The man at the center of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier is speaking out after more than a year of public silence, criticizing the president and applauding those with the courage to hold the government to account.
Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer, has been the target of President Trump’s wrath since January 2017, when a dossier containing sordid allegations of collusion and misconduct between Trump and key Russian figures was published online by BuzzFeed News. Steele compiled the dossier in the second half of 2016 after being hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was contracted with both Republican and Democrat parties to dig up information on Trump.
Though Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” and the impetus for what he has repeatedly referred to as a partisan witch-hunt, the intelligence community has concluded at least some of its allegations are authentic.
Last week, Steele was included on Vanity Fair’s Establishment List, along with other political and intelligence figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke, Michelle Obama, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. High-profile activist figures, including members of the #MeToo movement and Parkland students advocating for gun reform, were also included.
Steele subsequently responded to Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, declining an apparent invitation to the New Establishment Summit but praising the publication for including crucial watchdog figures and activists on its list.
“I was surprised and honoured, particularly as a Brit, to be included in [this list],” he wrote in an email, according to Sky News’ foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes. “I find myself in the company of many talented and distinguished people, although I personally would not accord such accolades to some of the other foreign nationals included on the list!”
Steele appeared to be referencing the outlet’s inclusion of figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman.
— Deborah Haynes (@haynesdeborah) October 10, 2018
“In these strange and troubling times, it is hard to speak unpalatable truths to power, but I believe we all still have a duty to do so,” he continued. “I salute those on your list, and otherwise, who have had the courage to speak out over the last year, often at great personal cost.”
He added, “At a time when governance is so distorted and one-sided, as I believe it currently is in the United States, the media has a key role to play in holding it accountable.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Steele was referring to specific figures on the publication’s list, though several of them have come under fire from the White House in recent months for their role in a number of separate controversies.
Trump, for instance, has repeatedly claimed the MeToo era has proven dangerous to men, most recently claiming in the wake of several sexual assault allegations against newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that it was a “scary time” for young men in America.
“You can be an exemplary person for 35 years and then somebody comes in and they say ‘you did this or that’ and they give three witnesses at this point who do not corroborate what you are saying,” Trump told reporters, referring to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh tried to rape her when the two were in high school.
“It’s a very scary situation where you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he added.
More notably, Trump has also taken aim at Mueller, whose Russia probe Trump claims is baseless. Aside from repeatedly calling the probe a witch-hunt, Trump has attempted to derail the investigation on multiple occasions, firing key Justice Department figures and claiming Mueller and his team are biased against him.
“The illegal Mueller Witch Hunt continues in search of a crime,” Trump tweeted last month. “There was never Collusion with Russia, except by the Clinton campaign, so the 17 Angry Democrats are looking at anything they can find. Very unfair and BAD for the country. ALSO, not allowed under the LAW!”
Of Steele specifically, Trump has been especially blunt, if infrequent, in his accusations, calling the former intelligence officer’s work fraudulent.
“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly,” Trump tweeted in August, citing an unfounded theory that Ohr had colluded with Steele to take down Trump. “It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….”
In a follow-up tweet days later, Trump also claimed Steele had colluded with Russia to keep him from the presidency.