Exactly one year ago BuzzFeed published what’s now known simply as “the dossier”: a set of reports put together by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele during the 2016 presidential campaign. The 35-page dossier suggested that the Russian government had both compromised and colluded with President-elect Donald Trump.
Our choice to publish the dossier was greeted by outrage from two sources. Journalistic traditionalists didn’t like the idea of sharing an unfiltered, unverified document with the public, whatever the caveats and context. NBC’s Chuck Todd told me on air, “You just published fake news.” Mr. Trump agreed. He described CNN’s reporting on the dossier as “fake news” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”
But a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news. That’s a fact that has been tacitly acknowledged even by those who opposed our decision to publish. It has helped journalists explain to their audience the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election. And Mr. Trump and his allies have seized on the dossier in their efforts to discredit the special counsel leading the investigation, Robert Mueller.
Without the dossier, Americans would have found it difficult to understand the actions of their elected representatives and government officials. Their posture toward Mr. Trump was, we now know even more comprehensively than we did in January 2017, shaped by Mr. Steele’s report. The Russia investigation, meanwhile, didn’t turn out to be some minor side story but instead the central challenge to Mr. Trump’s presidency.
When we published the dossier, we knew a lot: We knew that it had been written by the former head of the Russia desk at Britain’s main foreign intelligence agency, a man whose job had made him a leading source on Russian espionage. We knew that key members of the Senate — Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, and John McCain, the Arizona Republican — had acted on its contents. We had also learned that intelligence officials had briefed President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump on the dossier, and that the F.B.I. was already looking into it.