Who Is Christopher Steele? The Man Behind That Infamous Trump Dossier Is Making Headlines Again
While you may not have heard of this former spy, you've most likely read his work. Christopher Steele wrote that dossier, the one that contains many alarming allegations against the Trump administration, including that the then-presidential candidate hired a prostitute to urinate on a bed the Obamas had slept in. It also included details about Trump's alleged ties to Russia. Trump has denied all of the allegations. But Steele is making headlines again, after a new report by the New Yorker re-examined the dossier and revealed some key information about Steele and the dossier.
Steele — who is retired from Britain's Secret Intelligence Service — was hired by Fusion GPS, a Washington D.C.-based intelligence firm, to compile the memos documenting alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Fusion was retained by Democratic campaign lawyer Marc Elias, via his firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Funded by Clinton and the DNC, though according to reports they were unaware of the details of the work, Perkins continued with the project through October 2016.
According to the latest New Yorker feature, Steele was interested in Russian interference with Western democratic elections well before getting involved with the investigation into the Trump administration.
Steele, who was born in Aden, Yemen, used to work as an MI6 (Britain's equivalent to the CIA) Moscow field agent, collecting intelligence on behalf of the government, since 1987. He was recruited by the agency immediately following his graduation from Cambridge University, where he earned a degree in social and political sciences, according to the New Yorker.
While he first thought he'd go into journalism or law, Steele answered a newspaper ad looking for people interested in living and working abroad, which ended up being for MI6. He initially worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London until 1989, but then entered the group's Russian-language program and moved to Moscow in his mid-twenties. He lived there from 1990 to 1993.
Before making the move to Russia, Steele met his wife Laura, with whom he had three children, Matthew, Henry, and Georgina, before she passed away in 2010 due to cirrhosis of the liver. He and Laura lived in Moscow together before he returned to the FCO in London and then Paris, where Steele worked undercover until 2002.
In 2003, Steele traveled to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan with the MI6 team, where he briefed special forces on "kill or capture" missions and trained new recruits. From 2006 until his retirement, Steele ran the Russia Desk at MI6. Not only does he speak fluent Russian, but Steele is considered an expert on the country.
However, he isn't as familiar with American politics. “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here," Fusion co-founder Peter Fritsch told the New Yorker. "He’s a little naïve about the public square.”
Once he retired from MI6 in 2009, Steele co-founded a corporate intelligence consultancy, Orbis Business Intelligence. Before he was hired by Fusion, he had just wrapped another project for a private company that involved surveying Russian interference in politics in France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Turkey. In that project, Steele documented that the Kremlin used fear-mongering social media campaigns to sway votes, similar to what it reportedly did in the United States.
Steele is currently living outside of London in Farnham, a town in Surrey, and is married to his second wife, Katherine. They wed in 2012 and have one child together. While running his company and being the father to four children, Steele continues to face repercussions from his involvement with the dossier.
“The Trump supporters can attack the messenger," former CIA agent John Sipher told the New Yorker, "because no one knows him or understands him, so you can paint him any way you want."