We now have an answer, or least a partial one. But first, a brief detour into just how Steele allegedly went about compiling his data.
In a report in Mother Jones, David Corn, who first broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump, writes about Steele's experience shortly after being retained in June by a "private research firm" to look into Trump's activity in Europe and Russia. Steele recalls that "It started off as a fairly general inquiry." One question for him, he said, was, "Are there business ties in Russia?"
Corn then writes that the former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere.
He soon received what he called "hair-raising" information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been "sexually compromised" by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an "established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit." He noted he was "shocked" by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.
The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was "sufficiently serious" for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. "This was an extraordinary situation," he remarked.
Corn writes that the FBI's response to Steele's information, was "shock and horror."
After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, "My track record as a professional is second to no one."
Perhaps, although it does not explain either why the FBI took no action when presented with this "hair-raising", "shocking" information, despite his "track record as second to none", nor why McCain had possession of the document, and then also supposedly handed it off to the FBI. Steele told Corn that he "believed this material was important, and he was unsure how the FBI was handling it. Certainly, there had been no public signs that the FBI was investigating these allegations. (The FBI at the time refused to tell me if it had received the memos or if it was examining the allegations.)"
Maybe the reason why the FBI had taken no action is because they knew data was fake, and that Steele himself was the subject of a hoax, one either perpetrated by 4Chan as the message board has claimed, or he was the victim of a counter-disinformation campaign by Russian "sources" (yes, Russian spies don't always tell the truth to UK spies) who meant to discredit Steele by providing him with purposefully wrong material.
Corn then tries to further validate the credibility of his source: "A senior US administration official told me that he had worked with the onetime spook and that the former spy had an established and respected track record of providing US government agencies with accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters. "He is a credible source who has provided information to the US government for a long time, which senior officials have found to be highly credible," this US official said." Yet he himself also admits that "I also was able to review the memos the former spy had written, and I quoted a few key portions in my article. I did not report the specific allegations—especially the lurid allegations about Trump's personal behavior—because they could not be confirmed."
So if the actual underlying allegations - the very basis of the report - could not be confirmed, what if any was the story? This is how Corn spins it:
The newsworthy story at this point was that a credible intelligence official had provided information to the FBI alleging Moscow had tried to cultivate and compromise a presidential candidate. And the issue at hand—at a time when the FBI was publicly disclosing information about its investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of her email at the State Department—was whether the FBI had thoroughly investigated these allegations related to Russia and Trump. I also didn't post the memos, as BuzzFeed did this week, because the documents contained information about the former spy's sources that could place these people at risk.
That's not the end of it: now that his identity has been revealed, there is little downside to pushing forward, and Steele now says that "these allegations deserved a "substantial inquiry" within the FBI. Yet so far, the FBI has not yet said whether such an investigation has been conducted. As the former spy said to me, "The story has to come out."
Of course, the implied allegation is that Trump, was not only controlled by Putin due to the "kompromat" the Russian secret services had on him, but was also being protected by the FBI, which withheld this "shocking" report from the public.
There is just one problem. Others had it too... and here we go back to the original question: who commissioned the anti-Trump report in the first place?
Curiously, according to Steele, this spy whose "track record is second to none", has no idea. Says Corn, "the former spy said he was never told the identity of the client."
Well, that's not exactly true. He does know that the private research firm from the US "was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one."
In other words, while Steele didn't know the identity of the actual source of funds, he did know their ideological leanings.
However, someone who did seem to know the identity emerged on Wednesday, when BBC News' Paul Wood reported that "the opposition research firm that commissioned the report had worked first for a superpac - political action committee - supporting Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries."
BBC's Paul Wood reveals that this former Mi6 official was working for Jeb!'s SuperPAC when he compiled the info https://t.co/Meh7ZkdrXW
The interview in which the Jed Bush connection emerged, was the following, in which Ted Malloch, a Trump insider, said the following:
Let me tell you what the British intelligence told me this morning. [Christopher Steele] was also an FBI asset at one point in time so he has an intelligence background, but he was paid for people that were working for Jeb Bush in order to discredit him. The democrats took over the contract. He kept adding to the dossier and using information given to him by the FSB in Russia, most of it fabricated, the more he put into the dossier, the more he got paid. So e made a sensationalist dossier, as fat as possible just like your lawyer charges you more billable hours in order to get paid more.
Almost as soon as the BBC report and interview hit, Charlie Spies, an attorney for Right to Rise USA, which had supported Bush's presidential candidacy, disputed it. "Right to Rise categorically denies the BBC reporter's made up report and will be demanding that he retract the made up allegation," Spies told TPM. "Other than enjoying James Bond movies, the PAC had nothing to do with British Intelligence officers." He also proceeded with a rejection on Twitter.
This is categorically false. Working on cease & desist letter to BBC radio to stop making up fake news. https://t.co/UNfLz5WeM4
Naturally, good luck proving either side of the allegations.
As the WSJ explained in its initial report, "no presidential campaigns or super PACs reported payments to Orbis in their required Federal Election Commission filings. But several super PACs over the course of the campaign reported that they paid limited liability companies, whose ultimate owners may be difficult or impossible to discern."
Just as was intended, and surely no self-respecting spy would allow a SuperPac to pay him directly... or for that matter publicly.
So where do we stand now?
After a series of back and forths, Jeb Bush has been accused of funding the report, with his own SuperPAC immediately denying it, as it would of course, since there is no definitive evidence (yet?) of Bush's involvement.
However, courtesy of Corn's report, who is writing on behalf of Steele, we do know without dispute, that "the American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one."
And all this happened after a British spy was being worked by the FSB, who provided him with fake intel, including the glorious Golden Shower scene (hopefully the impact of 4Chan will eventually emerge somewhere here) to stuff the report, and ask for even more cash from his client; a report which was so incredibly not even the FBI could do anything with it.
Could the Republican source have been Jeb Bush? Certainly: after all, the Republican funding stopped at one point - perhaps when Jeb dropped out of the primary - only to be replaced with a Democrat source. Incidentally, we also have very good sense of who the "Democratic source" funding Steele's research may have been.
We are confident we will know more soon. After all, none other than Trump earlier today promised his own Russia hacking report in 90 days when he lashed out at "sleazebag" Democrats and Republicans.
Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans - FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably...
But the real point here is not who is behind it, but who had this report before it was finally released by Buzzfeed on Monday. And according to the latest information, not only the FBI, but also at least one Republican and one Democrat source had it. And yet nobody went public with it to "crush" the Trump campaign; instead the best "compromising" thing that could be dug up was the tape of Trump "grabbing women by the pussy."
It goes without saying that if there was indeed some Trump-crushing fact in the report, it would have emerged long ago, and if not by the FBI, then certainly by Trump's immediate competitors, both Republican and Democrat... unless they too were "compromised" by Russia.
Which is why, no matter how this story ends, it should be clear by now that nothing contained in the "Trump report" was in any way actionable, or else it would have seen the light of day long ago.