One of Britain’s leading experts on espionage, Nigel West, was hired to examine the dossier written by his friend Christopher Steele. He concluded it was rubbish. So why did it take almost three years for his story to come out?
Steele’s scandalous document, which claimed extensive ties between the then-US President-elect Donald Trump and the Kremlin, was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017 and quickly became the cornerstone of ‘Russiagate.’ Media talking heads insisted that much of it had been corroborated. In fact, nothing was.
West, hired to examine the dossier back in 2017, quickly concluded that “there is… a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated,” according to the Sunday Times.
This is not just anybody’s opinion, either. West – the pen name of former MP Rupert Allason – is one of Britain’s foremost authorities on intelligence matters, and happens to known Steele personally, having met him at a NATO intelligence conference some years back.
“I’ve always had the highest respect for him,” West told RT on Monday. Which is why he was surprised to discover some basic errors in the dossier, such as treating one particular source as an expert in three entirely different fields, or making up the existence of the Russian consulate in Miami, Florida.
The source in question starts out as a middle-manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, but is later described as an expert on cyber warfare, and later yet as an expert on money-laundering by Russian immigrants in the US, West explained.
On the face of it, it looked inherently improbable that this single source was as proclaimed.
Back in early 2017, it didn’t matter. Steele had claimed that the Russian intelligence obtained compromising material – “kompromat” – on Trump, specifically a recording of him with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in 2013, urinating on the same bed where US President Barack Obama had slept previously. Even FBI director at the time, Jim Comey, described the dossier as “salacious and unverified” in a testimony to Congress – which did not stop him from signing an application for a FISA warrant that the Bureau used to spy on the Trump campaign via one of its advisers, Carter Page.
Belief in some kind of Trump-Russia conspiracy still remains strong among many critics of the US president, even though ‘Russiagate’ imploded last year with special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report and fumbling testimony.
West says he made the existence of his own report public after the Justice Department’s inspector-general described Steele’s dossier in “absolutely scathing” terms during last month’s congressional hearings.
Reacting to the Times revelations, Steele’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence, dismissed West’s analysis as “highly speculative at best in its assertions,” and “politically motivated,” since it was funded by a Republican law firm.
Steele himself was paid purely above-board, of course: by Fusion GPS, which was a client of the law firm Perkins Coie LLP, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, at the direction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.