Behind the dossier: Christopher Steele not worried about facing charges in Durham investigation

Special counsel John Durham is investigating the FBI’s role in the Russia probe.

October 18, 2021, 3:32 PM

Retired British spy Christopher Steele, who penned the controversial 2016 research report on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, said he has not cooperated with the ongoing federal probe into the FBI's conduct during its investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and does not believe he will be swept into it.


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."

In his first public remarks on the long-running probe by special counsel John Durham, Steele told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview that he will be "interested to see what he publishes and what he says about us and others."

"Do you think he's coming for you?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"I don't think so, no," Steele replied.

"Are you worried you'll be indicted?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No," Steele said.

Christopher Steele, author of the so-called "Steele dossier," talks to George Stephanopoulos in a scene from the ABC News documentary, "Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier," airing Oct. 18, 2021.
ABC News

Steele's critics have accused him of presenting false or baseless claims to the FBI in his so-called "Steele dossier," which compiled a series of startling -- and even lurid -- allegations about then-candidate Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign.

The FBI had already launched an investigation into interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia in July of 2016 when Steele reached out to the agency with alleged evidence that, among other things, Russian security services had obtained "kompromat" on Trump and might be seeking to blackmail him.

MORE: ‘Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier’ | Oct 18 only on Hulu

Legal experts suggest an indictment of Steele would be difficult for prosecutors to obtain, as it would require evidence that he knowingly or deliberately misled investigators.

"For Christopher Steele to be in any legal jeopardy, [investigators] would need to show that he knew at the time that the information he was providing to the FBI was false," said Sarah Isgur, a former Justice Department spokesperson during the Trump administration and an ABC News contributor.

Former Justice Department spokesperson Sara Isgur, now an ABC News contributor, is seen in the ABC News documentary, "Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier," airing Oct. 18, 2021.
ABC News

Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in May 2019 to investigate allegations of misconduct by members of the FBI and the intelligence community in their Russia investigation, dubbed "Crossfire Hurricane." Before his resignation, Barr then appointed Durham as special counsel, thereby extending his tenure into the Biden administration.

Last month, Durham's prosecutors filed an indictment against Michael Sussmann, an attorney for the Perkins Coie law firm who previously represented the Democratic National Committee following the hacking of its servers by Russia during the 2016 campaign, on charges of lying to the FBI.

This 2018 portrait released by the U.S. Department of Justice shows Connecticut's U.S. Attorney John Durham.
U.S. Department of Justice via AP, FILE

Sussmann, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of lying "about the capacity in which he was providing allegations to the FBI" when he provided the bureau with information about potential ties between a Russian bank and computer servers in the Trump Organization, according to the indictment.

Steele said he and his business partner, Christopher Burrows, have thus far declined to cooperate with Durham's prosecutors. He said after answering questions during four previous investigations into the 2016 campaign, including one by special counsel Robert Mueller's office and another by the Justice Department inspector general, he had trouble justifying the effort.

"We didn't have anything additional that we would be able to share with them," Steele told Stephanopoulos. "And it's important, George, for people to understand that in a small business like ours, there is a huge opportunity cost to us of spending time hiring lawyers, collating information, and particularly if we're repeating exactly what we've done many times before."

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, both vocal proponents of the Durham investigation, referred Steele to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution in early 2018.

"After reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter," Graham said in a statement at the time. No action has publicly been taken as a result of that referral, and three attorneys general have been in office since it was filed.

In this Nov. 10,, 2020, file photo, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, listens during a hearing in Washington, D.C.
Susan Walsh/AP via Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

Trump has repeatedly criticized Steele on Twitter and elsewhere, calling him a "failed spy" and "dopey." Trump once went so far as to call for Steele to be "extradited, tried and thrown in jail."

Stephanopoulos asked Steele what he would say if given the chance to speak with the former president.

"Read the Constitution, maybe," Steele said. "And understand that by weakening a democracy, by challenging the truth and science and all the other things, it's simply playing into the hands of our enemies."

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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