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

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of US President Donald Trump, had reportedly "been friendly" with Christopher Steele for "some years". PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A former British spy who was a source for the FBI in its probe of Mr Donald Trump's presidential campaign had an extended friendship with Ms Ivanka Trump, the President's daughter, a source familiar with the friendship said on Monday (Dec 9).

A friendship between Mr 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 US Justice Department's Inspector-General published on Monday.

The report looked into elements of how the FBI handled its investigation into whether Mr Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign had colluded with Russia.

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

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

According to the Inspector-General's account, Mr Steele told investigators that, if anything, he was "favourably disposed"towards 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 Ms Ivanka Trump was the unnamed family member mentioned in the report.

The White House declined comment and Mr Steele did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

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

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

Mr Mueller's 22-month special counsel investigation detailed a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, harm Mrs Clinton and boost Mr Trump.

Mr Mueller documented numerous contacts between Trump campaign figures and Moscow, but found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy.

According to the Inspector-General report, Mr 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 Mr Steele and Ms Ivanka Trump was reported earlier on Monday by ABC News.

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