The big hole in Christopher Steele’s defense of himself
It’s not really clear what the utility is of Christopher Steele speaking out now, long after his dossier of unverified claims about Donald Trump and Russia colored Trump’s presidency — and especially with Trump now out of office. Steele had declined to speak publicly on the situation for most of five years, but he’s now the subject of a Hulu documentary, and ABC News has published an interview with Steele.
Or put more precisely, it’s not clear what the utility is of it beyond Steele trying to defend his good name with the heat now (largely) off.
But on one point, Steele’s effort to do so warrants a closer look. It’s in his defense against the idea that he was effectively serving as a vector for Russian disinformation about Trump. Specifically, this deals with the claims in his dossier of unverified and dubious intelligence that there might have been more to Trump-Russia collusion than special counsel Robert S. Mueller III ultimately found, along with more salacious suggestions that Russia might even have kompromat (or compromising material, including the so-called “golden shower” tape) on Trump.
ABC pressed Steele on this topic for the first time. Here’s the relevant section from its report:
Skeptics of Steele's reporting, however, suggest he may have fallen victim to another trademark of Russian spy craft: disinformation. Speaking to congressional investigators in October 2019, Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official in the Trump administration and a longtime friend of Steele's, called Steele's dossier a “rabbit hole.”
"It's very likely that the Russians planted disinformation in and among other information that may have been truthful, because that's exactly, again, the way that they operate," Hill said.