Newly-released transcripts of a House Intelligence Committee interview with an unnamed Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent during the Senate’s 2017 RussiaGate probe reveal former British spy Christopher Steele was outright blocked from assisting the agency with its own probe into potential ties between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
They revealed the catalyst for the Bureau severing ties with Steele was a “clearly problematic” article in Mother Jones magazine, published at the start of November 2016. The piece was based on an interview with an anonymous source - “who we all knew was Steele”. In essence, the former MI6 operative had gone to the press “to talk about what he had been doing” for the FBI.
Appalled, the special agent got in touch with Steele - “either that day or the very next morning” - in order to “confront him" about the article.
“So I said, ‘was that you in the article?’, and he goes, "yes, it was’. At which point l said, ‘why on Earth would you do that? Everything is going to change here on out’. I told him…don't consider yourself being tasked by us. You are not working on our behalf. You are not to collect any information on behalf of the FBI. The relationship will end. You know, this was because of his violation of the agreement we made back 3rd October…He clearly didn't follow directions, because he clearly went against what he was instructed to do, and because he went public, the relationship was then ended that day. I also told him he was not being paid. There was a payment that he was expecting at that point, and I said that's not going to happen,” the agent said.
The FBI operative went on to state he thought at the time Steele had spoken to Mother Jones due to irritation over his lack of compensation, given he’d asked “once or twice” since being retained by the FBI when he would be paid. The agent put this to Steele directly, who claimed money issues were “secondary”, and he was in fact primarily “very upset” with then-FBI Director James Comey reopening the email investigation into then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Despite Steele making his political biases clear - and indeed the utterly discredited dossier he compiled on Trump’s alleged Russian ties being funded by the Democratic party - the Bureau nonetheless relied on the document to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants for surveillance of then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.