Over the summer special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators met with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier that brought unsubstantiated and salacious information about President Donald Trump and his associates to light.
It was expected that the information provided by the former MI-6 officer "could help investigators determine whether contacts between people associated with the Trump campaign and suspected Russian operatives broke any laws," CNN reported.
The FBI and the U.S. intelligence community have taken the dossier more seriously than has been previously publicly acknowledged, CNN reported. Trump has repeatedly slammed the contents as "totally made-up stuff."
In January, James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence said that the intelligence community had "not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable," according to CNN. But intelligence agencies have not yet ruled out at least some of the information included in the dossier. CNN elaborated:
The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.
While the most salacious allegations in the dossier haven't been verified, its broad assertion that Russia waged a campaign to interfere in the election is now accepted as fact by the US intelligence community. CNN also reported earlier this year that US investigators have corroborated some aspects of the dossier, specifically that some of the communications among foreign nationals mentioned in the memos did actually take place.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has struggled to find answers regarding the collection of memos and efforts to meet with Steele.
"The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like, who paid for it? Who are your sources and sub-sources?" the panel's chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, according to CNN. "We're investigating a very expansive Russian network of interference in US elections. And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards, the Steele dossier, up to a certain date, getting past that point has been somewhat impossible," he added.
The dossier is a collection of memos that was part of a political opposition research campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Anti-Trump Republicans initially funded the efforts by a Washington firm, that had already been collecting opposition research about Trump. But the Democrats latched onto it and funded its work sometime in the spring, and Steele was hired during the summer, CNN reported.