Judicial Watch: Documents Reveal Extensive Relationship Between Dossier Author Steele and Top Obama State Department Officials
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch and The Daily Caller News Foundation today released 146 pages of State Department documents revealing that former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele had an extensive and close working relationship dating back to May of 2014 with high-ranking Obama State Department officials.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit show that, from May 2014 to November 2015, Steele filed dozens of reports with his close associate at State, Special Coordinator for Libya Jonathan Winer, who would then pass them to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The reports focused mainly on the Russia-Ukraine crisis and U.S. sanctions on Russia.
The documents show that Steele’s work was also distributed to State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Daniel Fried and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Paul Jones, whose focus in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs was on Russia and Ukraine policy.
The documents are Orbis Business Intelligence reports that Steele provided to the State Department. Steele, a former MI6 spy, co-founded Orbis in 2009.
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a FOIA lawsuit filed on April 25, 2018, on behalf of itself and the Daily Caller News Foundation against the State Department after State 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.
An early Steele report was passed by Winer to Nuland on May 19, 2014. It discusses Russia-Ukraine policy. Winer writes: “Toria, another piece that is not in my lane but which I wished to pass on to you. My friend Chris Steele (Orbis Intelligence, former MI-6 Russia expert), provided me the enclosed memo yesterday, describing a recent conversation (redacted) on Russian Ukraine policy. As I was provided it from a person in private sector, I am treating it as low side.”
In a November 20, 2014 email exchange, Winer offers to introduce Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Paul Jones to Steele while Steele was to be in town, and he provides Jones and Nuland with three Steele reports, discussing: “Ukraine looking towards [redacted]”; “Ukraine economy shrinking due to loss of East [redacted]”; and “President Putin’s current priorities [redacted]”. Winer writes to Jones: Paul, if you are still free, does 3 pm work to meet with Chris Steele? I would pick him up downstairs, get him to your office, and sit in. Will be sending you another Orbis report regardless in a few minutes, it just arrived but I haven’t had chance to open it and manicure it yet.”
“The more we dig, the more access we see the disgraced spy behind the ridiculous dossier had at State. And we’re going to keep on digging until we learn just how deep this went,” said Christopher Bedford, editor in chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“These new documents show that Clinton spy Christopher Steele had an outsized influence at the Obama State Department that proved useful when the Clinton campaign needed help smearing Trump in 2016 and beyond,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
The new documents show that:
On June 13, 2014, Winer forwarded to Nuland a Steele report on the Russia-Ukraine crisis and Kremlin being emboldened to challenge U.S. sanctions.
Winer passed two Steele reports to Nuland on July 1, 2014, with one discussing someone claiming success in the Russian-Ukraine crisis, and the other discussing the Crimea annexation.
Winer sends an email from his verizon.net account to his state.gov account on July 11, 2014 under the subject “Likely Measured Russian Response to Ukrainian Military, (redacted) Orbis report. Winer writes: “I note in particular their focus on sanctions and the fact that they are biting deep already, though maybe someone should tell him that Administration doesn’t need Congress to add to those…”
Winer passes to State Department Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Daniel Fried on July 17, 2014 an Orbis report on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis and increasing hostilities.
On July 18, 2014, Winer passes to Nuland a Steele report on a (redacted) company avoiding U.S. sanctions and “the problem of early warning of U.S. action.”
Winer passed Nuland a Steele report on Aug. 1, 2014 discussing “Early Russian Leadership Views on Counter-Sanctions against the West.”
On August 29, 2014, Winer passes to Nuland three Steele reports discussing: Ukrainian views on a Poroshenko-Putin meeting in Minsk; Ukrainian views on Russia’s military goal of a corridor to Crimea before winter; and someone “still seeking bilateral Russia-UK Gas deal despite conditions.”
On Aug. 29, 2014, Winer forwarded to Nuland a Steele report discussing the Ukrainian crisis and “Putin’s performance from within Russian leadership.”
On September 11, 2014, Winer forwarded to Fried a Steele report titled “Moscow fears Western sanctions.”
On October 20, 2014, Winer sent to Nuland four Steele reports dealing with: Growing Kremlin frustration with Kiev and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine; Petro Poroshenko’s efforts to secure victory in upcoming parliamentary elections; Kiev’s view of international relations; and efforts by a Kremlin owned insurance company, SOGAZ, to evade U.S. sanctions.
On November 3, 2014, Winer forwarded to Nuland three reports: One dealing with an early Kremlin reaction to the Ukrainian election outcome; another discussing a gas negotiations deal; and the third discussing Ukrainian internal politics and EU attitudes.
On November 7, 2014, Winer sends Nuland a Steele report titled “Signs of a more conciliatory Kremlin position” relating to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
On December 6, 2014, Winer forwarded Nuland a Steele report about Putin seeking a PR campaign designed to combat sanctions.
On December 11, 2014, Steele sent a report to Winer/Nuland about a Russian Central Bank warning to Putin that there would be insufficient funds to support all “SOEs” hit by sanctions.
On January 12, 2015, a Steele report was sent to Nuland and Winer discussing Ukraine’s worry that it would be trade bait between the U.S. and Russia.
On February 16, 2015, Steele sent a report to Nuland and Winer about a company “secretly owned by Putin, Putin’s mistress and friends.”
In a March 19, 2015, email thread, Winer and Nuland are forwarded Steele reports dealing with Ukraine political instability and the possible return to power of Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko.
On April 17, 2015, Nuland and Winer received two Steele reports, one related to why Russia was supplying Iran with missile defense, and the other related to Russian exports of gas to Europe through Ukraine.
On June 19, 2015, Nuland and Winer received a Steele report concerning the likely political demise of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his successor and the country’s geopolitical reorientation toward China.
On July 6, 2015, Steele sent a report to Nuland and Winer about the “boozing” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko struggling to deal with fellow oligarchs amid growing dysfunction.
On August 19, 2015, Weiner and Nuland received another Steele report related to the possibility of a Ukrainian leader retaining a U.S. passport.
On November 5, 2015, Nuland sent colleague Geoffrey Pyatt three Steele reports dealing with: Ukraine relations and military situation in eastern Ukraine; Ukraine politics and elections; and President Poroshenko’s “evolving constitutional agenda” and deepening partnership with someone.
This is the latest Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit in an extensive investigation into the Clinton-funded, anti-Trump dossier and its use to obtain FISA warrants in order to spy on the Trump campaign.
On August 8, 2019, Judicial Watch released 34 pages of “302” report material from FBI interviews with Bruce Ohr which were obtained in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed after the Justice Department failed to respond to an August 6, 2018 FOIA request seeking Form 302s for a number of interviews with Ohr concerning his interactions with Steele.
On November 22, 2016, Ohr said that “reporting on Trump’s ties to Russia were going to the Clinton Campaign, Jon Winer at the U.S. State Department and the FBI.”
In late September 2016, Ohr describes a person (likely Steele) as “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being the U.S. President.”
“Ohr knew that [Fusion GPS’s] Glen Simpson and others were talking to Victoria Nuland at the U.S. State Department.”
In May 2019, a related Judicial Watch lawsuit produced information from the DOJ showing a conversation between former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Kathleen Kavalec and Bruce Ohr, discussing the targeting of Donald Trump with Steele dossier material. In discussing a meeting with the potential source for a Mother Jones article accusing the Trump campaign of taking money from a Russian-American oil magnate, as well as Steele’s connection to that source, Kavalec emails Ohr citing the accusatory Mother Jones article. Ohr says, “I really hope we can get something going here.”
Also, Judicial Watch obtained an email revealing that Nellie Ohr, wife of Bruce Ohr, informed him that she was deleting emails sent from his DOJ email account. The full email exchange is between Bruce Ohr, Lisa Holtyn, Nellie Ohr, and Stefan Bress, a first secretary at the German Embassy, and is part of 339 pages of heavily redacted records from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In March 2019, Judicial Watch uncovered emails from Bruce Ohr showing that he remained in regular contact with former British spy and Fusion GPS contractor Steele after Steele was terminated by the FBI in November 2016 for revealing to the media his position as an FBI confidential informant. The records show that Ohr served as a go-between for Steele by passing along information to “his colleagues” on matters relating to Steele’s activities. Ohr also set up meetings with Steele, regularly talked to him on the telephone and provided him assistance in dealing with situations Steele was confronting with the media.