
In his first major interview, Steele described how and why he wrote the 17 reports that made up the so-called "Steele dossier," which accused former President Donald Trump's campaign of conspiring with the Russians to tilt the result of the 2016 election.
Steele’s dossier has come under immense scrutiny since its release. And yet in many ways, it proved prescient. The Mueller probe found that Russia had been making efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign, and that Trump campaign members and surrogates had promoted and retweeted Russian-produced political content alleging voter fraud and criminal activity on the part of Hillary Clinton.
Investigators determined there had been "numerous links -- i.e. contacts -- between Trump campaign officials and individuals having ties to the Russian government." And, proof emerged that the Trump Organization had been discussing a real estate deal in Moscow during the campaign.
All were findings that had been signaled, at least broadly, in Steele’s work.
Steele continues to defend the inclusion of some of the dossier’s more controversial claims, including that Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney and self-described fixer, traveled to Prague in 2016 for secret meetings with Russian interlocutors -- a claim that Cohen has vehemently denied, and that the FBI later determined not to be true.
"Do you think it hurts your credibility at all that you won't accept the findings of the FBI in this particular case?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"I'm prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100% accurate," Steele said. "I have yet to be convinced that that is one of them."
Asked for comment regarding Steele, Cohen sarcastically told ABC News, "I’m pleased to see that my old friend Christopher Steele, a/k/a Austin Powers, has crawled out of the pub long enough to make up a few more stories. I eagerly await his next secret dossier which proves the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and that Elvis is still alive."
While Steele acknowledged that no corroborating evidence has been found for many of his dossier claims, he argued that very little contradictory evidence exists either -- a line of defense that his critics have found problematic.
"Christopher Steele is free to believe whatever he wants, but if Christopher Steele wants other people to believe that he's believable, he needs to show us what evidence he has to support his beliefs," said Barry Meier, author of "Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies," and a vocal critic of Steele's.
Perhaps the most attention-grabbing headline from the Steele dossier -- and another claim that remains uncorroborated -- was a report of the supposed existence of a "pee tape" allegedly collected by Russian intelligence services. According to the dossier, the tape purportedly shows Trump "employing a number of prostitutes to perform a 'golden showers' (urination) show in front of him" on a bed where the Obamas supposedly once stayed.
Steele told ABC News he believes the alleged tape "probably does" exist -- but that he "wouldn't put 100% certainty on it."
Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of the alleged pee-tape, including in comments last week, when he reportedly told donors at a private speech, "I'm not into golden showers."
The claim of an alleged tape has attracted scrutiny not only from Steele's critics, but also from his own primary source -- a so-called "collector" who traveled to Moscow on Steele's behalf and collected intelligence about Trump from other sources. It was from the collector that Steele received much of the information highlighted in the dossier, including claims of the alleged pee tape.
This collector told FBI agents he "felt that the tenor of Steele's reports was far more 'conclusive' than was justified," and that much of the information he had provided -- including word of the purported "pee tape" -- came from "word of mouth and hearsay ... conversation that [he/she] had with friends over beers," and was likely "made in jest," according to a Justice Department inspector general report.
Steele, in response, told Stephanopoulos that his collector may have "taken fright" at having his cover blown and tried to "downplay and underestimate" his own reporting when he spoke to the FBI.
Christopher Burrows, Steele's business partner, underscored the importance of seeing the dossier as "raw intelligence ... in the sense that what we sent over was the initial findings."
Pressed by Stephanopoulos about why, if it exists, the supposed pee tape has yet to be released, Steele replied that "it hasn't needed to be released."
"Why not?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Because," Steele said, "I think the Russians felt they'd got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S."
ABC News' Julia Macfarlane contributed to this report.
"Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier" is available Monday, October 18, on Hulu.
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