Judicial Watch Obtains Emails Revealing Obama State Department Officials and U.S. Ambassador Skeptical about Christopher Steele Reports
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Calls Some Steele Reports Flaky; Assistant Secretary of State Says Some Steele Reports Sound Extreme, Others Do Not Ring True
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it received 48 pages of heavily redacted records from the U.S. Department of State containing email communications among top-level State Department officials and a U.S. Ambassador expressing skepticism about some Christopher Steele reports by Steele’s London-based private intelligence firm Orbis Business Intelligence. (Steele was the author of the Clinton-funded, anti-Trump dossier.) One assistant secretary of state says some of Steele’s reports sound “extreme” and others “do not ring true,” while the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine calls some Steele reports “flaky.”
Judicial Watch obtained the emails in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on April 25, 2018, on behalf of itself and the Daily Caller News Foundation against the State Department after it failed to respond to three separate FOIA requests (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv- 00968)). The lawsuit seeks:
- All records of communications between State Department officials, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, on the one hand, and British National Christopher Steele and/or employees or contractors of Steele’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence, on the other hand.
- All records and/or memoranda provided by Christopher Steele and/or his firm Orbis Business Intelligence or by others acting on Steele’s/Orbis’s behalf to State Department officials.
- Any and all records in the custody of the State Department related to the provision of documents to British national Christopher Steele and/or his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, or the receipt of documents from Steele or his firm. Time period is January 20, 2009 through the present.
- All records created in 2016 by Jonathan M. Winer relating to research compiled by Christopher Steele.
In a mostly redacted, July 1, 2014, email exchange between then-Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Winer concerning “Two Pieces from Orbis on Russia-Ukraine,” Winer tells Nuland at one point, “Chris is a good friend and I do trust him. I find them fascinating snapshots too. [Redacted] I told him we don’t leak, that would be other parts of the USG and not to worry.”
In a July 22, 2014, email, Winer tells Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Paul Jones and Nuland, “I’ve told Chris Steele at Orbis I think the material is great, and I will continue to retransmit as he sends them to me.”
In a September 4, 2014, email, Jones tells Winer and Nuland of Steele’s reports, “Credible, useful – tx as always!”
In a December 29, 2014, email to Ambassador Pyatt, under the subject line “O [Orbis] Report: Coal Scandal and Ukrainian Politics,” Nuland says, “This is one of those industry intel reports. Rings a bit extreme to me. You guys?”
Winer sends an almost completely redacted email on February 12, 2015 to his assistant Miller instructing her to forward “high side to three usual persons” (Nuland, Jones and himself) an “O” [Orbis] report “concerning company said to be secretly owned by Putin, Putin’s Mistress and Friends.”
In a declassified but heavily redacted, March 23, 2015, email from Nuland to Jones, Winer and his special assistant Nina Miller, under the subject line: “RE: O Report, March 13 – Growing Political Instability In Kiev and Yulia’s Return to Power?” Nuland remarks, “Some of this rings true, some not. [Redacted]”
In an otherwise redacted November 9, 2015, email to Nuland, under the subject line “Three Recent O [Orbis] Reports on Ukraine Security and Politics,” United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt says, “So I would put this in the same category as their other flaky reports.”
In a February 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post Winer admitted to working with Steele on the dossier. Winer told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he “destroyed all the correspondence” he had with Steele, apparently at Steele’s request.
“The sad truth is due to the over-redactions by a government intent on hiding the truth from its own people, it’s not really easy to make out what’s fully going on from this newest batch of documents. It is becoming clearer that there were unprecedented levels of collusion between Obama administration officials and outside partisans in an effort to harm Trump, even though some government officials recognized that Christopher Steele’s intel was questionable at best,” said Daily Caller News Foundation President Neil Patel. “Our lawsuit with Judicial Watch will keep going until we get all the truth out to the American people.”
“Christopher Steele had a willing partner with the Obama State Department – despite top officials having little confidence in his work,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents demonstrate that the Obama administration had multiple warning signs that Steele was unreliable—yet they used his garbage Dossier to target and spy on President Trump.”
In September 2019, Judicial Watch released 146 pages of documents revealing that Steele had an extensive and close working relationship dating back to May of 2014 with high-ranking Obama State Department officials including Winer and Nuland. Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing that less than a month before the presidential inauguration Winer had a 10-minute phone call with Alexey Vladimirovich Skosyrev, the “political chief” at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.
In July 2019, Judicial Watch released 84 pages of documents revealing an email exchange between Nuland and Winer, discussing a “face-to-face” meeting on a “Russian matter” in New York in September 2016.
In June 2019 Judicial Watch released 41 pages of documents from the State Department revealing that Winer played a key role in facilitating Steele’s access to other top government officials and prominent international business executives. Winer was even approached by a movie producer about making a movie about the Russiagate targeting of President Trump.