Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele said 'dirty dossier' not for public

Ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele tells High Court defamation trial he never ‘foresaw’ his ‘dirty dossier’ private intelligence report linking Trump and Russia to end up in the media

  • Christopher Steele, 59, said he never imagined his study would go public
  • Mr Steele’s intelligence report alleged ties between Trump and the Kremlin 
  • He is being sued by IT firm boss Aleksej Gubarev over his 2016 dossier
  • Mr Steele pointed out his Orbis business depended on confidentiality
  • He told the judge he never thought report would go out to ‘world at large’

A British former spy who penned a 2016 dossier on alleged links between Donald Trump and Russia said he thought it would stay private, describing it being released as ‘morally repugnant’.

Christopher Steele, 59,  told Mr Justice Warby he took great care to ensure intelligence was handled and communicated carefully.

Mr Steele pointed out his business depended on confidentiality, and told the judge he never ‘knew, intended or foresaw’ that any media organisation would publish information from the dossier to the ‘world at large’.

His private intelligence report alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s election campaign and the Kremlin. 

Mr Steele was giving evidence at a High Court trial in London on Wednesday after being sued for defamation by a Russian businessman named in the dossier

Christopher Steele, 59, on his way to the High Court for his defamation case in London

Aleksej Gubarev, who runs an IT infrastructure business, has told the judge he was stunned when BuzzFeed reported that the Steele dossier had linked him to a US Democratic Party ‘hacking incident’.

Mr Gubarev, and a company he runs called Webzilla, took legal action after the news site published the dossier in January 2017, the month Mr Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States.

He says he has been defamed by Mr Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based corporate consultancy and wants ‘very substantial’ damages. They are both fighting the claim and deny defamation.

Mr Steele insisted in a written statement: ‘It is not in Orbis’s interest for any of our intelligence work to be aired in the media or public domain, especially in raw or unanalysed form.

‘Our business depends on the confidentiality of our clients and sources. If these are exposed to the world, no-one will contact Orbis to do discreet work on their behalf.

‘It would therefore be professionally ruinous – and also morally repugnant – for us to do anything that could risk exposing a source, especially in a ruthless, lawless place like Russia, as a result of any such (especially media) exposure.’

Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev ( on right) leaves the Royal Courts of Justice

He said that if he had known that BuzzFeed had a copy of the dossier, and intended to publish, he would done ‘whatever I could do to prevent this’.

The case has already heard how Mr Gubarev said he had never been involved with Russian Federal Security Services or any cyber-attacks on the US Democratic Party. 

Mr Gubarev, and a company he runs called Webzilla, took legal action after BuzzFeed published the ‘Steele Dossier’ in January 2017, the month Mr Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States.

The businessman, who lives in Cyprus, said he was receiving ‘multiple messages and phone calls’ within minutes of the BuzzFeed article being published.

President Trump, pictured yesterday, is the subject of the dossier by Mr Steele

Christopher Steele: The British ex-spy whose Russia dossier sent shockwaves through the Trump White House

Christopher Steele, 55, embarked on a well-trodden path when he was recruited from Cambridge straight into MI6.

After a stint in London, he was stationed in Moscow just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He returned to London and in 2006 was made head of MI6’s Russia desk, where he led the investigation into the poisoning of former Russian operative Alexander Litvinenko.

But he only became world-renowned after becoming a private intelligence consultant and writing the sensational Trump-Russia dossier in 2016.

His evidence was rubbished by Trump, but formed part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In an interview at Oxford University, Mr Steele said he had been questioned for ‘two whole days’ but was disappointed with Mueller’s final report.

‘I was surprised that very little of what I had discussed with them appeared in the final report.

He criticized the report for being ‘too narrow’ and failing to follow up on crucial evidence. 

‘There were many things about the report that were good… but other (aspects) that were not so good,’ he said. 

Mr Steele said the fact that ‘a number of witnesses—including for instance, Donald Trump Jr.’ had avoided being interviewed ‘wasn’t great.’ 

Dismissing longstanding allegations of political bias, he described himself as simply ‘an opponent of President Putin.’

He said that Trump is naturally hostile toward the intelligence community. 

‘Trump himself doesn’t like intelligence because its ground truth is inconvenient for him,’ he said.   

‘When I read and saw that my name and companies were being accused, I was stunned,’ he said, in a written witness statement.

‘I have never been involved with the Russian Federal Security Services or any cyber-attacks on the US Democratic Party.’

He said it was difficult to convince people that the allegations were false.

‘The situation was, and remains, very humiliating and embarrassing which has caused me to suffer from on-going anxiety about how my reputation is now in tatters,’ he said.

‘It has been exhausting trying to constantly convince people that I was not involved in the Democratic Party hacking incident…’

He added: ‘I don’t want to have to keep explaining that I am not a criminal and did not do what I am alleged to have done.’

Mr Gubarev said Mr Steele had not apologised and that refusal prolonged the damage.

The dossier had been commissioned by a Washington DC consultancy acting for a law firm, the judge has heard.

He has been told that the ‘ultimate client’ was the ‘Democratic National Committee and/or Hillary Clinton’s Presidential election campaign’.

Andrew Caldecott QC, who leads Mr Gubarev’s legal team, has told the judge that there is a ‘practical ceiling’ of about £325,000 on defamation damages awards.

He said he would not argue that an award at the ‘very top of the bracket’ was appropriate.

But he said ‘very substantial damages’ were required to vindicate and compensate Mr Gubarev.

Mr Caldecott said there was ‘no suggestion’ that the allegations against Mr Gubarev and Webzilla were true.

He said BuzzFeed had apologised and ‘redacted’ the names of Mr Gubarev and Webzilla from their website.

And, he said, Mr Gubarev was not suggesting that Orbis and Mr Steele had been ‘malicious’.

Mr Caldecott said the ‘central question’ was whether Orbis and Mr Steele were ‘responsible in law’ for the publication of the Steele dossier by BuzzFeed.

He said Mr Gubarev’s case was that they were.

Mr Steele disagrees and says the claim should be dismissed.

The hearing is due to end later this week

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