trump dossier
February 12, 2018

A former top FBI cybersecurity official has been traveling the world over the past six months in an effort to confirm aspects of the controversial dossier on President Trump for BuzzFeed News, Foreign Policy reports. Anthony Ferrante now works for FTI Consulting, which was reportedly hired by BuzzFeed's lawyers after the publication was sued by Russian billionaire Aleksej Gubarev for libel. "If it's fact, it's not libel. That's the idea," said one person familiar with the decision by BuzzFeed's attorneys.

Gubarev is mentioned in the dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which BuzzFeed published in January 2017. The dossier has come under intense scrutiny due to its role in the FBI's obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The dossier, which began as Republican opposition research before later being funded by actors connected to Hillary Clinton, alleges a number of Trump campaign associates corresponded or met with Russian officials about dropping sanctions against Moscow if Trump won the election. It additionally alleges that Russia has compromising information on Trump that could be used to blackmail him.

"At FTI, Ferrante launched what's now been a months-long stealth effort chasing down documents and conducting interviews on the ground in various countries around the world," Foreign Policy reports. "His team directed BuzzFeed lawyers to subpoena specific data and testimony from dozens of agencies or companies across the country and assembled a cyber ops war room to analyze that data, according to sources familiar with the work."

Ferrante worked at the FBI from 2005 through April 2017, and was involved in the U.S. response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Read more about the quiet effort to verify the Steele dossier at Foreign Policy. Jeva Lange

January 9, 2018

President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, told Bloomberg he is suing both BuzzFeed and research firm Fusion GPS for defamation over claims that appeared in the dossier alleging ties between President Trump and Russian leaders.

Cohen said he filed both lawsuits on Tuesday. Fusion GPS was hired by Republicans and Democrats to compile background information on President Trump during the 2016 campaign, and it retained former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to conducting the Russia-related research. The dossier he put together contained several explosive revelations about Trump and some of his associates, only some of which have been verified, and Cohen said he was named in the dossier 15 times. He told Bloomberg he believes his name was "included only because of my proximity to the president."

BuzzFeed was given a copy of the dossier last year and published most of it, without revealing who supplied it. Cohen's lawsuit names BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs, and reporter Ken Bensinger. "The dossier is, and continues to be, the subject of active investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies," BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said in a statement. "It was presented to two successive presidents, and has been described in detail by news outlets around the world. Its interest to the public is obvious. We look forward to defending the free press and our First Amendment rights in court." Catherine Garcia

January 9, 2018

On Tuesday Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson's testimony, despite Republican objections. Fusion GPS is famously behind a controversial dossier that alleges Russia possesses compromising information about President Trump. It was compiled by British spy Christopher Steele, who Simpson hired.

The committee's chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), had previously told The New York Times that Simpson was "uncooperative" during his interview. Republicans have additionally raised concerns that Steele "lied to federal authorities about his contacts with journalists," the Times notes.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Simpson was "very cooperative" in his interview before that committee. Overall, Simpson has participated in an estimated 20 hours of interrogation before three separate congressional committees, The New York Times reports.

Simpson had called for his Senate Judiciary Committee transcript, which runs 312 pages long, to be released. Feinstein's decision to do so "marks the most serious break yet in the cooperative relationship she has had" with Grassley, The Washington Post writes. Read the full transcript here. Jeva Lange

November 15, 2017

On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) lent credibility to the salacious dossier compiled by a British ex-spy that alleges Moscow possesses compromising information on President Trump. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Wall Street Journal that he believes many of the findings in the document to be true, even as its more sensational assertions remain unverified:

"The biggest thing that I think people need to realize about the dossier is that Christopher Steele discovered that the Russians were embarked on a broad effort to help the Trump campaign before our own intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion," Mr. Schiff said. "In the broadest outline of what he investigated, he proved more than prescience — he proved accurate in terms of the Russian involvement and what their motivations were." [The Wall Street Journal]

Schiff also criticized the dossier's detractors, saying they "would like you to believe that if they can discredit the dossier, then you should ignore everything else we've learned." The congressman's comments supporting the dossier's validity stand apart from many of his peers, given the previous attempts by House Republicans to discredit both the dossier and its patrons.

Glenn Simpson — founder of the intelligence firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned Steele to compile his dossier on Trump — testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, albeit behind closed doors. The Guardian reported Wednesday that Steele believes that 70 to 90 percent of his research is accurate.

President Trump and several of his former campaign aides have been adamant that the dossier is untrue. Kelly O'Meara Morales

November 15, 2017

Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the controversial dossier alleging Russia possesses compromising information about President Trump, believes the document is just 70 to 90 percent accurate, The Guardian reported Wednesday. Steele's assessment of his own work was reported on by Guardian journalist Luke Harding in his forthcoming book about Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In January, BuzzFeed News published the unverified dossier in full, which alleges that the Russian government has salacious information on Trump that could leave him vulnerable to pressure from the Kremlin. Steele reportedly told friends that reading the dossier would be "a life-changing experience" for anyone who did so. "I've been dealing with [Russia] for 30 years," Harding quotes Steele as saying. "Why would I invent this stuff?"

Harding's book claims that the FBI warned Steele weeks before the election to not go public with the information in the dossier. The dossier's most explosive allegations remain unverified, though parts of it have since been inadvertently confirmed by Trump campaign associates. Trump himself has called it "a disgrace" and "a sad commentary on politics in this country." Kelly O'Meara Morales

November 1, 2017

Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled information on President Trump and his advisers and their ties to Russia, was paid $168,000 for his work, the Washington firm that hired him, GPS Fusion, said in a statement Wednesday.

This amount was previously undisclosed, and much less than the "$12,000,000" Trump recently said it cost. Fusion GPS was first hired by a conservative website looking for information on Trump during the 2016 presidential election, then by the Perkins Coie law firm, representing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign. Fusion GPS said it told Congress that Perkins Coie paid the firm $1.02 million in fees and expenses, and from that money, $168,000 was paid to Steele's company, Orbis Business Intelligence.

Both Trump and Russia deny the allegations found inside the dossier, which is being looked at by investigators as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the election. Catherine Garcia

October 24, 2017

In April 2016, a lawyer representing Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained the services of a Washington firm to conduct research into President Trump's business interests, which led to the compilation of a dossier with allegations about Trump's connections to Russia, several people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Congressional Republicans have been pushing for the firm, Fusion GPS, to reveal who paid for the research; it has refused, citing confidentiality agreements. The Post reports that lawyer Marc E. Elias retained Fusion GPS in April 2016. Before then, during the GOP primary, the company's research into Trump was funded by a Republican donor whose identity remains unknown. This person paid Fusion GPS to investigate Trump's background, and it was quickly determined that Trump had deep ties to Russia, several people told the Post.

Fusion GPS hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to conduct the research, and it was his reports and documents that were compiled to make the dossier, which BuzzFeed News published in January; Fusion GPS denies giving BuzzFeed the dossier. The dossier claims the Russian government has compromising information on Trump and helped his presidential campaign, allegations Trump has denied. U.S. intelligence has corroborated some of the details in the dossier.

Perkins Coie, Elias' firm, funded Fusion GPS's research through the end of October. Fusion GPS gave Steele's reports and documents to Elias, several people told the Post, but it's unclear how much was passed along to the Clinton campaign and DNC, or who knew about the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. The Clinton campaign and DNC never directed Steele's activities, the Post reports, and it is standard practice for campaigns to use law firms to hire outside researchers, so their work is protected by attorney-client and work-product privileges. Catherine Garcia

October 5, 2017

Members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team recently traveled to Europe to interview ex-British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier containing allegations about President Trump and his ties to Russia, at least two people familiar with the interview told The Associated Press and CNN.

Before the election, a private American research firm hired Steele to investigate Trump's links to Russia, and he ultimately put together a 35-page dossier that contained financial and personal bombshells about Trump. The dossier was given to the FBI last year, and former FBI Director James Comey privately briefed Trump about its existence. The FBI and CIA take the dossier's claims more seriously than they publicly acknowledge, CNN says, and some parts have been corroborated. Trump has called the dossier "phony stuff." Mueller is in the middle of investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials before the election. Catherine Garcia

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