FThe British speaker Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the "Trump dossier", which was used as a basis for the FBI Trump investigation.
According to the deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on the CNN iReport website and said he was not aware of the fact that registrations for that site are published by members of the public and are not verified for accuracy.
A web archive of 29 July 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this way: "iReport.com is a site generated by the user. This means that stories sent by users are not modified, verified or screened before being published. "
In the dossier, Steele, a former MI6 educated in Cambridge, wrote about numerous accusations against Donald Trump, members of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign citizens and a variety of companies – including a Webzilla call. These allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to request warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
During his deposition, Steele was pressed about the methods he used to verify the charges made on Webzilla, which was meant to be used by Russia to hack democratic emails.
When asked if he discovered "something relevant about Webzilla" during the verification process, Steele replied: "We did it. It was an article I published here, published on July 28, 2009, about something called CNR iReport. "
"I don't have any special knowledge of it," Steele said when asked about his understanding of how the iReport website worked.
Asked if he understood that the site's content was not generated by CNN journalists, he said: "I don't know." He was then asked: "Do you understand that they have no connection with CNN journalists?" Steele replied, "I don't know."
It was further urged: "Do you understand that the CNR iReports are or were nothing other than the claims of random individuals on the Internet?" Steele replied: "No, of course I assume that if he is on a CNN site he might have some kind of CNN status. Even if it could be an independent person who posts on the site."
When asked about his methodology for finding this information, Steele described it as "what we might call open source search," which he defined as "where one goes on the Internet and accesses material available on Internet that is of relevance or reference to the problem in question or to the person in question. "
Steele said his file contained "raw information" which he admitted could contain false or even "deliberately false" information.
Steele was hired by the opposition research company Fusion GPS to investigate the then candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.
The memo series that Steele would eventually compile became known as "Trump Dossier". The dossier was used in FISA applications to monitor the Trump Carter Page campaign associate.
When asked if he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the file might be "Russian disinformation", Steele admitted that "there was a general understanding between us and Fusion … that all the material contained this risk".
Steele also described his interactions with Senator John McCain's assistant, David Kramer, whose testimony showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the file and talked to more than a dozen journalists.
"I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for the next pass to David Kramer at the request of Senator John McCain," said Steele. McCain appointed him as an intermediary. I have not chosen as an intermediary. "
When asked if he told Kramer he could not "guarantee for everything that was produced in the memos", Steele replied, "Yes, with emphasis on" everything "."
When asked why he thought it was so important to provide Senator McCain with the dossier, Steele said: "Because I thought it had implications for national security for the United States and the West as a whole."