Former President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ), this time calling for arrests over the controversial Steele dossier, a 2017 report that alleged he had ties to Russia.
Steele dossier, an unverified report compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele during the 2016 election, claimed that Russia had been cultivating Trump for years. The dossier, which was published in January 2017, alleged that Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort and other campaign figures worked with the Kremlin to dig up information on 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Special Counsel John Durham, who had been investigating Trump’s alleged Russian collusion, questioned FBI supervisory analyst Brian Auten in October 2022 on whether the FBI ever offered to provide Steele with incentives in exchange for information. Auten responded: “Yes, it did. Mr. Steele was offered anywhere up to a million dollars.” Steele was made the $1 million offer by the agency in October 2016 during a meeting between the former British spy and several FBI officials, according to Auten.
Durham’s bombshell report, released on May 12, concluded that the FBI never should have investigated Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. The findings dealt a blow to the bureau, stating that the FBI had no evidence of collusion when it launched its Crossfire Hurricane probe. Durham was appointed to lead the inquiry in October 2019 after Trump pushed former Attorney General William Barr to investigate the FBI’s probe.
The Durham report was widely seen as a win for Trump, who has slammed Crossfire Hurricane as a “hoax” and “political witch hunt” since it began. In the more-than-300-page report, Durham agreed with Trump that federal agencies did not have solid intelligence when they began the investigation. Durham said the DOJ and FBI “failed to uphold their important mission” and that the origins of the probe were based on “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence.”
Newsweek reached out via email to representatives of Trump, the FBI and DOJ for comment.
Trump, who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, has been even more critical of the FBI and DOJ in the wake of the Durham report. On Sunday evening, he assailed the agencies in a social media post. The MAGA leader called for arrests and said the FBI paid Steele to “frame” him.
“The FBI offered Christopher Steele One Million Dollars in order to FRAME me,” Trump said on his TruthSocial platform. “Why aren’t all of the so called Special ‘Prosecutors,’ together with their bosses at the DOJ, doing something about this. Why aren’t people under arrest. They spied on my campaign, and bribed people all over the place, and then go after ME. The people of our once great Country won’t stand for it. How much more can they take, as the USA goes to HELL? MAGA!!!”
Steele, who has previously worked for the British intelligence service MI6, acted as a private citizen, not a spy, while gathering information for his dossier. He was hired by Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the political research firm Fusion GPS, who claimed Trump “said some weird things about [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
It is also not unusual for the FBI to pay informants. In information available on its website, the FBI states that “informants are individuals who supply information to the FBI on a confidential basis,” adding that “they are not hired or trained employees of the FBI, although they may receive compensation in some instances for their information and expenses.”
While Steele said that the FBI’s probe was not the result of the dossier, the information was included as part of a 2019 report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion probe. Steele told Horowitz that his reports were not designed to be “finished products” and described them as “uncorroborated intelligence” that included “background research and his judgment as an intelligence professional.” Horowitz’s 480-page report also noted the Steele dossier was funded partially by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee to unearth damaging information on Trump, something he and his supporters have said renders Steele’s claims politically motivated.
Trump has also been demanding that Special Counsel Jack Smith and DOJ drop its criminal investigation following the release of Durham’s unrelated report.
Trump said that the report was evidence of “the Democrat Hoax that was perpetrated upon me and the American people” in a series of Truth Social posts last week. The MAGA leader also accused Smith—whose dual investigations are looking into the unrelated matters of Trump’s handling of classified documents and his attempts to overturn the 2020 election result—of playing “the same games” as James Comey, director of the FBI at the time of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
In response to the Durham report, the FBI said in a previous statement to Newsweek that “dozens of corrective actions” had already taken place within the bureau.
“Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented,” the bureau said. “This report reinforces the importance of ensuring the FBI continues to do its work with the rigor, objectivity, and professionalism the American people deserve and rightly expect.”