- Christopher Steele, the British former spy who compiled the notorious Trump Russia dossier, just pulled out of his first public appearance in years, and event organiser confirmed to Business Insider.
- He had been scheduled to address an event in Baltimore next week via video link to discuss the threat of disinformation.
- Event moderator Anne Appelbaum told Politico that Steele got “cold feet” and pulled out after advice from his legal counsel.
- Steele’s dossier on Trump contained a series of shocking, unverified intelligence about President Donald Trump, including that Russia had compromising information it could use to blackmail him.
The former British intelligence officer who authored the explosive 2016 dossier alleging President Donald Trump’s ensnarement by Russian intelligence has canceled his first public appearance in years at the last minute, an event organiser confirmed on Tuesday.
Ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele had been scheduled to speak, via video link, about “disinformation and democracy” at the Reawakening the Spirit of Democracy event at the George Peabody Library in Baltimore on March 14.
Jill Rosen, a media relations officer for event co-organiser Johns Hopkins University, confirmed to Business Insider that Steele had pulled out of the event.
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, the event’s moderator, told Politico Monday that Steele got “cold feet” and pulled out following advice from his legal counsel.
Steele’s low profile
Steele has kept a low profile since the publication of his dossier alleging the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
In 2016 Steele, the former Moscow station chief for MI6, was commissioned by private intelligence firm Fusion GPS to compel intelligence on then-Republican presidential candidate Trump.
Fusion GPS was initially hired by a conservative website to compile the dossier, and subsequently received funding from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The resulting dossier of intelligence compiled by Steele – much of it unverified – alleged widespread collusion between Russia and Trump officials, and contained a series of salacious allegations about Trump, including the claim that Russian intelligence had filmed him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
The dossier has become the center of a fierce bipartisan dispute, and has been denounced by Trump as “fake news.”
Trump alleges that it was used by the FBI as grounds for launching a probe into his campaign in 2016, which preceded special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
According to the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into allegations of Russian interference, the information in the dossier was not part of the grounds for the FBI to launch its probe, and was part of the evidence used to obtain a wiretap to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2016.
While some of its most notorious claims remain unverified, others have been proven true by unrelated investigations.
Steele last broke his silence in a rare statement in October 2018 with a veiled swipe at Trump.
He wrote in an email to the editor of Vanity Fair after he was chosen as one of its 100 most influential people, according to Sky News: “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.”
“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,” he added.
Business Insider has contacted Steele’s private intelligence firm, Orbis, for comment.
At the conference, which will go ahead next week, guests will discuss topics including “the changing dynamics of political parties, the rise of disinformation and its impact on democratic societies, and the leadership role that the US should play in supporting democracy around the world.”
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