The former boss of the ex-British spy who produced the uncorroborated, salacious dossier on President Donald Trump’s alleged Russian collusion says the document is “overrated,” and wouldn’t comment on the character of the man who wrote it.
Sir John Scarlett, who was the chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 2004 to 2009, said after a recent national security panel in Washington, D.C. that the dossier Christopher Steele, who ran MI6’s Russia desk from 2006 to 2009, wrote was “overrated” and could never be corroborated.
Scarlett had just finished speaking at the Jamestown Foundation’s 12th annual terrorism conference on a panel titled “2018 in Review and the Prospects for Terrorism in 2019.” Retired U.S. Marine Corps General John R. Allen was also on the panel moderated by Georgetown University professor Dr. Bruce Hoffman.
When the panel concluded, journalist Nicholas Ballasy asked Scarlett about his former employee, Steele, and the dossier that helped launched the “collusion” theory that Trump colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. Ballasy asked Scarlett, in a recording released just last week, what the former MI6 chief thought of the dossier and if he believed what was written in it.
“Well, no,” Scarlett said, “I looked at it and I thought these are commercial intelligence reports; I don't know about the sources -- they might be right, they might be wrong and they'll probably be overrated and they've been overrated.”
Ballasy then asked if Scarlett thought the dossier could ever be verified, to which Steele’s former boss responded: “No.”
Scarlett was then asked if he was “surprised” that Steele would put forth the unverified information contained in the dossier.
“Well, they were commercial intelligence reports and they were visibly that so there's a question of why they were there and where they came from and who commissioned them and so on,” Scarlett answered. “So, I've tended to see them in that context and never quite of political significance for obvious reasons and actually if you think about it, people have talked about them in a really big way a year or so ago and they haven't really made that much of a difference.”
“As I said, I suspect, all I can say, is they are overrated,” he added.
Finally, Ballasy asked what Steel was like to work with. Scarlett answered: “I’m not going to comment” and walked away.
Scarlett’s final response is odd, considering the situation surrounding Steele’s departure from MI6 is not well known. Steele was considered to be a patriot and a reliable source to the FBI in the United States, but if he was good at his job, why wouldn’t Scarlett just say so? If he wasn’t, his credibility could be in question. Further, if Steele left MI6 to create Orbis Business Intelligence in 2009 at the height of his MI6 career, was he a patriot or someone looking to make himself wealthy, and if so, how did that affect what he included in the dossier?
Steele has kept a low profile in recent years. In 2017, he disappeared from his London mansion for two months after being named as the author of the uncorroborated Trump dossier. He said he would be returning to work “on supporting the broader interests of” Orbis and wouldn’t “be making any further statements or comments at this time,” he told the Press Association. He also posed for pictures at the time.
Newly unsealed legal documents from a lawsuit in which Steele was deposed reveal he used unverified information from internet searches and an article from a “random person” who posted to CNN’s old citizen journalism initiative to back up parts of his dossier, according to CNN.