British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who wrote the Democrat-financed anti-Trump dossier, said in a court case that he was hired by a Democratic law firm in preparation for Hillary Clinton challenging the results of the 2016 presidential election.
He said the law firm Perkins Coie wanted to be in a position to contest the results based on evidence he unearthed on the Trump campaign conspiring with Moscow on election interference.
His scenario is contained in a sealed Aug. 2 declaration in a defamation law suit brought by three Russian bankers in London. The trio’s American attorneys filed his answers Tuesday in a libel lawsuit in Washington against the investigative firm Fusion GPS, which handled the former British intelligence officer.
In an answer to interrogatories, Mr. Steele wrote: “Fusion’s immediate client was law firm Perkins Coie. It engaged Fusion to obtain information necessary for Perkins Coie LLP to provide legal advice on the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election.
“Based on that advice, parties such as the Democratic National Committee and HFACC Inc. (also known as ‘Hillary for America’) could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.”
The Democrats never filed a challenge, but Mr. Steele’s answer suggested that was one option inside the Clinton camp, which funded Mr. Steele’s research along with the Democratic National Committee.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Moscow interfered in the election by hacking Democratic Party computers and stealing emails that it released via WikiLeaks.
No Trump associate has been charged with collusion.
In a previous court filing in a second case in April-May 2017, Mr. Steele said his job was to find links between Trump associates and Moscow.
Hired by Fusion in June 2016, he wrote a 17-memo dossier alleging a “extensive conspiracy” between the two, which two years later hasn’t been proven publicly by special counsel Robert Mueller or Congress.
In his most recent London court filing, Mr. Steele is defending against a libel lawsuit by citing a discredited story about a computer server, Trump Tower and a Russian bank.
The suit was brought by three Russian oligarchs who control Moscow’s Alfa Bank. Mr. Steele, under the dossier heading of election interference, accused them of paying cash bribes to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The bankers — Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan — also sued Fusion GPS.
The case was dismissed by a D.C. Superior Court judge. Lawyers filed an appeal in U.S. District Court and attached Mr. Steele’s August declarations given in the London court.
“Internet traffic data suggested that a computer server of an entity in which the Claimants have an interest, Alfa Bank, had been communicating with a computer server linked to the Trump Organization,” Mr. Steele stated.
His goal was to show that his unverified dossier was correct when he wrote of an “extensive conspiracy.”
But the server story has fallen into the “fake news” category by most accounts.
When it began appearing on social media in 2016, some online sleuths looked at the server’s IP address and other data. They traced the server to a location outside Philadelphia that spewed marketing spam.
A Trump Organization official told The Washington Times last year that some of the spam went to Alfa Bank employees who perhaps stayed in Trump hotels. That’s how Alfa turned up in some emails.
The New York Times investigated and said the FBI basically came to the same conclusion.
Mr. Steele didn’t mention the server theory in the dossier itself.
Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson did try to sell the idea to the Justice Department, despite The New York Times’ finding. He met with then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.
Trying to prompt an investigation, Mr. Simpson told him the Times story was wrong and the server was used for direct communication, according to Mr. Ohr’s notes turned over to Congress.
In his court filing, Mr. Steele sought to show cronyism between Trump and the bank by noting that Alfa hired then-private attorney Brian Benczkowski to investigate the server allegation.
Mr. Benczkowski is now assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, having won Senate confirmation in a near-party line vote.
Fusion GPS, in defending against the Russians’ libel lawsuit, depicts the three men as corrupt Putin cronies.
Mr. Steele faces a second defamation suit in London, this one from Russian entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, owner of XBT Holdings and provider of computer servers to thousands of clients.
In his final December 2016 dossier memo, Mr. Steele accused Mr. Gubarev of actually performing the hacking on Democratic computers under duress from Russian intelligence. He said in a court filing that the allegation came from unsolicited call-ins.
Mr. Gubarev said the allegations are made up. In Florida, he also is suing BuzzFeed, the news website that published the entire dossier in January 2017.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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