Thursday, February 8, 2018

Of London, Rome, And Christopher Steele

In Christopher Steele As Frontman I briefly alluded to a somewhat obscure aspect of Steele's activities:
No wonder Steele has been so reticent to testify under oath. Especially since, if he retains ties to British Intelligence he could be prosecuted for espionage under British law for simultaneously working as a source for the FBI.
I believe it's a well established fact that British Intelligence (GCHQ) as well as the Intelligence Services of several other European countries (including, really, Estonia!) colluded with US Government agencies (presumably the CIA) in the effort to avert a Trump presidency. Perhaps they feared Trump, or perhaps they naively believed the MSM narrative that President Hillary was inevitable and thought this was a smart way to curry favor with the incoming administration. It backfired and, in the case of the British, in a very public way: GCHQ boss Robert Hannigan quits for 'personal reasons' after just two years. Right--who wanted that job anyway? And what was that date? January 23, 2017, giving only three days notice? Surely this had nothing to do with Trump being inaugurated, when was that? January 20, 2017, the very same day Hannigan gave his notice? Yes, very messy, and we can probably trace PM May's rocky relationship with Trump to this, oh, misunderstanding.

But, Steele. What are the possibilities regarding his intelligence affiiliations? Perhaps he still works for British Intelligence in some role, even after his retirement. After all, the fulsome praise for Steele in yesterday's WaPo profile of the former spy could be taken that way:

Steele’s former boss Richard Dearlove ... said Steele became the “go-to person on Russia in the commercial sector” following his retirement from the Secret Intelligence Service.
Let's see. Steele never went to Russia after he retired. How did he become the "go-to" guy, in that case, except on the basis of his time in Russia for MI-6? So it seems plausible that it was MI-6 that kept "going-to" Steele for his expertise on the Russian commercial sector. Retired but, well, not totally.

On the other hand, we know for a fact that he was carried as an asset by the FBI--else how could the FBI "fire" Steele for blabbing about his relationship with the FBI to David Corn, for goodness sake.

So, that leaves us with a number of possibiities:

Steele was in this to further Brit interests.

Steele was in it as a hired gun for a faction of the American Deep State.

Steele, personally thought the interests of both Britain and the American Deep State coincided.

Steele didn't care whose interest came out on top as long as he got paid.

There are almost certainly other possibilities, too. Of course, for Her Majesty's Government, the important thing is that Trump himself doesn't care whether Steele was acting with British government knowledge to further what the British saw as their interests, or whether they were merely trying to curry favor with their Deep State masters on the Potomac--in either case Trump was, and is, seriously pissed. As witness his public humiliations of PM May.

Frankly, it's a bit difficult to sort out.

On the one hand, the fact that Steele openly told David Corn that he was working with the FBI would be consistent--or, not inconsistent--with Steele being in the employ of the Brits, working with their knowledge to influence the US election. But maybe the Brits got their wires crossed. Steele's trips to Rome to meet FBI contacts have the appearance of concealing these contacts from British Intelligence. Was this done because Steele genuinely wanted to conceal these contacts or did he do this to play up the cloak and dagger stuff with the FBI? I would plump for the latter, because Steele's current legal maneuvering in London certainly makes it appear that was, in fact, still serving as an agent of the British government when he was working with the Hillary Campaign (an umbrella organization covering such sub-groups as Fusion GPS, the FBI, and the DoJ):
A British court ruled last week that Mr Steele should be required to undergo a lengthy pre-trial questioning session, but Mr Steele and his lawyers have pushed back on that decision.
“The Order is likely to require Mr Steele to answer questions in circumstances where his answers would .... require the disclosure of sensitive intelligence information which would endanger UK national security interests and personnel,” Mr Steele’s lawyers wrote in court papers.
My guess is that Steele's maneuverings--which presumably have the blessing of the British government--are being made to avoid further public embarrassment to the Brits, who are desperately groveling and attempting to rebuild the ties to the Trump administration that they so thoughtlessly trashed.

However, regarding those meetings in Rome with the FBI, it's interesting to place them in our timeline. Unfortunately, we don't have precise dates for all the meetings. We know that shortly before his falling out with the FBI Steele met with agents in Rome on October 3, 2016, to discuss financial arrangements for the future. However, he had already met with the agents earlier when things were starting to heat up--in August, 2016. It would be nice to know the exact date of those August meetings in Rome, for the reason that August 16 was when the "insurance policy" text was sent. Vanity Fair says "early August."

Actually, Rome meetings before or after--or both--work well enough for our timeline. By August the FBI would have known what they wanted or needed--really, really needed, as sundance says--from Steele: "stuff" to get the FISA on their target of choice, Carter Page. The October meeting fits in as well. By that point Steele would have delivered the "stuff" and, pleased with the take, the FBI was ready to discuss further projects and further payments.

Sometimes it's nice to simply flesh out the details, to get a feel for how things were worked in practice. A work in progress.


  1. On December 8, 2017, the Liberty Unyielding website published an article titled "Russian organized crime and the mysteries of the Mueller-Democrats-Russia-Trump ‘thing’", written by J. E. Dyer, a retired Navy Intelligence officer.

    Dyer provides details about how Christopher Steele provided information about his dossier to the FBI in June 2016. Steele already knew, since 2010, an FBI official who was stationed in Rome.

    Steele felt frustrated that Fusion GPS seemed to be ineffectual in using the dossier that Steele had been writing. Therefore Steele traveled to Rome to talk with his previous FBI contact.

    According to Dyer, there is a "strong possibility" that the FBI official was Michael Gaeta, who from 2014 through October 2016, Gaeta was the Assistant Legal Attaché at the U.S. embassy in Rome.

    Steele and Gaeta knew each other since 2010 because then they both were key figures in an investigation of the FIFA soccer association.

    The Guardian newspaper has reported:


    ... the FBI was receiving disturbing warnings [in June 2016] from Steele.

    At this point, Steele’s Fusion material was unpublished. Whatever the outcome of the election, it raised grave questions about Russian interference and the US democratic process. There was, Steele felt, overwhelming public interest in passing his findings to US investigators. The US’s multiple intelligence agencies had the resources to prove or disprove his discoveries. He realised that these allegations were, as he put it to a friend, a “radioactive hot potato”. He anticipated a hesitant response, at least at first.

    In June, Steele flew to Rome to brief the FBI contact with whom he had co-operated over Fifa. His information started to reach the bureau in Washington. It had certainly arrived by the time of the Democratic National Convention in late July, when WikiLeaks first began releasing hacked Democratic emails. It was at this moment that FBI director James Comey opened a formal investigation into Trump-Russia.

    [end quote]

    So, it appears that beginning in June 2016, Steele communicated regularly with the FBI Headquarters in Washington DC through Gaeta, the FBI's Assistant Legal Attaché in Rome.

    Shortly after Steele' deliveries of information began, the FBI applied for a FISA warrant to wiretap Donald Trump's associates.

    Dyer's article suggests that another consideration in Steele's investigation was organized-crime gangs based in Russia and Ukraine.

    Dyer develops at length the idea that Steele, Gaeta, Fusion's owner Glenn Simpson and several other figures had long been associated with each other in various investigations of those gangs.

    These investigators apparently are trying to develop a case that those gangs exert some influence on Trump.


    Bruce Ohr was an organized-crime specialist in the Justice Department.


    In June 2016, Steele began meeting with (apparently) Michael Gaeta, the FBI's liaison at the Rome embassy. According to Dyer's article, Steele's (and Simpson's) relationship with Gaeta was based primarily on their mutual efforts to investigate Russia's organized-crime gangs.

    Why was Steele dealing with the FBI so indirectly? Dyer's article provides a possible explanation:


    The US’s multiple intelligence agencies had the resources to prove or disprove his [Steele's] discoveries.

    [end quote]

    In other words, Gaeta used FBI resources -- off the record -- to "prove or disprove" various suspicions on organized crime's influence on Trump.

    Essentially, Steele turned the FBI and Justice Department into his collaborators in developing opposition research for Clinton about Trump.

  2. From a new article in Conservative Treehouse:


    Mr. Benjamin Wittes is a close personal friend of Mr. Comey, and was the go-between used by Director Comey to leak information to the media, and specifically to the New York Times.

    Three days after the FBI secured the FISA “Title-1” surveillance authority over former Trump campaign official Carter Page (using the Clinton-Steele Dossier), Benjamin Wittes wrote a column in his blog titled: “What if Trump Wins” – “We need an insurance Policy“ ....


  3. Yes, I saw that. But sundance draws the wrong conclusion:

    "No doubt about it the removal of a democratically elected President Donald J Trump was “their plan” all along. Transparently planned and openly discussed prior to the election."

    But, in fact, "removal" is NOT what Wittes is talking about--although he'd clearly be all for it if he saw the opportunity. Instead Wittes is talking about "resistance," "protecting democratic institutions," through the legislative branch but especially in the courts:

    "If Trump wins it, the Coalition of All Democratic Forces needs to be prepared to see him in court."

    So, for the time being I'll stick with my interpretation of the FBI's "insurance policy" plan.

  4. Further, the "insurance policy" text--which sundance introduces into that discussion--was written 8/16/16. I guarantee you the people in the FBI weren't thinking about impeachment 3 months before the election. They, like Wittes, were thinking about survival under Trump, defending their turf, etc. If an opportunity for removal should arise, sure they'd grasp at it, but that's not something you can plan for so far ahead.

  5. Hi Mark, good thoughts.

    I think Mike's comment is correct on the flow of information going both ways. I think we'll find that various government actors had different reasons for their involvement in this sordid affair.

    I also think the "wiretaps" also provided a way to cast a large net for potential targets. Both Manafort and Carter were, no doubt, listed as one of many recipients on various e-mail traffic. A rogue State Department employee (Jonathan Winer?) could then run these names against passport travel info, thus providing the FBI and Steele many more targets of opportunity.

    Finally, I think you're totally correct on the "insurance policy."

    One minor point, I think you meant "2017" on your dates for the retirement and the inauguration.


  6. 1. "I think Mike's comment is correct ..."

    Yes, and it's a disturbing thought. There are obviously many in government jobs nowadays who seek to advance a political agenda. That's not new, of course, but the empowerment they feel and the utter disregard for rule of law and our constitutional form of government IS new--at least in degree.

    2. "I also think the "wiretaps" also provided a way to cast a large net ..."

    Agreed. And this may have been the mechanism by which they were able to obtain those renewals--claiming that such routine info was positive intel obtained from the FISA. In this regard I highly recommend Hugh Hewitt's very recent interview with Devin Nunes. Nunes states inter alia that a) he has viewed the renewals and sees no new intel of import, and b) Rosenstein, who approved at least one of the renewals, was new to this and "made mistakes." IOW, he may have been "snookered." In that regard, I have seen statements by quite eminent law professors with hands on experience in this field that are really quite ... appalling. I'll leave it at that.

    3. Tx, re "ins. policy".

    4. "I think you meant "2017" on your dates"

    :-( Corrected. Tx.

  7. Inauguration 2017 and resignation was 2017, not 2016 as you stated.


  8. Tx, Margaret. I corrected them once, then "corrected" them again. Third time is the charm.