The FBI agreed to buy a controversial dossier on Donald Trump written by a former British spy just weeks before the election but the deal fell through when word of the document leaked, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele authored the 50-page dossier of unconfirmed claims regarding Trump’s financial interests in Russia and sexual escapades for Trump’s political opponents. The agreement with the FBI coincided with release of U.S. intelligence conclusions that Russia attempted to interfere with the presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s email accounts.
The FBI declined to comment on the report, the Post said.
Trump has called the dossier “fake news.” The Post said, however, the FBI’s willingness to pay for the information and pay Steele to continue working on it indicates investigators thought there was something to pursue.
“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” Trump told reporters in January. “It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together.” Trump also labeled Steele a “failed spy.”
Steele had worked with the FBI in the past, aiding in the investigation of alleged corruption in the world soccer organization FIFA, the Post said. As a member of MI6, Steele worked on Russia-related issues.
The dossier, which was published by BuzzFeed, alleged Trump associates colluded with Russian hackers and that Moscow had compromising material on Trump.
The Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI are investigating Russian interference in the election and whether the Trump campaign had regular contacts with Russian operatives. House Speaker Paul Ryan, D-Wis., said Tuesday he had seen no “no evidence so far” of collusion, echoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes who made similar comments Monday.
The FBI, however, has refused to grant a White House request to publicly knock down the story, CNN reported last week.
The investigations are ongoing.
Steele began his inquiry last June as an employee of a Washington research firm Fusion GPS that had been hired by the Clinton campaign. As Election Day approached and his contract was expiring, Steele reportedly approached the FBI, saying he didn’t think his investigation was finished. Earlier Steele had worked on a report about Russian efforts to interfere in European politics, something U.S. intelligence also was tracking.
Steele concluded Russia had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump” for at least five years.