Washington Post retracts some stories based on Steele dossier

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Washington Post retracts some stories based on Steele dossier

The Washington Post on Friday took the unusual step of correcting and retracting portions of two articles, published in 2017 and 2019, that relied on the now-discredited, Trump-bashing Steele dossier.

Sally Buzbee, the executive editor for the Washington Post, revealed the newspaper was unable to stand by the accuracy of their reporting regarding source Sergei Millian — former president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce — noting the recent indictment filed by Special Counsel John Durham this month. 

“The original version of this article published on March 29, 2017, said that Sergei Millian was a source for parts of a dossier of unverified allegations against Donald Trump. That account has been contradicted by allegations contained in a federal indictment filed in November 2021 and undermined by further reporting by The Washington Post. As a result, portions of the story and an accompanying video have been removed and the headline has been changed,” the editor’s note in the 2017 article read

“The original account was based on two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide sensitive information. One of those people now says the new information ‘puts in grave doubt that Millian’ was a source for parts of the dossier. The other declined to comment,” it continued. 

former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele
Former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled the dossier.
AFP via Getty Images

In the 2019 article, titled “Belarus-born businessman sought proximity to Trump’s world in 2016” the editors noted that any references to the 2017 article had been removed. 

The Washington Post’s original reporting had identified Millian as “Source D” — an unnamed source who contributed to extreme allegations included in the dossier complained by former British spy Christopher Steele. 

Among the many debunked claims Millian alleged was that Russian security services possessed a tape of Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel room with prostitutes who were urinating on a bed where then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had previously stayed.

Earlier this week, prominent press critic with the Washington Post Erik Wemple warned media outlets that they face a “steep journalistic challenge” to back up their initial reporting on the Steele dossier in the wake of Durham’s most recent indictment. 

Wemply cited the Washington Post’s reporting directly and urged them — along with several other outlets — to retract the stories.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, holds a copy of the Steele Dossier, as Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies about the Inspector General's report on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 11, 2019.
Lindsey Graham holds a copy of the Steele Dossier during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in on Dec. 11, 2019.
AFP via Getty Images

“The sourcing for the Post’s reporting about Millian’s alleged conversation is unclear, while ABC News attributes its primary assertion to ‘a person familiar with the raw intelligence provided to the FBI,” Wemple wrote. 

“These news outlets now face a steep journalistic challenge — that of returning to their source(s) in an effort to back up the original claims that Millian was an unwitting source for the dossier,” Wemple added. “If that effort doesn’t produce enough evidence to surmount the allegations in the indictment, there’s only one option: Retract the stories. Allowing one version of events to sit awkwardly alongside another — and leaving it to the reader to decide — won’t cut it.” 

Friday’s retractions come over a week after Igor Danchenko, another key source for information in the dossier, was arrested. Danchenko, a Russian citizen living in Virginia, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to five counts of making false statements to the FBI. 

Russian analyst Igor Danchenko arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse before being arraigned on November 10, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Russian analyst Igor Danchenko arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse before being arraigned on Nov. 10, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Among those charges, the FBI claims Danchenko lied about having a phone call in July 2016 with Millian, who told him about a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

“In truth and fact, and as Danchenko well knew, Danchenko never received such a phone call or such information,” the indictment reads. “Danchenko fabricated these facts.”

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