HUGE scoop by @JasonLeopold: Christopher Steele, who wrote the Trump dossier, provided a secret report to the FBI asserting that RT founder Mikhail Lesin was murdered “by thugs hired by an oligarch close to Putin.” https://t.co/by6hAQ02KW
— Jane Bradley (@jane__bradley) March 27, 2018
Buzzfeed has the details on the service that retired MI6 senior intelligence officer Christopher Steele continues to provide. Right now an aide is trying to secure Senator Grassley’s twitter feed, another is trying to find a fainting couch for Senator Graham, and a third is hiding Congressman Gaetz car keys…
The FBI possesses a secret report asserting that Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC — directly contradicting the US government’s official finding that Mikhail Lesin died by accident.
The report, according to four sources who have read all or parts of it, was written by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who also wrote the famous dossier alleging that Russia had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Donald Trump. The bureau received his report while it was helping the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department investigate the Russian media baron’s death, the sources said.
FBI spokesperson Andrew Ames declined to confirm or deny the existence of the report and would not comment for this story. Steele’s business partner, Chris Burrows, declined to comment on behalf of Steele and their company, Orbis Business Intelligence.
The BuzzFeed News series also revealed new details about Lesin — including that he died on the eve of a scheduled meeting with US Justice Department officials. They had planned to interview Lesin about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that he founded.
Now BuzzFeed News has established:
- Steele’s report says that Lesin was bludgeoned to death by enforcers working for an oligarch close to Putin, the four sources said.
- The thugs had been instructed to beat Lesin, not kill him, but they went too far, the sources said Steele wrote.
- Three of the sources said that the report described the killers as Russian state security agents moonlighting for the oligarch.
- The Steele report is not the FBI’s only source for this account of Lesin’s death: Three other people, acting independently from Steele, said they also told the FBI that Lesin had been bludgeoned to death by enforcers working for the same oligarch named by Steele.
Much more at the link.
If Steele’s report, as well as the FBI’s other sources regarding Lesin’s death, are borne out, we will have a confirmed case of Russian wetwork on US soil. Specifically intended to prevent a potential confidential informant of providing significant counterintelligence information pertaining to Russia’s active measures to the FBI. That the death was unintentional because the Russian agents who administered the beating were bad at their jobs is actually inconsequential. While the result may provide Putin with some mild embarrassment that the Russian government will deny any involvement in, the deterrent effect is this the same: turn on Putin and you and/or your loved ones will be killed.
It is also going to cause a significant problem for whoever was involved in trying to cover it up. From the same Buzzfeed article:
But Steele’s report — the existence of which has never before been made public — adds to a mounting body of evidence that casts doubt on the official finding on Lesin’s death. “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died,” an FBI agent told BuzzFeed News last year. “Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”
In December, DC police released 58 pages of its case file on Lesin’s death. While many parts are blacked out, what was released says nothing about the blunt force injuries that killed Lesin — or even about him falling down, which is how he is supposed to have died.
Steele’s report on Lesin’s murder, and the Buzzfeed reporting about it, raise significant questions:
- Is the existing coroner’s report the product of shoddy forensic work or was a decision made to cover this up to lower the temperature between the US and Russia?
- If it was covered up to lower the temperature between the US and Russia, what, if any, more covert responses were taken?
- Who decided to create the cover story? And what was their real purpose in doing so?
Until we get answers to those questions, the revelations about this additional Steele report are interesting, but still only provide us with a partial understanding of the events surrounding Lesin’s murder, his autopsy, the investigation into his death, and the official accounting of those events.
Updated at 1:45 PM EDT
I just want to take a moment and add this portion of Buzzfeed’s reporting:
For his report to the FBI about Lesin, Steele gathered intelligence from high-level sources in Moscow, according to the two sources who read the whole report.
All four of the people who read Steele’s report said it pins Lesin’s murder on a professional relationship gone lethally awry. According to the report, they said, Lesin fell out with a powerful oligarch close to Putin. Wanting to intimidate Lesin, the oligarch then contracted with Russian state security agents to beat up Lesin, the report states, according to three of the sources. The goal was not to kill Lesin, all four sources said Steele wrote, but Lesin died from the attack.
The sources could not recall what, if anything, the report said about whether Putin knew of or sanctioned the attack.
Three other individuals, including a business associate of Lesin and two intelligence officials, told BuzzFeed News that they had independently given the FBI similar information: that Lesin had been bludgeoned to death by thugs operating on orders from the same oligarch Steele named.
I specifically want to highlight that three of Steele’s four high level sources indicate that the oligarch that Lesin crossed contracted with “Russian state security agents to beat up Lesin”. Given that the report indicates that the oligarch that Lesin had gotten crosswise with is close to Putin, and given how we know Putin runs Russia, it would be hard to believe that “Russian state security agents” that were contracted to do the op were doing so without Putin at least knowing about the operation, if not approving it.