In a Hulu documentary out Monday, ABC News attempted to resurrect the credibility of the debunked “dossier” that served as the basis of the grand Russian collusion hoax.
In his first television interview, with George Stephanopoulos, former British intelligence official Christopher Steele recounts the story behind his discredited opposition research commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to smear former President Donald Trump as an agent of the Russian government.
“I am not a conspiracy theorist,” Steele claims in the documentary, before he goes on to insist some of the dossier’s most salacious lies may be true despite being disproven by a $32 million, two-year special counsel investigation, from the pee-tape allegations to Michael Cohen’s trip to Prague. “I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had and the professionalism which we apply to,” Steele says.
The topic of Steele’s sources proved the documentary’s most glaring omission. Neither Steele nor the interview subjects throughout the entire film named the dossier’s primary sub-source, Igor Danchenko.
Danchenko is a 43-year-old Russian national with a checkered past that includes criminal convictions overlooked by the FBI over the course of the grand enterprise to frame Trump as a Kremlin operative. In 2016, Danchenko was hired by Steele to compile compromising information on Trump. Steele then exaggerated his claims, according to the Department of Justice three years later. Danchenko’s own sources included a group of drinking buddies who regurgitated rumors ultimately given media-manufactured credibility after Steele compiled them as legitimate.
Throughout the film, Steele tries to refurbish his tarnished reputation by explaining what in the disproven dossier he still alleges is true while offering no evidence to bolster false claims.
“Today,” Stephanopoulos pressed on the tape supposedly showing Trump relishing in a hooker fantasy of “golden showers,” “do you still believe that that tape exists?”
“I think it probably does but I wouldn’t be 100 percent certainty on it,” Steele says, and explains the Russians were keeping it concealed. “It hasn’t needed to be released… Because I think the Russians felt they got good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S.”
Steele also rejected the finding in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation that Trump’s personal attorney, Cohen, went to Prague to strategize with Russian officials, as Steele’s dossier alleged. Mueller’s report found Cohen hadn’t gone to Prague at all.
“I am prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100 percent accurate,” Steele admitted. “I have yet to be convinced that that is one of them.”
His reason? Because doing so would have been detrimental to Cohen’s credibility, and even “treasonous.” The same rationale, however, could apply to Steele’s refusal to concede the claim proven false.
The Democratic National Committee-paid opposition researcher whose dossier provoked a multi-million-dollar scheme that undermined the Trump presidency also tried to distance his work from the series of illegal warrants granted to the FBI to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“It had nothing to do with us,” Steele said, despite applying direct pressure on the agency to use his reporting as the basis for an investigation into the Republican president.
The entire film painted Steele as a modern-day James Bond on a crusade to save the United States from its apparent self-destruction through Trump’s election without offering new evidence to make the case even after four years in the White House. His only mistake, he said, was meeting with Mother Jones D.C. Bureau Chief David Corn in 2016 days before the election, giving an anonymous interview that ultimately led to his reveal months later.
At the end of the documentary, Steele asserts without irony that Trump remains a threat to national security, warning new information may eventually emerge to vindicate the fraudulent dossier of its core allegations.
“I don’t think this book is finished by a long shot,” Steele says.