WASHINGTON — The former British spy who authored a series of reports alleging links between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign had been a personal friend of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a relationship he said made him “favorably disposed” to the Trump family.
The previously unknown friendship between former intelligence officer Christopher Steele and Ivanka Trump was alluded to in a new report released Monday by the Justice Department's inspector general, which said Steele had "been friendly" with a Trump family member, a relationship he described as "personal."
Steele told investigators he had visited the Trump family member at Trump Tower in New York and had once gifted the person a family tartan from Scotland.
A person familiar with Steele's business Orbis confirmed the family member was Ivanka Trump.
The two met first met in 2007, two years before she married husband Jared Kushner, the person said. They emailed over the years and, between 2010 and 2012, Steele discussed with Ivanka Trump the possibility that the Trump Organization might hire his business to assist with projects in Russia and China. They remained friends through 2015, the person said.
A White House spokesman and an attorney for the Trump Organization declined to comment. ABC News first reported the relationship between Steele and the president's daughter.
Steele has been a particular target of Trump's ire since the revelations that he was hired during the 2016 campaign by Fusion GPS, a political intelligence firm, to research Trump's ties to Russia on behalf of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The former spy, who retired from government service in 2009 to open his own business, compiled reports that cited a series of unnamed sources who alleged Trump's campaign was conspiring with the Russian government to win the election. Steele's reports, which he described as raw and unverified intelligence, also asserted that the Kremlin held salacious information about Trump.
In January 2017, BuzzFeed published Steele's dossier online in full and days later, Steele was identified as its author. Trump has called his work "phony" and "fake news."
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the FBI considered Steele himself credible, but gathered evidence in 2017 indicating that some of Steele's reports were not reliable.
However, the inspector general also concluded that Steele's information played no role in the opening of the FBI investigation exploring Trump and Russia in July 2016.
The president's supporters have suggested Steele was biased against Trump, noting that Justice Department official Bruce Ohr told the FBI in November 2016 that Steele had been "desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not becoming the U.S. president."
But according to the report, Steele told investigators that when he took on the research assignment, he was not opposed to Trump. If anything, he said, he was "favorably disposed" to the Trump family because of his past relationship with the Trump family member.
A person familiar with the Steele's work for Fusion GPS in 2016 said that the former British intelligence officer told his American clients about his friendship with Ivanka Trump, and they agreed not to discuss it outside their small circle as his work proceeded.
In her role as a senior vice president of her father’s company, Ivanka Trump was particularly involved in the company’s overseas real estate projects. In 2006, she traveled to Moscow to explore the possibility of a Trump Tower in Russia.