Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill told Congress on Thursday that Russians likely “played” Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose anti-Trump dossier the FBI used to conduct surveillance against the Trump campaign.
Appearing during the Trump impeachment hearings, Hill reportedly testified that she believed Steele’s investigation of President Donald Trump “was a rabbit hole.”
Hill’s testimony about Steele was just a small sample of what she said about the former British spy during a closed-door deposition Nov. 14.
In that interview, Hill told lawmakers she was “shocked” to learn Steele was the author of the dossier. She also said he was vulnerable to potential Russian disinformation because he was “constantly trying to drum up business” in the numerous meetings they had while she was a scholar at the Brookings Institution.
Hill said she last met Steele in 2016, and that she was not aware at the time he was investigating Trump.
She also explicitly stated that Russians might have fed Steele with disinformation in order to put a cloud over an eventual Trump presidency.
Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm working for the DNC and Clinton campaign, hired Steele in April 2016 to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Russia. He produced 17 memos that alleged a massive conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin operatives. The special counsel’s report undermined many of Steele’s major allegations. Attorney General William Barr testified May 1 that he was “concerned” that the dossier was Russian disinformation.
Hill was heavily critical of Steele, as well as the media, during her closed-door testimony.
“The point that actually hasn’t come out and, again, why I’ve been very cross in the media, is that the president was attacked as well, because the Russians sought to discredit him,” she said.
“There’s been a cloud over President Trump since the beginning of his presidency, and I think that’s exactly what the Russians intended,” she said later.
Though Hill’s deposition was positive for Trump, House Republicans largely avoided asking her about the same issues during the public hearing.
Hill was called to testify about her knowledge of Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.
Hill also revealed Thursday that she first saw that dossier Jan. 9, 2017, when Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott showed it to her. BuzzFeed News published the report the next day.
Talbott has deep connections to the Clintons. He was Bill Clinton’s Oxford roommate in the 1960s, and served in his State Department in the 1990s. Talbott’s brother-in-law is Cody Shearer, a Clinton-linked political operative who worked on a Trump dossier of his own in 2016. Shearer’s report ended up in the hands of Steele, who shared it with his contacts at the FBI.
Hill has known Steele since the 2000s, when she served as a national intelligence analyst for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and he was an officer with MI6.
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