- The former MI6 agent Christopher Steele said the UK government covered up evidence about US President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, The Guardian reported on Monday.
- Steele reportedly told a UK parliamentary investigation in 2018 that “a blanket appeared to be thrown over” the information he provided Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.
- Steele said that he had handed over a dossier on Trump’s links to Russia in 2016 but that “no inquiries were made or actions taken thereafter.”
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suppressed the publication of the parliamentary committee’s report before the UK general election in December.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK government covered up evidence of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “likely hold” over US President Donald Trump to protect its relationship with the US, a former British spy said, The Guardian reported on Monday.
Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent, told a UK parliamentary investigation in 2018 that Prime Minister Theresa May’s government ignored evidence of Putin’s relationship with Trump.
The committee responsible for the investigation, the Intelligence and Security Committee, was due to publish its report last year. However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to publish it before December’s general election, and it is still unpublished.
Steele said May’s government, in which Johnson served as foreign secretary for two years, threw a blanket over the allegations about Trump’s relationship with Putin.
The former spy said he presented a dossier on Trump’s relationship with Russia to UK security officials in 2016, the year Trump won the US general election. However, Steele said that “on reaching top political decision-makers, a blanket appeared to be thrown over it,” according to The Guardian.
“No inquiries were made or actions taken thereafter on the substance of the intelligence in the dossier by” the UK government, he said.
Steele, who led the MI6 Russia desk for three years, included the claim in evidence he provided to the Intelligence and Security Committee in August 2018 for its investigation into Russian interference in British democracy, The Guardian said.
In his evidence, Steele said May’s government decided not to act on the information it received in order to protect the UK’s close and long-standing relationship with the US.
“In this case, political considerations seemed to outweigh national security interests,” Steele said, according to The Guardian. “If so, in my view, HMG made a serious mistake in balancing matters of strategic importance to our country.”
He added that “a prospective trade deal should never be allowed to eclipse considerations of national security.”
Steele said the UK government was reluctant to act when it would present “difficult wider political implications,” using allegations of Russian interference in the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership as an example.
“Examples of this include reporting on the Kremlin’s likely hold over President Trump and his family/administration and indications of Russian interference in and clandestine funding of the Brexit referendum,” Steele said, according to The Guardian.
Failure to publish the Russia report is an ‘affront to democracy’
Though it was completed in October and sent to Johnson, the ISC’s report into Russian interference has not been published. Johnson refused to release it before the UK’s general election in December.
The UK government has insisted that the highly anticipated report cannot be published until a new ISC is formed.
However, six months on from the general election, the committee has still not been formed. The BBC reported last week that the holdup was due to Johnson’s Conservative Party failing to agree on MPs to nominate as committee members.
A cross-party group of opposition MPs last week urged Johnson to publish the report.
The letter, shared exclusively with Business Insider, pointed out that six months was the longest that Parliament had ever had to wait for the ISC to be formed.
It said that Johnson’s failure to release the report was an “affront to democracy” and that it was “untenable” for Johnson “to continue to block the publication of the Russia report.”
Before last year’s general election, The Times reported that Johnson’s government held back the report because of the “embarrassing” links it revealed between the Russian secret service and donors to the Conservative Party.
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A representative for Johnson on Monday indicated that the committee would be formed in the coming weeks.
“Work to establish the committee is ongoing and it will be established as quick as current circumstances allow,” they said, adding that “further announcements including members of the committee will be made in due course.”
Trump’s relationship with Russia and Putin has been scrutinized since the 2016 presidential campaign.
The special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia worked to get Trump elected, though his investigation did not find enough evidence to suggest that Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign.
Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and Russia, and he said he trusted Putin’s word over that of the US intelligence agencies that found that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, said in an ABC News interview last week that Putin did not see Trump as a “serious adversary.”
“I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle,” Bolton said.
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