Russians point finger at UK over Trump dossier
Britain was last night dragged into the frantic row over the "dirty dossier" on Donald Trump after it was claimed the UK government gave the FBI permission to speak to the former MI6 officer who compiled it.
Sources in the US have said that Christopher Steele, a former spy, spoke to officials in London before he handed the document to the FBI and met one of its agents.
The document was leaked earlier this week, and Britain now finds itself caught in the crossfire of accusations between Russia and the US.
The dossier included unsubstantiated claims that the Putin regime had "cultivated, assisted and supported" Mr Trump for at least five years and said Russian spies also possessed a tape of a lurid encounter between the president-elect and prostitutes filmed in a Moscow hotel.
Yesterday, Russia accused MI6 of "briefing both ways" against Russia and Mr Trump and suggested Mr Steele was still working for the Secret Intelligence Service.
The Russian embassy in London said on Twitter: "Christopher Steele story: MI6 officers are never ex: briefing both ways - against Russia and US President."
Mr Trump has angrily rejected the information in the dossier as "fake" and the involvement of a former MI6 officer is unlikely to help Britain's intelligence-sharing relationship with the US when he becomes president later this month.
Mr Steele, who friends say fears for his safety, has gone into hiding while the veracity of the claims made in his dossier, and his own reputation, continue to be fiercely debated.
It emerged yesterday that he was the MI6 case officer assigned to Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB agent murdered in London with a radioactive substance.
Mr Steele was hired to find information on Mr Trump by a Washington consultancy paid by Republican opponents of the tycoon and, later, by Democrats.
However, he decided the information was so sensitive that it should also be passed on to the FBI and to his old colleagues at MI6.
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Earlier, Downing Street refused to be drawn on whether the British government had offered any assistance to Mr Steele, who was reported to be in fear for his life after being named in US media reports.
Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokeswoman confirmed there was a "standard process" for supporting current and former holders of sensitive government posts whose identities became public.
Asked whether she could offer an assurance that the UK government had no involvement in the creation of the dossier, she said: "Nothing I have seen suggests that," adding the media reports all related to a "former employee".
The latest claims came after a furious Mr Trump denounced the claims in the dossier as "fake news" during a tumultuous press conference in New York on Wednesday.
He accused US intelligence agencies of behaving "like Nazis" over the leak of the dossier after details were included in classified briefings to the president-elect and to President Barack Obama.
The US director of national intelligence James Clapper later said he had assured Mr Trump the leak did not come from the intelligence community.
The Twitter posting by the Russian embassy marks the latest intervention by an embassy which has been increasingly using its Twitter feed and website to taunt western critics of Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
A web posting earlier this week referred to an "impending official anti-Russian witch hunt in Britain" involving the "British special services".
There was no sign of Mr Steele at his home in the village of Runfold, near Farnham in Surrey, where neighbours said he had been living with his wife and four children for 18 months.
Next-door neighbour Mike Hopper, who was looking after the family's three cats, said Mr Steele left on Wednesday.
"He did not say where he was going or when he was coming back," he said.
Mr Steele's partner in London-based firm Orbis Business Intelligence, former Foreign Office official Christopher Parker Burrows, refused to comment on the dossier but said the company would review the situation over the coming days.
"In the light of everything that has happened, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to make any comments at the moment on what has happened and whether Orbis has been involved or not, and we will review that situation over the next couple of days," he said. (© Daily Telegraph London)