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Former UK agent breaks silence over Trump dossier

The former British intelligence officer behind a dossier of allegations about Donald Trump has broken his silence.

Christopher Steele, 52, who runs London-based Orbis Business Intelligence, said he was returning to work and thanked people for their support.

Speaking outside his firm's offices in Belgravia, the former MI6 agent told the Press Association: "I'm really pleased to be back here working again at the Orbis's offices in London today.

"I'm now going to be focusing my efforts on supporting the broader interests of our company here.

"I'd like to say a warm thank you to everyone who sent me kind messages and support over the last few weeks.

"Just to add, I won't be making any further statements or comments at this time."

Mr Steele, who was forced into hiding when he was named in January, read a prepared statement and did not wish to answer any further questions.

His company said it remains committed to the "secure provision" of services to clients.

The contents of the politically explosive dossier became public on January 10 when the entire 35-page file was published by BuzzFeed.

It contained claims that Russia was in possession of compromising information - known in Moscow as "Kompromat" - on Mr Trump, which could be used to blackmail or exert pressure on the new president.

The file also detailed allegations that the Trump team had multiple contacts with Russian officials during the election campaign, and that the billionaire tycoon had been cultivated by Moscow over a number of years as a possible presidential candidate, with the aim of encouraging splits within the West.

Among its more lurid allegations was a claim that the Russians held evidence of Mr Trump hiring prostitutes during a visit to Moscow to urinate on a hotel bed which he believed to have previously been slept in by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Mr Trump denounced the document as "fake news", and its veracity has been widely questioned, with Vladimir Putin himself saying it contained "obvious fabrications".

It is understood that the contents of the dossier had been shared with a number of Washington journalists but it was not published as outlets were unable to confirm the allegations.

While the existence of the report was mentioned in US media in the run-up to the election, it only became public knowledge when it was reported president-elect Mr Trump and then-president Obama had been briefed on the claims by intelligence chiefs.

Despite efforts by UK authorities to protect Mr Steele's identity, he was named the following day by the Wall Street Journal and quickly fled his home in Surrey with his family - leaving his cats in the care of a neighbour.

Orbis, which was founded by Mr Steele and another retired intelligence officer in 2009, is d escribed on its website as a corporate intelligence consultancy which combines "a high-level source network with a sophisticated investigative capability".

The Trump dossier reportedly arose from an investigation initially funded by Republicans who were seeking to block him from becoming the party's presidential candidate, before being taken over by Democrats after his nomination.

Orbis is understood to have been hired to look into Mr Trump's alleged links with Russia after sources in the country were blamed for hacking the Democrat National Committee website.

Mr Steele is said to have passed his findings onto both US and UK intelligence in the run-up to the election due to concerns about national security for both countries.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the company said: "Orbis Business Intelligence has an established track record of providing strategic intelligence, forensic investigation and risk consulting services to a broad client base.

"The nature of our business, and our high standards of professionalism, dictate that we would not disclose to the public information on any specific aspects of our work. We remain fully committed to the secure provision of our services to our clients and partners worldwide.

"We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the generous support we have received from clients and colleagues over recent weeks."

The Trump administration has been rocked by a series of disclosures about links to Russia in the months since news of the dossier broke, with Michael Flynn forced to resign as national security adviser after giving misleading information about his meetings with Moscow's ambassador before the inauguration.

Mr Steele has also been approached by the US Senate Intelligence Committee to testify in its investigation into the president's alleged links with Russia, according to reports.

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