Ivanka Trump attends U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy and policy forum with chief executives of major U.S. companies at the White House in Washington, February 3, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
A Trump family member had a "personal" relationship with ex-British spy Christopher Steele years before he authored a controversial dossier detailing links between then-presidential contender Donald Trump and Russia, Steele told the Justice Department's internal watchdog.
Steele said he was "favorably disposed" toward the Trump family — and not remotely biased against Trump — because of his relationship with that unidentified family member, according to the report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department.
The report notes Steele said that he had even given that family member of Trump's a sentimental gift, "a family tartan from Scotland" — the homeland of Trump's late mother.
That watchdog's report was released as ABC News reported that Steele met Trump's elder daughter Ivanka Trump at a dinner in 2007 — when he was running the Russia desk of MI6, the British intelligence agency — and that the duo remained in touch for some time thereafter.
Steele since has become a target of President Trump and Trump's allies, who say Steele's dossier, which contains unverified and salacious claims about Trump, was a "hoax" that was used to unfairly spark in 2016 an FBI investigation of Trump campaign contacts with Russians.
That probe bedeviled the Trump administration into this year, and led to the IG's inquiry in to the origins of the investigation.
The White House had no immediate comment on either the IG report detailing Steele's "relationship" with a Trump family member, or the possibility that Ivanka Trump was that particular person whom Steele some kind of contact with.
Ivanka Trump is a senior White House advisor, as is her husband, Jared Kushner. The couple, who wed in 2009, have three children.
ABC News reported that Steele and Ivanka Trump, who was a senior executive at the Trump Organization at the time they first met, kept in touch after their first encounter, and exchanged emails and discussed possibly working together after he left that spy agency and moved into private practice conducting business intelligence.
"The following year, the two exchanged emails about meeting up near Trump Tower, according to several emails seen by ABC News," the article said.
"They suggest Ivanka Trump and Steele stayed in touch via emails over the next several years. In one 2008 exchange they discussed dining together in New York at a restaurant just blocks from Trump Tower."
Years later, in 2016, Steele would conduct research into then-candidate Donald Trump and his possible dealings with Russians and in Russia. Steele's work, done on behalf of the private investigative firm Fusion GPS, was published less than two weeks before Trump was inaugurated as president in January 2017.
Steele, in his interview with the IG Office's investigators, said that it was his firm's practice when doing reports or dossiers to "faithfully report everything a reliable source provided and not to withold information because it was controversial."
And "he denied 'tailoring' his reporting to meet the needs of his clients," saying that it was not good business practice to do so."
"Steele called the allegation that he was biased against Trump from the start 'ridiculous," the report said.
"He stated that if anything he was favorably disposed toward the Trump family before he began his research because he had visited a Trump family member at Trump Tower and 'been friendly' with [the family member] for some years," according to the report, which redacted the name of the Trump relative.
"He described their relationship as 'personal' and said that he once gifted a family tartan to the family member," the report said.