Money In Politics: Christopher Steele And The FBI's Confidential Human Sources

Christopher Steele, former British intelligence officer in London Tuesday March 7, 2017 where he has spoken to the media for the first time . Steele who compiled an explosive and unproven dossier on President Donald Trump’s purported activities in Russia has returned to work. Christopher Steele said Tuesday he is “really pleased” to be back at work in London after a prolonged period out of public view. He went into hiding in January. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Early Monday morning, hours before Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report on FISA abuse in the Crossfire Hurricane (otherwise known as “Russia collusion”) investigation into the Trump campaign, the New York Times ran an article reporting some new, previously redacted information was to be included in that report.

It had to do with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence operative who had been hired by Fusion GPS to gather information on Trump campaign-Russia connections and the tone was — well, not quite sympathetic to Steele but certainly empathetic that what he had reviewed in the report was going to change, and he wasn’t given fair notice.

Forgive me if I don’t have the same concern in my heart for Christopher Steele. Especially now that the IG report has been released.

There will rightly be a lot of talk about the fact that Steele, author of the now infamous dossier, did not actually author much of anything in that document. There were several layers of sources and he apparently did little more than compile what they sent him. This is something that Svetlana Lokhova — the woman another FBI source, Stefan Halper, nearly destroyed by alleging she had inappropriate relations with Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn while insinuating she was a Russian agent– told me when I interviewed her was a fairly standard part of intelligence gathering.

However, as Washington Examiner columnist Byron York illustrates, the lack of verification of this layer cake of sourcing is surely why the dossier turned out to be unverifiable and outright salacious.

I’ll leave others to talk about that. I’m more interested in something else noted in the report about Christopher Steele relative to his job as an FBI confidential human source (CHS).

Steele, who had been fired by the FBI as a CHS for talking to the press, had a backchannel through the DOJ in the person of Bruce Ohr, through which he sent his dirty intel. And, he told Horowitz investigators, his loyalty was to his clients, not the FBI. From the Executive Summary of the report:

In 2013, the FBI completed the paperwork allowing the FBI to designate Steele as a CHS. However, as described in Chapter Four, we found that the FBI and Steele held significantly differing views about the nature of their relationship. Steele’s handling agent viewed Steele as a former intelligence officer colleague and FBI CHS, with obligations to the FBI. Steele, on the other hand, told us that he was a businessperson whose firm (not Steele) had a contractual agreement with the FBI and whose obligations were to his paying clients, not the FBI. We concluded that this disagreement affected the FBI’s control over Steele during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, led to divergent expectations about Steele’s conduct in connection with his election reporting, and ultimately resulted in the FBI formally closing Steele as a CHS in November 2016 (although, as discussed below, the FBI continued its relationship with Steele through Ohr).

Steele, who had been paid by the FBI until his firing (and apparently his decision not to return to work for the FBI despite their desire to have him back) instead went under contract with Fusion GPS for his intelligence work.

And we know Fusion was hired by Perkins Coie law firm and was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

So…what that means is that Steele had allegiance to his clients (Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and Perkins Coie — political rivals of Donald Trump ) and not the intelligence agency linked to the U.S. federal government that was ostensibly investigating potential campaign malfeasance.

When your source is a mercenary, that doesn’t lend credibility to the idea that his research and intelligence is of the highest integrity.

This won’t be last time the discussion of money to pay one of these CHS comes up going forward. There are many questions surrounding payments to Stefan Halper, for example, for research that was never completed. It’s reasonable to expect that discussion will be a part of the forthcoming Durham report since the connection Halper had has been reported to lie outside the DOJ and with the CIA.

The point is, don’t be confused by any highbrow reporting that these were assets had the best interests of the country at heart as they engaged in their “Get Trump” behavior, despite Steele’s reported dislike of Trump. (Which runs counter to new reports that he had a friendly relationship with Ivanka Trump). There’s a good chance it was always about the money.