Sunday 22 September 2019

Spy 'sitting on bombshell about Trump'

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller

Ben Riley-Smith

The former British spy behind a controversial dossier about Donald Trump's links with Russia has spent two days talking to a team of US investigators, it was reported yesterday.

Christopher Steele met colleagues of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian election meddling, according to the 'Washington Post'.

It means investigators will be able to judge at first hand whether they think the claims reported by Mr Steele in the dossier are trustworthy.

Mr Steele had previously refused to appear before Congressional committees looking into how Russia may have interfered in the 2016 election.

The 'Post' also reported Mr Steele had compared possessing the information he found about Mr Trump to "sitting on a nuclear weapon".

The newspaper's 4,000-word article provides the fullest picture yet of how Mr Steele acted after uncovering claims the Russians had compromising material on Mr Trump.

Mr Steele and his "dossier", a series of memos written after he was given funding by first Republican and then Democrat opponents of Mr Trump, lies at the heart of the row over Russian interference in the race for the White House.

Among the claims made was that Mr Trump asked prostitutes to conduct lurid sex acts while in Russia. Mr Trump has denied the allegations.

The dossier, published by the 'Buzzfeed' news website after the election, has become the focus of a partisan battle over the Russian investigation, which is looking into links with the Trump campaign team.

Republicans have sought to portray Mr Steele as politically motivated and his claims as unfounded, indicating the entire Russian investigation is constructed on his faulty intelligence.

Democrats have painted Mr Steele as someone who passed on concerns in good faith and stressed his information was not the only reason for starting the Russia investigation.

The 'Post' described how Mr Steele, a Russian expert so trusted he had provided briefings for UK prime ministers and at least one other US president, got drawn into the Trump case.

It went on to describe how after Mr Steele's consulting firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, was commissioned to look into Mr Trump, he became increasingly concerned by the discoveries coming from his network of informants.

Mr Steele eventually reached out to the FBI, with whom he had worked to expose corruption at Fifa. He met 'Post' journalists twice before the election to try to get them to print the claims, once "visibly agitated". The 'Post', however, declined to publish without verification,

Mr Steele contacted old intelligence colleagues for advice, apparently convinced the information he had found was significant to national security.

Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, met Mr Steele and his colleague at London's Garrick Club.

Andrew Wood, a British former diplomat and friend of Mr Steele, was also asked for his thoughts. "He wanted to share the burden a bit," Mr Wood told the 'Post'.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has asked the Pentagon to organise a large-scale military parade in Washington in a move criticised as evidence of creeping authoritarianism.

Democrats questioned the symbolism of such a parade, suggesting the events were a relic of a bygone era, as well as the potential cost.

Jim McGovern, a Democratic congressman, called the plans an "absurd waste of money," adding: "Trump acts more like dictator than president. Americans deserve better."

Several retired military personnel have said the money would be better spent improving conditions for veterans or raising military wages.

Paul Eaton, a retired general and senior adviser to VoteVets, a political action committee for veterans, said: "Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example."

Mr Trump - who has long toyed with the idea of a parade that would showcase American muscle and underscore his role as commander-in-chief - made the request to top Pentagon officers.

In another development, Rob Porter has resigned as White House staff secretary after allegations of domestic violence. Mr Porter (40) was described as a close aide to Donald Trump.

A British newspaper published a protection order from his second wife and photos of his first wife with a black eye. Mr Porter called the accusations "outrageous" and "simply false". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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