Washington Post Deletes Two Stories on Steele Dossier


EditSuzy Hazelwood

The Washington Post took the highly rare step of correcting and removing two articles published in March 2017 and February 2019 in which a Belarusan American businessman was identified as a key source of the "Steele dossier," a collection of largely unverified reports that claimed the Russian government had compromising information about then-candidate Donald Trump.

Sally Buzbee, the Post's executive editor, said the newspaper could no longer stand by the veracity of those parts of the piece.

It had identified businessman Sergei Millian as "Source D," an anonymous individual who passed on the dossier's most damning claim to its main author, retired British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

The headline of the item was changed, and passages identifying Millian as the source was removed, as well as an accompanying video summarizing the article.

According to the dossier, Russian intelligence had learned that Trump had paid Russian prostitutes to violate a Moscow hotel room that had previously been inhabited by President Obama and Michelle Obama, and that the episode had been videotaped.

The allegation, which was confirmed by a second person identified only as "Source E" in the dossier, has never been proven.

Steele's dossier was created as part of a political opposition-research assignment for an investigative business working on behalf of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, and it contained raw information and unsubstantiated tips from unidentified sources.

Despite the fact that Steele shared it with the FBI, the contents remained mostly unknown and unpublicized until BuzzFeed published a leaked copy two months after the 2016 election.

Trump has called the dossier a hoax, presenting it as the centerpiece of a smear campaign funded by his political foes to discredit him.

The reevaluation comes after Igor Danchenko, a Russian American analyst and researcher who assisted Steele in compiling the dossier, was indicted on Nov. 4.

Danchenko eventually was charged with lying to the FBI about where and how he received the information for the dossier that he allegedly delivered to Steele.

In a statement, his lawyer, Mark Schamel, said: "Those with an agenda have spent the last five years trying to reveal Mr. Danchenko's identity and damage his image while endangering US national security. This latest inequity will not be tolerated." The indictment, as well as additional reporting by the publication, has "created concerns" about Millian's claimed involvement.

The headline in the March 2017 Post was, "What is the identity of 'Source D'? The individual suspected of being behind the most explosive claim in the Trump-Russia dossier." Millian was referred to as Source D and Source E in various parts of the dossier, according to the report. Millian's repeated denials that he assisted Steele were mentioned in the article.

In archived versions of the original articles, references to Millian as Steele's source were erased.

The Post's choice to republish the Millian tales after editing and republishing them is exceedingly unusual in the journalism industry.

When trustworthy new information becomes available, mainstream publications frequently make corrections to previously published stories.

Some publications also allow consumers to request that unpleasant pieces be removed from their websites, a once-controversial practice that has acquired increasing acceptance in the digital age.

It's unusual for a publication to make major changes after publication and then republish the modified story, especially if it's been more than four years.

Millian's role in some of Trump's commercial interests was exposed in a February 2019 Post piece.

"Sergei Millian, named as an unintentional source for the Steele dossier, craved proximity to Trump's world in 2016," according to the headline. Durham's indictment on Nov. 4 suggests, but does not directly state, that Danchenko may have acquired his knowledge about the hotel encounter from a Democratic Party worker with long-standing ties to Hillary Clinton, rather than from Millian.

During the 2016 campaign, the FBI's legal grounds for monitoring of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide, were based on the Steele dossier.

Martin Baron published the two Millian pieces but has remained silent about the corrections.

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