Durham Put the Nail in the Coffin. But Christopher Steele Says He Stands by His Dossier

Christopher Steele / Getty Images
May 18, 2023

The liberal New York Times has called former British spy Christopher Steele’s report "discredited" and said it "has proved to be a flawed document." A British judge ordered Steele in 2020 to pay $23,000 in damages to a Russian bank that was falsely targeted in the dossier. And now Special Counsel John Durham has released a report laying out a litany of fabrications and inaccuracies in the widely discredited document.

But Steele is standing by his dossier.

Steele says the document, which was funded by Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, "has not been discredited" and that its "main tenets continue to hold up well." The former MI6 officer also called on American journalists to "put the record straight on this."

Steele lashed out in response to Durham’s report, which laid out in painstaking detail many of the flaws, errors, and fabrications in the dossier. The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s report to bolster its investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. Steele’s report claimed that the Trump campaign had a "well-developed conspiracy of coordination" with Russia to influence the 2016 election. He claimed the Kremlin had a sex video of Trump in Moscow from 2013.

But no evidence has emerged to support any of those allegations. And Steele’s sources and sub-sources have either acknowledged they fabricated the claims or said they were embellished in the dossier. Steele’s primary source for the dossier, Igor Danchenko, told the FBI in 2017 that he never received evidence of a Trump sex tape.

According to Durham, Danchenko lied about his contacts with a Belarusian-American businessman he claimed was a major source for the dossier. Danchenko told Steele and the FBI that the businessman, Sergei Millian, provided crucial information about Trump’s links to Russia. Steele told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators in September 2017 that Millian was a main source for his report. But Durham, who reviewed Danchenko’s phone and email records, determined that Danchenko "simply fabricated" his interactions with Millian.

Danchenko also lied to the FBI about his contacts with Democratic operative Charles Dolan, who provided some information that ended up in the dossier. Dolan admitted to investigators that he "fabricated" claims that ended up in the dossier about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The purported source for another salacious claim in the dossier—that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met with Kremlin officials in Prague—disavowed the allegation in interviews with the special counsel.

Steele dismissed Durham’s findings as "a partisan conspiracy theory."

But Durham is not the first investigator to poke holes in Steele’s report. Mueller found no evidence to support the Steele dossier’s core claim of a grand Trump-Kremlin conspiracy. Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz laid out many of the fabrications in the dossier in a report in December 2019.