Christopher Steele

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Christopher Steele
Born (1964-06-24) 24 June 1964 (age 54)
Aden, South Arabia (now Yemen)
Residence Farnham, Surrey[1]
Alma mater Girton College, Cambridge
Occupation Private intelligence consultant
Spying career
Service Secret Intelligence Service
Active 1987–2009
Other work Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd

Christopher David Steele (born 24 June 1964) is a former British intelligence officer with the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 from 1987 until his retirement in 2009. He ran the Russia desk at MI6 HQ in London between 2006 and 2009. In 2009 he co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based private intelligence firm. He authored a dossier that claims Russia collected a file of compromising information on U.S. President Donald Trump.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Christopher David Steele was born in the Yemeni city of Aden (then part of the Federation of South Arabia), on 24 June 1964.[1][4] His parents, Perris and Janet, had met while working at the Met Office, the United Kingdom's national weather service. His paternal grandfather was a coal miner from Pontypridd in Wales.[5] Steele spent time growing up in Aden, the Shetland Islands, and Cyprus, as well as at Wellington College, Berkshire.[5]

Steele was accepted to Cambridge University in 1982, where he attended Girton College and wrote for the oldest of Cambridge University's main student newspapers, Varsity.[1][5][6] In the Easter term of 1986, Steele was President of The Cambridge Union debating society,[7][8] and graduated with a degree in Social and Political Sciences in 1986.[9]


Steele was recruited by MI6 directly following his graduation from Cambridge, working in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 1987 to 1989.[4] From 1990 to 1993, Steele worked under diplomatic cover as an MI6 agent in Moscow, serving at the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Moscow.[1][8][10] Steele was an "internal traveller", visiting newly-accessible cities such as Samara and Kazan.[5][11][12]

He returned to London in 1993, working again at the FCO until his posting with the British Embassy in Paris in 1998, where he served under diplomatic cover until 2002. But Steele's identity as an MI6 officer and a hundred and sixteen other British spies had their cover blown by an anonymously published list that Her Majesty's Government attempted to suppress through a DSMA-Notice in 1999.[1][10][13][14][15]

In 2003, Steele was sent to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan as part of an MI6 team, briefing Special Forces on "kill or capture" missions for Taliban targets, and also spent time teaching new MI6 recruits.[10] Steele returned to London and between 2006 and 2009 he headed the Russia Desk at MI6.[1][5][8][16]

Steele's expertise on Russia remained valued, and he served as a senior officer under John Scarlett, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), from 2004 to 2009.[16] Steele was selected as case officer for Alexander Litvinenko and participated in the investigation of the Litvinenko poisoning in 2006.[10] It was Steele who quickly realised that Litvinenko's death "was a Russian state 'hit'".[16] Twelve years later he allegedly was included himself into a hit list of the Russian Federal Security Service, along with Sergei Skripal who was poisoned in 2018 by a binary chemical weapon Novichok in Britain.[17]

Since 2009 Steele has not been to Russia, or visited any former Soviet states and in 2012, an Orbis informant quoted an FSB-agent describing him as an ″enemy of Mother Russia″.[1]

Private sector[edit]

In March 2009, Steele with his fellow MI6-retiree Chris Burrows co-founded the private intelligence agency Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd., based in Grosvenor Square Gardens.[18][8] Between 2014 and 2016, Steele created over 100 reports on Russian and Ukrainian issues, which were read within the United States Department of State, and he was viewed as credible by the United States intelligence community.[5] The business was commercially successful, grossing approximately $20,000,000 in the first nine years of operation.[1]

Steele ran an investigation dubbed "Project Charlemagne", which noted Russian interference in the domestic politics of France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.[1] Steele concluded in April 2016 that Russia was engaged in an information warfare campaign with the goal of destroying the European Union.[1]

In 2017, Steele established a new company called Chawton Holdings, again with Christopher Burrows.[19]

FIFA research[edit]

In 2010, The Football Association (FA), England's domestic football governing body, organized a committee in hopes of hosting the 2018 or 2022 World Cups.[20] The FA hired Steele's company to investigate FIFA (International Federation of Association Football). In advance of the FBI launching its 2015 FIFA corruption case, members of the FBI's Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force met with Steele in London to discuss allegations of possible corruption in FIFA.[18][21] Steele's research indicated that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin had rigged the bidding of the 2018 World Cups by employing bribery.[1]

2017 Trump dossier[edit]

Background and information gathering[edit]

In September 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, retained the services of Fusion GPS, a private Washington D.C. political research firm, to conduct research on several primary Republican Party candidates including candidate Trump. The research was unrelated to Russia and was ended once Trump was determined to be the presidential nominee.

The firm was subsequently hired by the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee through their shared attorney at Perkins Coie, Marc Elias. Fusion GPS then hired Steele[22] to investigate Trump's Russia-related activities.[18] According to CNN, Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee took over the financing of the inquiry into Donald Trump and produced what became known as the Trump dossier.[23]

In July 2016, Steele supplied a report he had written to an FBI agent in Rome.[24] His contact at the FBI was the same senior agent with whom he had worked when investigating the FIFA scandal.[10][1]

In September 2016, Steele held a series of off the record meetings with journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo! News, The New Yorker and CNN.[5] In October 2016, Steele spoke about his discoveries to David Corn of the progressive American political magazine Mother Jones. Steele said he decided to pass his dossier to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that the material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Trump, but was a matter of national security for both countries.[25] Corn's resulting 31 October article in Mother Jones was the first to publicly mention the dossier, although the article did not disclose Steele's identity.[25] The magazine did not publish the dossier itself, however, or detail its allegations, since they could not be verified.[26]

Post-election work on the dossier[edit]

Steele continued to work for Fusion GPS on the dossier without a client to pay him.[27] After the election, Steele's dossier "became one of Washington's worst-kept secrets, and journalists worked to verify the allegations.[27] On 18 November 2016, Sir Andrew Wood, British ambassador to Moscow from 1995 to 2000, met with U.S. Senator John McCain at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, and told McCain about the existence of the collected materials about Trump.[28] Wood vouched for Steele's professionalism and integrity.[29] In early December, McCain obtained a copy of the dossier from David J. Kramer, a former U.S. State Department official working at Arizona State University.[27] On 9 December 2016, McCain met personally with FBI Director James Comey to pass on the information.[28]

In a second memo Steele wrote in November 2016, after the termination of his contract with Fusion, he reported that Russian officials had claimed that Russia had blocked Donald Trump from nominating Mitt Romney to be his Secretary of State, due to Romney's hawkishness on Russia.[1][30]

Compromised identity[edit]

On 11 January 2017, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Steele was the author of the dossier about Trump, citing "people familiar with the matter".[3] Although the dossier's existence had been "common knowledge" among journalists for months at that point and had become public knowledge during the previous week, Steele's name had not been revealed. The Telegraph asserted that Steele's anonymity had been "fatally compromised" after CNN published his nationality.[22]

The Independent reported that Steele left his home in England several hours before his name was published as the author of the dossier, as he was fearful of retaliation by Russian authorities.[22] In contrast, The Washington Post reported that he left after he had been identified earlier in the day by the initial Wall Street Journal report.[31]

Christopher Burrows, director of Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd., said he would not "confirm or deny" that Orbis had produced the dossier.[32]

Steele's relationship with the FBI ended, variously associated with either the public revelation of Steele's identity, or Steele's release of information to the press, or Steele's denial to the FBI of having spoken to the press.[33][34] One source dates this event to late October 2016.[35]

On 7 March 2017, as some members of the United States Congress were expressing interest in meeting with or hearing testimony from Steele, he reemerged after weeks in hiding, appearing publicly on camera and stating, "I'm really pleased to be back here working again at the Orbis's offices in London today".[36]

Disclosure and reactions[edit]

In early January 2017, a two-page summary of the Trump dossier was presented to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump in meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.[37]

On 10 January 2017, BuzzFeed was the first media outlet to publish the full 35-page dossier. In publishing the Trump dossier, BuzzFeed stated that it had been unable to verify or corroborate the allegations.[38] The UK issued a DSMA notice on 10 January 2017, requesting that the media not release Steele's identity,[39] although the BBC and other UK news media released the information in news stories the same day.[11] Trump vigorously denied the dossier's allegations, calling it fake news during a press conference.[40] Vladimir Putin also dismissed the claims.[41]

Ynet, an Israeli online news site, reported that American intelligence advised Israeli intelligence officers to be cautious about sharing information with the incoming Trump administration, until the possibility of Russian influence over Trump, suggested by Steele's report, has been fully investigated.[42]

Former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, read Steele's report. Speaking on Sky News he said, "I've seen quite a lot of intelligence on Russia, and there are some things in it which look pretty shaky". Brenton expressed some doubts due to discrepancies in how the dossier described aspects of the hacking activities, as well as Steele's ability to penetrate the Kremlin and Russian security agencies, given that he is an outsider.[43]

On 15 March 2017, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell raised questions about the dossier. He was concerned about the accuracy of the information, due to the approach taken by Steele to gather it. Steele gave money to intermediaries and the intermediaries paid the sources. Morell said, "Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can't judge the information – you just can't". Morell continues to believe that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 U.S.presidential election.[44]

Role in subsequent investigations[edit]

In the summer of 2017, two Republican staffers for the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence traveled to London to investigate the dossier, visiting the office of Steele's attorney but not meeting with Steele.[45]

Steele reportedly revealed the identities of the sources used in the dossier to the FBI.[46] Investigators from Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation team met with Steele in September 2017 to interview him about the dossier's claims.[47][48] The United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is in continued contact with lawyers representing Steele.[49]

Legal action[edit]

In August 2017, lawyers for Russian internet entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, who was mentioned in Steele's dossier, demanded Steele give a deposition regarding the dossier, as part of a libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed News.[50][51][52] Steele objected to testifying but his objections were rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Mancusi Ungaro, who allowed the deposition to proceed.[53][54]

In April 2018, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan – the owners of Alfa Bank – filed a libel suit against Steele, who mentioned the bank in the Trump–Russia dossier. The lawsuit is filed in Washington D.C.[55]

Senate Republicans' referral for a criminal investigation[edit]

On 5 January 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, joined by senior Republican member Lindsey Graham, issued a criminal referral regarding Steele to the Justice Department for it to investigate whether Steele had lied to the FBI about his interactions with the media.[56][57][58][59] Because the referral is based on classified FBI documents, the context in which the Republican senators allege Steele to have lied is limited to references that he discussed the dossier with media outlets.[59] Both Grassley and Graham declared that they were not alleging that Steele "had committed any crime. Rather, they had passed on the information for 'further investigation only'".[60]

The referral was met with skepticism from legal experts, as well as members of both parties on the Judiciary Committee.[58] Fusion GPS lawyer Joshua A. Levy said that the referral was just another effort to discredit the investigation into Russian interference in the election and that: "After a year of investigations into Donald Trump's ties to Russia, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place".[58] Veteran prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg called the referral "nonsense" because "the FBI doesn't need any prompting from politicians to prosecute people who have lied to them."[58] Another former federal prosecutor, Justin Dillon said that "it was too early to assume the letter was simply a political attack". The senior Democrat on the Committee, Diane Feinstein, said that the referral was made without consultation of any Democrats on the committee and released a five-page rebuttal.[61] A Republican aide said that Grassley and Graham were "carrying water for the White House"; that their actions did not reflect the views of the committee as a whole; and that other members were upset with Grassley over the matter.[58]

In an opinion-editorial for Politico, former CIA official John Sipher said that the attacks on Steele, a private citizen who provided information to the FBI that alarmed him, will make future tipsters less likely to approach American law enforcement with information that bears on national security.[62]

Personal life[edit]

His first wife, Laura, with whom he had three children, died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2012; he and his second wife Katherine had one child and are raising all four children together.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Mayer, Jane (March 12, 2018). "Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  2. ^ "Trump dossier: Christopher Steele, ex-MI6 officer, named as author". The Guardian. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Bradley, Hope; Rothfeld, Michael; Cullison, Alan (11 January 2017). "Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer, Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  4. ^ a b The Diplomatic Service List. H.M. Stationery Office. 1996. p. 235. Steele, Christopher David; Second later First Secretary FCO since April 1993; born 24.6.64; FCO 1987; Second Secretary (Chancery) Moscow 1990; FCO 1987; m 1990 Laura Katharine Hunt. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Harding, Luke (15 November 2017). "How Trump walked into Putin's web". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. 
  6. ^ Dawson, Hannah (13 January 2017). "Everything we know about Christopher Steele, the Cambridge MI6 spy". The Tab. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Parkinson, Stephen (2009). Arena of Ambition: A History of the Cambridge Union. Icon. p. 368. ISBN 1848310617. 
  8. ^ a b c d Blum, Howard (April 2017). "How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele Compiled His Explosive Trump-Russia Dossier". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 3 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  9. ^ The Cambridge University List of Members
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  11. ^ a b Cox, Joseph (13 January 2017). "UK Asks Journalists to Not Name Ex-Agent Allegedly Behind Trump Report". Vice News. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "List of MI6 Officers". Cryptome. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Christopher David Steele: 90 Moscow; dob 1964. 
  13. ^ Behar, Richard (11 January 2017). "Could This Be The British Ex-MI6 Agent Behind The Trump FBI Memos?". Forbes. Retrieved 12 January 2017. A diplomatic service list published by the British government shows that Steele, 52, was posted to the U.K.'s Moscow embassy in 1990 with the title of "Second Secretary (Chancery)." 
  14. ^ "Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele in hiding after Trump dossier". BBC News. 12 January 2017. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. 
  15. ^ Diplomatic Service Administration Office (1999). The Diplomatic Service List. p. 297. Steele, Christopher David; First Secretary (Financial) Paris since September 1998; born 24.6.64; FCO 1987; Second Secretary (Chancery) Moscow 1990; Second later First Secretary FCO 1993; First Secretary Bangkok 1998; m 1990 Laura Katharine Hunt (2s 1996, 1998). 
  16. ^ a b c Nick Hopkins & Luke Harding (12 January 2017). "Donald Trump dossier: intelligence sources vouch for author's credibility". The Guardian. Over a career that spanned more than 20 years, Steele performed a series of roles, but always appeared to be drawn back to Russia; he was, sources say, head of MI6’s Russia desk. 
  17. ^ "Russian ex-spy says he was on Kremlin 'hit list' along with poisoned Skripal". 
  18. ^ a b c Hosenball, Mark (12 January 2017). "Former MI-6 spy known to U.S. agencies is author of reports on Trump in Russia". Reuters. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. After he left the spy service, Steele supplied the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with information on corruption at FIFA, international soccer's governing body. 
  19. ^ Silvera, Ian (28 June 2017). "British spy behind Donald Trump dossier creates new company with a Jane Austen link". International Business Times. Public records show that Steele has set up Chawton Holdings with his business partner and fellow former intelligence officer, Christopher Burrows. 
  20. ^ Bensinger, Ken (6 June 2018). "Did Russia Steal the World Cup?". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2018. 
  21. ^ Isikoff, Michael (11 January 2017). "The British ex-spy behind the Trump dossier was an FBI asset". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. 
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  23. ^ Krieg, Gregory (28 October 2017). "Clinton, the DNC and the making of the 'Trump dossier' – what we know". CNN. Retrieved 28 October 2017. 
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  25. ^ a b David Corn: A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump, Mother Jones, 31 October 2016
  26. ^ Matt Taibbi: "The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point", Rolling Stone, 13 January 2017
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  28. ^ a b Edwards, Jim (11 January 2017). "Timeline: That Russian Trump blackmail dossier has been making the rounds for months – here is how it finally came to light". Business Insider. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  29. ^ Sengupta, Kim (12 January 2017). "Revealed: former British ambassador Sir Andrew Wood's key role in Trump investigation". The Independent. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  30. ^ Barry, Rob; Holliday, Shelby (8 March 2018). "Russian Trolls Tried to Torpedo Mitt Romney's Shot at Secretary of State". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. According to the report, Mr. Steele created another, previously unreleased memo in late November 2016, which said the Kremlin “intervened to block” Mr. Trump’s choice of Mr. Romney for secretary of state. The memo is attributed to a single source described as “a senior Russian official." 
  31. ^ Adam, Karla (12 January 2017). "This former British spy was identified as the Trump dossier source. Now he is in hiding". The Washington Post. 
  32. ^ Nichols, Hans. "Former British Spy Christopher Steele Prepared Explosive Trump Memo". NBC News. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  33. ^ Hamburger, Tom; Helderman, Rosalind S. (28 February 2017). "FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2 February 2018. 
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  35. ^ Andrew C. McCarthy. Grassley-Graham Memo Affirms Nunes Memo — Media Yawns. National Review. 10 February 2018.
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  37. ^ Steve Robson, Christopher Bucktin, Louise Sassoon: "CIA 'believes Russia has more than one Donald Trump sex tape and second source claims it DOES exist'", Mirror Online, 12 January 2017
  38. ^ Masha Gessen: Lessons From Russia: Verify Everything, Don't Publish Rumors, The New York Times, 14 January 2017
  39. ^ "The Register on Twitter". Twitter. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017. US media names ex-MI6 agent as source of the CNN/BuzzFeed dossier on Trump. UK media gets a D-Notice… 
  40. ^ Jamieson, Amber (11 January 2017). "'You are fake news': Trump attacks CNN and BuzzFeed at press conference". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  41. ^ Chaplain, Chloe (18 January 2017). "Vladimir Putin: Russian prostitutes are the best in the world". Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
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  46. ^ Sampathkumar, Mythili (23 August 2017). "Trump-Russia dossier sources revealed to the FBI by Christopher Steele". The Independent. Archived from the original on 29 August 2017. The 35-page document contained several unsubstantiated allegations about Mr Trump, specifically a 2013 trip to Moscow and Mr Steele provided names of the sources of those claims, ABC News reported. 
  47. ^ Lanktree, Graham (6 October 2017). "Robert Mueller's Team Interview Trump Dossier's Christopher Steele". Newsweek. 
  48. ^ Perez, Evan; Prokupecz, Shimon; Brown, Pamela (5 October 2017). "Exclusive: Mueller's team met with Russia dossier author". CNN. Archived from the original on 5 October 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators met this past summer with the former British spy whose dossier on alleged Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign spawned months of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration, according to two people familiar with the matter. 
  49. ^ Loop, Emma. "The Senate Intel Committee Is In Regular Contact With The Trump–Russia Dossier Author". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. 
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  51. ^ Aleksej Gubarev, XBT Holdings S.A., and Webzilla, Inc. v. BuzzFeed, Inc, and Ben Smith (United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Miami Division 10 August 2017). Text
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  54. ^ Bolado, Carolina (15 August 2017). "UK Man Tied To Trump Dossier Must Testify In BuzzFeed Row". Law360. Retrieved 16 August 2017. A Florida federal judge declined Tuesday to allow a British security company director who is widely believed to have compiled a dossier alleging Russia has compromising information on President Donald Trump to intervene in a Russian technology executive's defamation suit against BuzzFeed over the publication of his name in the dossier. 
  55. ^ Polantz, Katelyn (20 April 2018). "3 Russian oligarchs sue Christopher Steele". CNN. Retrieved 22 April 2018. 
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  57. ^ Bernstein, Aaron P. (5 January 2018). "Grassley, Graham Refer Dossier Author Christopher Steele for Criminal Investigation". Reuters via The Daily Beast. Retrieved 5 January 2018. In a shocking move Friday afternoon, GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham referred the so-called "Trump dossier" writer Christopher Steele for criminal investigation. They are referring him to the Justice Department for what they say are potential violations regarding inconsistencies Steele made in statements provided to authorities. 
  58. ^ a b c d e Barrett, Devlin; Hamburger, Tom (5 January 2018). "Senior Republican refers Trump dossier author for possible charges". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 January 2018. Their letter makes what's called a criminal referral to the Justice Department, suggesting they investigate the dossier author, former British spy Christopher Steele, for possibly lying to the FBI. 
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]