The former British intelligence officer who compiled the infamous dossier about Donald Trump and Russia suddenly backed out of a planned video talk on disinformation and democracy, Politico reported Monday.
Christopher Steele was scheduled to speak on a panel via video on March 14 at the Reawakening the Spirit of Democracy Conference in Baltimore.
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, the moderator of the panel that Steele would have participated in, told Politico that he suddenly got “cold feet” and backed out on the advice of his counsel.
It would have been Steele’s first public appearance, aside from some brief statements to the media, since the publication of the dossier that rocked the Trump administration.
Steele could not immediately be reached for comment.
The former MI6 agent gathered a 35-page series of memos from sources claiming that Russian officials had been “cultivating” Trump for years, that they were working with his campaign to get him elected, that the Kremlin was responsible for hacked Democratic Party emails, and that Russia had compromising information on Trump.
Steele collected the information for Washington political research firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The dossier was widely circulated among U.S. intelligence officials and published by BuzzFeed just days before Trump took office. Trump has long blasted the dossier as fake and politically motivated.
Much of the information in the dossier remains unsubstantiated, but since its release, special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators have uncovered extensive connections between members of Trump’s circle and Russian officials and oligarchs.
After Steele was named in Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment List” last year, he said in an email to the magazine: “In these strange and troubling times, it is hard to speak unpalatable truths to power, but I believe we all still have a duty to do so.”
He added: “At a time when governance is so distorted and one-sided, as I believe it currently is in the United States, the media has a key role to play in holding it accountable.”