LONDON — Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who prepared the dossier on Donald J. Trump’s supposed activities in Russia, has gone underground.
The strange story of the dossier, which United States intelligence agencies, the F.B.I., Senator John McCain and many journalists have had for weeks, if not months, and which Mr. Trump must presumably have known about, appears to have had personal consequences for Mr. Steele.
According to neighbors and news reports, Mr. Steele hurriedly left his home in Surrey, southwest of London, on Wednesday to avoid attention or possible retribution once his identity as the author of the dossier was revealed, first by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reported that Mr. Steele had declined its interview requests because the subject was “too hot.”
Mr. Steele, 52, was a longstanding officer with MI6, the British equivalent of the C.I.A., serving in Paris and Moscow in the 1990s before retiring. In 2009, he started a private research firm, Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., with Christopher Burrows, now 58, who has refused to confirm or deny that Mr. Steele and Orbis wrote the memos that made up the dossier, initially under contract to a Washington firm paid to dig into harmful matters from Mr. Trump’s past.
Mr. Burrows’s profile page on LinkedIn describes him as a former counselor in the Foreign Office, with postings in Brussels and New Delhi in the early 2000s. Diplomatic postings are sometimes used to provide cover to intelligence agents. Mr. Steele’s profile on LinkedIn gives no specifics about his career.
Mr. Steele, as a known former MI6 agent, was thought not to have gone to Russia in his investigations but to have used contacts inside and outside the country to prepare the dossier, which United States intelligence agencies have said they cannot substantiate. But the findings were used to prepare a two-page appendix to the intelligence presentation American officials gave to Mr. Trump last Friday.
Mr. Trump has denied the allegations in the dossier in the sharpest terms, and called them “fake news.” Russia has denied that it holds any compromising material on Mr. Trump.
John Sipher, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2014 after 28 years with the agency, described Mr. Steele as having a good reputation and “some credibility.” Mr. Sipher was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s, and then ran the C.I.A.’s Russia program for three years, according to an interview he gave to PBS NewsHour. He now works at CrossLead, a Washington-based technology company.
“I have confidence that the F.B.I. is going to follow this through,” Mr. Sipher said. “My nervousness is that these kind of things are going to dribble and drabble out for the next several years and cause a real problem for this administration going forward.”
Orbis’s website says that it was “founded by former British intelligence professionals.” Based in Grosvenor Gardens, near Victoria Station in London, the company says it has a “sophisticated investigative capability” and mounts “intelligence-gathering operations” and “complex, often cross-border investigations.”
According to the website, it also offers “real-time source reporting on business and politics at all levels,” and “draws on extensive experience at boardroom level in government, multilateral diplomacy and international business to develop bespoke solutions for clients.”
Mr. Steele and Orbis have previously investigated corruption at FIFA, the governing body of world soccer.
In October, David Corn of Mother Jones magazine wrote about the dossier and described his conversations with Mr. Steele, whom he did not identify by name or nationality.
According to the British newspaper The Telegraph, a friend of Mr. Steele’s said that after his name and nationality were revealed, he had become “terrified for his and his family’s safety.”
Mr. Steele’s wife and children also were not at home.
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