York: Why is Christopher Steele still defending his dossier?
By Byron York
The disgraced former British spy Christopher Steele has kept a low profile in recent years. Understandably so, given that investigations revealed his dossier -- the collection of stories he compiled to try to undermine Donald Trump's 2016 presidential candidacy -- was filled with unverifiable claims.
But now Steele has granted an interview to ABC's George Stephanopoulos. And if you were wondering whether Steele feels any remorse, wonder no more: He doesn't.
Steele is standing behind the dossier, and standing by even its most preposterous, unsupported allegations. Let's take one: the story that in August 2016, Trump fixer Michael Cohen met with Russian intelligence agents in Prague to arrange secret payments to the Russian hackers who hit Hillary Clinton's campaign. Cohen has vigorously denied the story, and no evidence has emerged that it ever happened. But when Stephanopoulos asked Steele, "Do you accept that finding, that it didn't happen?" Steele responded, "No, I don't."
Cohen has since turned on Trump, accusing his former boss of all sorts of wrongdoing. So why, Stephanopoulos asked, would he lie about the Prague allegation? "It's so incriminating and demeaning." Steele answered. "And the other reason is, he might be scared of the consequences."
It was classic huggermugger spy talk, which appears to be Steele's specialty.
Stephanopoulos asked Steele whether his refusal to accept the findings of FBI and Justice Department investigators might hurt his credibility. "I'm prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100% accurate," Steele answered. "I have yet to be convinced that [the Cohen story] is one of them."
Nor did Steele give an inch on another unproven allegation, the so-called "pee tape" story in which he claimed that in 2013, then-private citizen Trump watched as prostitutes performed a kinky sex act in a Moscow hotel room, with Russian spy cameras catching the whole thing on tape. A Justice Department inspector general's report said the source for that tale told the FBI he warned Steele the story was "rumor and speculation." Then, the source told the FBI "that some of the information were statements he heard made in jest." It was bar talk, a joke.
But not to Steele. When asked why the source would admit that there was nothing to the hotel room story, Steele answered, "If you have a confidential source and that confidential source is blown or is uncovered, that confidential source will often take fright and try and downplay and underestimate what they've said and done." When Stephanopoulos asked if Steele thought the source is afraid, Steele said, "I think anybody that is named in this context, particularly if they are Russian, has every reason to be afraid."
So again, Steele will not admit anything.
The big question is, why is Steele still pushing the dossier? Because Steele is still in the anti-Trump business, and Trump is still in politics. So business could pick up. If so, Steele will be ready. "The problems we identified back in 2016 haven't gone away and arguably have actually got worse," Steele said. "And I thought it was important to come and set the record straight."
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