State Department Official ‘Destroyed’ Records at Foreign Agent’s Request
A former State Department official told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he destroyed records in January 2017, the month President Donald Trump took office, at the request of former British spy Christopher Steele, according to a new report.
Jonathan Winer, who served as special envoy to Libya through early 2017, was Steele’s contact at the State Department. Winer arranged a meeting for Steele in October 2016 with another State Department official at Foggy Bottom to share findings of research on Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee in the November 2016 election.
The Senate Intelligence Committee interviewed Winer twice about his contacts with Steele and his handling of the so-called Steele dossier on Trump, on July 10, 2017, and April 18, 2018.
According to the Senate committee’s report released Tuesday, Winer disclosed that he destroyed reports that Steele had sent him over the years. The report also says that Winer failed to reveal when asked in his first interview with the committee that he had arranged the meeting for Steele at the State Department months earlier.
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“After Steele’s memos were published in the press in January 2017, Steele asked Winer to make note of having them, then either destroy all the earlier reports Steele had sent the Department of State or return them to Steele, out of concern that someone would be able to reconstruct his source network,” the Senate report says.
The report quotes Winer as saying: “So I destroyed them, and I basically destroyed all the correspondence I had with him.”
Steele appeared to be on a deletion spree at the time he made his request that Winer scrub his records at the State Department.
The former MI6 officer told a British court in March that he “wiped” all of his correspondence related to his dossier on Trump in December 2016 and January 2017, following Trump’s election in November. Steele said he had no records of communications with his primary source, who has been identified as Igor Danchenko.
Steele, who owns a private intelligence firm in London, provided Winer with more than 100 intelligence reports from 2014 through 2016.
Emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that Winer shared Steele’s reports with a small group of fellow State Department officials.
The Senate committee’s report says that the State Department was able to provide the committee with Steele’s reports from 2015 and 2016, though most from 2014 are missing.
It isn’t clear whether Winer violated any State Department regulations regarding the handling of government records.
Republican lawmakers long have been interested in Winer because of his interactions with Steele and his handling of the dossier of opposition research on Trump. The Senate report offers a scathing assessment of the dossier, which the FBI used to obtain warrants to surveil then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The report says that Steele displayed “poor” tradecraft. It also says that Steele “repeatedly” refused the committee’s requests for interviews.
Winer, a longtime aide to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, was in contact with the founders of Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele. Winer also served as a background source for two reporters, Michael Isikoff and David Corn, for news stories they wrote before the November 2016 election touting Steele’s allegations.
Winer also disseminated an anti-Trump dossier peddled by two Clinton-linked operatives, Cody Shearer and Sidney Blumenthal. Winer told the Senate committee that he provided Steele with memos that Shearer wrote about Trump. Steele in turn shared the documents with the FBI to lend support to his own theories about Trump.
The Senate report suggests that Winer withheld some details about his links to Steele from both the committee and the State Department.
Winer told the committee that he did not tell security officers at the State Department about his continuing relationship with Steele.
And in his first interview with the Senate panel, on July 10, 2017, Winer denied arranging a meeting for Steele at the State Department. The report says:
In his first interview with the Committee, Winer discussed how he shared a summary of Steele’s reports within the Department of State and his other activities in September or October of 2016, but he omitted facilitating meetings between Steele and U.S. Government officials during September and October 2016.
However, in his second interview, when shown visitor logs from the Department of State listing Steele as his visitor, Winer said he remembered bringing Steele to the Department of State but did not recall when.
Winer also acknowledged that prior to joining the State Department, he did consulting and legal work for Russian clients, including some that might be “pro-Putin,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that he first met Steele because of their shared interest in Russia-related issues.
“In 2009, after I had moved to APCO Worldwide and was still engaged in various types of Russian representation all over the map—some might be pro-Putin, some might be anti-Putin,” Winer told the committee.
In the 2000s, Winer represented Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska on issues related to his visa. Steele worked for Deripaska from 2012 to 2017, the Senate report says.
The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported that Winer arranged business meetings for Steele while he still worked at the State Department. The emails show that Winer contacted a former associate at APCO Worldwide to arrange one meeting in 2014.
Steele’s firm, Orbis Business International, did not respond to a request for comment. Winer also did not respond to an email seeking comment.
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