Former British spy and FBI source Steele was friends with Ivanka Trump: source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former British spy who was a source for the FBI in its probe of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had an extended friendship with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, a source familiar with the friendship said on Monday.

A friendship between Christopher Steele, a former officer of British foreign intelligence agency MI6, and an unspecified Trump family member was laid out in a report by the U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General published on Monday. The report looked into elements of how the FBI handled its investigation into whether Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had colluded with Russia.

The FBI used Steele’s work as part of its investigation.

In a chapter of the report reviewing the history of Steele’s relationship with the FBI as a “confidential human source,” Steele says that allegations that he was biased against Trump from the start of his investigation into the presidential candidate were “ridiculous.”

According to the Inspector General’s account, Steele told investigators that, if anything, he was “favorably disposed” toward the Trump family, since he had visited a Trump family member at New York’s Trump Tower and “been friendly” with the family member for “some years.”

A person familiar with the friendship said that Ivanka Trump was the unnamed family member mentioned in the report.

The White House declined comment and Steele did not respond to an email requesting comment.

In its report, the Justice Department watchdog found no evidence of political bias by the FBI but said mistakes were made. Trump has harshly criticized the FBI probe as biased.

The FBI investigation, opened in the summer of 2016 ahead of the November election pitting Trump against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, was taken over in May 2017 by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

Mueller’s 22-month special counsel investigation detailed a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, harm Clinton and boost Trump. Mueller documented numerous contacts between Trump campaign figures and Moscow but found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy.

According to the Inspector General report, Steele described his relationship with the unnamed Trump family member as “personal” and added that he once provided that person with a gift in the form of a Steele family tartan from Scotland.

The friendship between Steele and Ivanka Trump was reported earlier on Monday by ABC News.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball, editing by Peter Henderson and Rosalba O’Brien