In his upcoming book "The Restless Wave" (to be released May 22), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) admits that he was the person who handed then-FBI Director James Comey the salacious, unverified dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. It was that action that appears to have set off the sequence of events ultimately resulting in Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
In its report on McCain's admission, The Daily Beast — which fails to mention who funded Steele's project in the report — notes that McCain's involvement came after Steele had met with American officials in Rome to discuss his findings. However, it appears to have been the decision by McCain, a frequent critic of Trump, to hand Comey the dossier that really got things rolling.
"I agreed to receive a copy of what is now referred to as 'the dossier,'" writes McCain in his upcoming book. "I reviewed its contents. The allegations were disturbing, but I had no idea which if any were true. I could not independently verify any of it, and so I did what any American who cares about our nation’s security should have done."
In November 2016, McCain says, he met with former British diplomat Sir Andrew Wood at the Halifax International Security Forum where Wood told him about Steele's investigation. Soon after the meeting, David Kramer, the senior director for Human Rights and Human Freedom at the McCain Institute, flew to London to meet with Steele in person. When the dossier was in McCain's hands, he says he put it in a safe in his office until he could meet with Comey.
"I went to see him at his earliest convenience, handed him the dossier, explained how it had come into my possession," said McCain. "I said I didn’t know what to make of it, and I trusted the FBI would examine it carefully and investigate its claims. With that, I thanked the director and left. The entire meeting had probably not lasted longer than ten minutes. I did what duty demanded I do."
In an interview promoting his own new book, Comey revealed that when he briefed Trump on the salacious details of the dossier, he didn't bother telling him that his political enemies funded the investigation as opposition research.
In a report published in February, The Washington Post provides a profile of Steele that underscores his "struggles to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life."
He had left the famed Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, seven years earlier and was now working on behalf of Fusion GPS, a private Washington research firm whose work at the time was funded by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party.
The meeting in Rome captured the unusual and complicated role of Steele, who wrote memos that came to be known as the dossier and who has become the central point of contention in the political brawl raging around the Russia inquiry by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Those who believe Steele consider him a hero, a latter-day Paul Revere who, at personal risk, tried to provide an early warning about the Kremlin’s unprecedented meddling in a U.S. campaign. Those who distrust him say he is merely a hired gun leading a political attack on Trump.