Even though the FBI offered $1 million if he would be able to prove any of the claims made in his dossier, former British spy Christopher Steele was unable to do so, an intelligence official testified on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the FBI used the dossier to secure wiretaps to spy on Donald Trump-related individuals and to spread a narrative of treasonous collusion with Russia by the former president.
FBI supervisory analyst Brian Auten made the confession during the trial of Igor Danchenko, Steele’s unnamed “Primary Sub-Source” who funneled anti-Trump information manufactured by a Hillary Clinton booster to Steele and is now facing indictment on five counts of lying to the FBI.
Auten said the FBI never paid Steele — who was employed by Fusion GPS, which Clinton’s campaign lawyers commissioned to dig up dirt connecting Trump to Russia — because the British spy could not “prove the allegations” outlined in his dossier. Under questioning from Special Counsel John Durham, who is prosecuting Danchenko, Auten also testified that Steele failed to disclose his sources’ names to the FBI during their formal meeting just one month before the 2016 election.
Several top FBI officials and Steele formally met overseas on Oct. 3, 2016. It was then that the FBI offered Steele $1 million cash to prove his dossier, which contained a long list of false and concocted claims about Trump colluding with Russia to win the White House. As Auten has now repeatedly explained, Steele did not have proof that his findings were true.
Despite Steele’s inability to prove the false allegations of conspiracy and collusion, the FBI used the dossier in its Oct. 21 original application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court demanding permission to spy on Trump and his advisers including Carter Page. The dossier was also included in three more FISA renewal applications, which prolonged government intelligence’s recon on Trump and were later deemed invalid and an abuse of power.
That didn’t stop Steele or his employer from peddling the hoax. In addition to leveraging their connection with the FBI to feed false information about Trump to officials at the Department of Justice and Department of State — which knew, along with the FBI, that surveillance of Trump was based on disinformation — Steele and Fusion GPS coordinated with corporate media to disseminate the unproven and now-discredited material to the voting public.
Auten’s testimony contradicts what the FBI told Congress about Steele and his dossier. During a briefing on March 8, 2017, the FBI told Congress that Steele was not paid “for the information on Russia’s activities relating to Trump and the Trump campaign.” Instead, the FBI claimed that they simply covered Steele’s travel arrangements to “meet with us,” neglecting to mention they had offered him seven figures to prove something he could not.
While it’s true that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz knew the FBI offered Steele money and indicated that in his FISA abuse report, he did not say how much the offer was. It’s unclear if the FBI refused to share the exact number with the inspector general or if Horowitz simply chose not to publicize that number.
Danchenko also gave contradicting statements during his trial. The Russian national claimed he received key information from Sergei Millian, the former head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, via an anonymous phone call. Prosecutors, however, say there is no evidence nor are there phone records that indicate Danchenko ever communicated with Millian.
Danchenko also claimed he never “talked” with Charles Dolan, a Democrat operative who worked on Clinton’s campaign, about the dossier. Prosecutors, however, said evidence suggests Danchenko “spoke with Mr. Dolan over email” about the contents of the dossier.