British ex-spy Christopher Steele says he isn’t worried about being indicted in special counsel John Durham’s criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation, even after the indictment of a Hillary Clinton campaign-linked lawyer with whom the former MI6 agent coordinated in 2016.
“I’m interested to see what he publishes and what he says about us and others,” Steele said of Durham’s investigation during a recent interview. He answered “no” when asked if he was worried he would be indicted.
Steele is the former MI6 agent who compiled the salacious and discredited anti-Trump file after being hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which itself was hired by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The former spy spoke with journalist George Stephanopoulos a couple of weeks ago in London and the interview, which is a project streaming on Hulu, aired this week.
Steele’s decision to sit down with the ABC News host comes following last month’s indictment of Democratic lawyer and cybersecurity expert Michael Sussmann by Durham.
The grand jury indictment against Sussmann, a now-former Perkins Coie lawyer, centers on a September 2016 meeting between him and then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in which Sussmann passed along allegations claiming there was a secret back channel between Russia’s Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization.
While Durham says Sussmann told Baker he was not working for any specific client, the special counsel contends he was secretly doing the bidding of Clinton’s campaign, and billing his work to her, as well as working on behalf of a technology company executive named Rodney Joffe.
Sussmann has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.
Steele was hired by Fusion and Fusion was hired by Marc Elias, who was also a Perkins Coie lawyer and general counsel for Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Steele testified in a British court that Sussmann provided him with other claims about Alfa Bank’s purported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a late July 2016 meeting. These allegations made their way into a September 2016 memo that became part of Steele’s dossier, although Steele repeatedly misspells “Alfa” as “Alpha.”
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his December 2019 report on the Russia investigation the FBI “concluded by early February 2017 that there were no such links” between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. The DOJ watchdog criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to its spy court surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page and to its reliance on the dossier.
Horowitz’s report criticized Steele directly, noting that FBI meetings with Steele’s sources “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting,” and bureau officials said Steele “may have some judgment problems.”
Horowitz said Steele’s dossier played a “central and essential” role in the FBI’s wiretap efforts. Declassified footnotes from Horowitz’s report made public in 2020 indicate the bureau became aware that Steele’s dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.
Steele admitted in the interview the Russians may have played him and fed him disinformation, though he claimed it was unlikely. Horowitz said Steele’s main source, Igor Danchenko, “contradicted the allegations of a ‘well-developed conspiracy’ in” Steele’s dossier.
But Steele continues to stand by the dossier and its most explosive allegations, including those refuted by the FBI. The former spy also spoke about his company, Orbis Business Intelligence, in the interview.
“We feed intelligence into private clients as a way of helping them make corporate decisions,” he said.
Stephanopoulos asked Steele what he thought about being called a “spy for hire,” to which the former MI6 agent replied, “I think it’s over simplistic. I mean, effectively, we vet our clients. We reject clients that we don’t think are fit and proper.”
Steele worked for years for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire known for his ties to President Vladimir Putin as well as his prior business relationship with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Deripaska hired Steele to investigate Manafort after accusing the lobbyist of stealing millions from him. A mansion in Washington, D.C., tied to Deripaska, who has been sanctioned by the U.S., was raided by the FBI on Tuesday.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report stated the Russians interfered in 2016 in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”
So far, Durham has obtained a single guilty plea from ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for editing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act filing fraudulently to state former Trump campaign associate Carter Page was “not a source” for the CIA. The judge in Clinesmith’s case sentenced him to probation.
Stephanopoulos noted that Trump had called Steele a “failed spy,” a “lowlife,” “disgraced,” and “dopey.”
“Well, I have been accused of all sorts of things in my life, but dopey actually isn’t one of them,” Steele replied. When asked if he had ever been worried when Trump had called for him to be extradited to the U.S., Steele said: “No, why would I be? I did nothing wrong.”