Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!
Sir Walter Scott’s immortal words cannot help but spring to mind when sifting through the labyrinthine journey of the recently disclosed dossier on President-Elect Donald Trump and his alleged activities with Russia.
The dossier was reportedly compiled by former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele, who owns an intelligence consultancy in London called Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.
The main protagonist is a wealthy American businessman and notorious playboy on a raging tear in a foreign city. In this case Moscow. Said businessman/playboy is consumed with such personal hatred for the President of the United States that he rents the same suite at the Ritz Carlton in which the President slept with his wife and proceeds to defile it with multiple Russian prostitutes (kindly provided by the FSB) who perform unspeakable acts of fetishism with him. All this while knowing full well that the suite is wired to the hilt by Russian intelligence and the entire escapade is being recorded and filed away for future blackmailing operations.
The source cited in Steele’s report “believes” the incident happened in 2013. No specific dates are provided to corroborate the allegations, such as Trump’s international travel itinerary or the guest register at the Ritz Carlton. However, Trump was in Moscow in November 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant and appeared in a music video spoof of his TV show The Apprentice, which was filmed at the Moscow Ritz Carlton during his stay. Allegations of his behavior any more unbecoming are preposterous, as Trump would have known that all hotel rooms and all forms of communication in Moscow are surveilled by the ever-watchful denizens of the FSB.
Steele claims that the Russians have been “cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least five years” as part of an intelligence operation personally endorsed by President Putin aimed at encouraging “splits and divisions in the [w]estern alliance.” As Trump had already established presidential aspirations (he ran as a Reform Party candidate briefly in 2000), the implication is that the Russians were grooming Trump to be a “Manchurian Candidate” by which to install their own puppet at the helm of the most powerful nation on earth.
Indeed, this is the narrative espoused by the radical American Left, which remains ensconced in a Cold War time warp. This was nowhere more evident than with former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who tirelessly perpetuated the specter of the Russian bogeyman throughout her campaign, while concurrently harping that Trump’s coziness with America’s erstwhile nemesis posed an existential threat to the country.
President Obama has also steadfastly refused to recognize that the real existential threat to America, and Western civilization in general, is not posed by Russia. It is posed by Islamic extremism. Pure and simple. From its subjugation of women through forced dress codes and sexual slavery to the innumerous barbaric and murderous attacks staged by its fanatics, it is the hate-filled extremism posed by the world’s fastest growing religious group that threatens the very existence of us all.
President Putin recognizes this fact and has recognized it for some time. President-Elect Trump recognizes it too.
This scares the hell out of the American Left because it utterly torpedoes their narrative. It also scares the hell out of the mainstream wing of the Republican Party. Which brings us back to the labyrinth.
Senator John McCain, a vocal Trump opponent and pillar of the mainstream wing of the Republican Party, admitted this week that “late last year” he was given Steele’s report. While McCain did not disclose who gave him the report, noted Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein claims it was a former British ambassador to Moscow. Bernstein also claims that the report originated from a former British MI6 officer who was hired by FusionGPS, a political opposition research firm in Washington, DC. This former MI6 officer is Christopher Steele.
FusionGPS was first retained by an anti-Trump “Super PAC” during the Republican primaries to look into Trump’s business dealings in Russia. The firm was later retained by an anonymous Democrat Party supporter to continue the project. Other media reports allege the “Super PAC” acted on behalf of the candidacy of Jeb Bush.
Adding to the cloak and dagger-ness, the Wall Street Journal reports,
“No presidential campaigns or super PACs reported payments to Orbis in their required Federal Election Commission filings. But several super PACs over the course of the campaign have reported that they paid limited liability companies, whose ultimate owners may be difficult or impossible to discern.”
Sometime in mid-2016, Steele handed over his findings to an agent at the FBI field office at the US Embassy in Rome. This agent then turned the dossier over to FBI headquarters in August 2016. During the same time period, Steele passed on the dossier to several left-wing journalists, including David Corn of Mother Jones, who wrote about it in an October 31, 2016 article. At about this time, Steele broke off contact with the FBI because he was frustrated at the Bureau’s slow progress in the investigation into Trump’s Russia dealings.
When Corn queried the FBI about the authenticity of the source of the dossier he was given the routine brush-off about ongoing investigations. However, he claims to have been told by an unnamed senior US Government official that the source was credible and had a proven record of providing reliable information. It has since come to light that Steele had earlier provided the FBI with intelligence on corruption in the 2010 International Football Association Federation (FIFA) case.
On December 9, 2016, Senator McCain turned over the dossier to FBI Director James Comey, not realizing it was already in the Bureau’s possession and that an investigation was underway.
Which brings us to January 11, 2017 – coincidently (or not?) – the day Buzzfeed decided to publish the 35-page dossier and the day of President-Elect Trump’s first press conference since last summer. Trump reacted to the Buzzfeed publication in his characteristic no-holds-barred fashion, slamming a CNN reporter and calling his network the “Fake News Network. “
Buzzfeed’s decision to publish Steele’s unsubstantiated dossier has been viewed, even by left-wing media, as a breach of journalistic ethics.
Writing for Mother Jones on January 11th, Kevin Drum asks rhetorically whether Buzzfeed should have published Steele’s dossier. While he poses both pros and cons and doesn’t really come to a conclusion, regarding the dossier’s content he acknowledges,
“…there’s a good chance that much of it is untrue.”
Drum then quotes Washington Post writer Margaret Sullivan who writes,
“It’s never been acceptable to publish rumor and innuendo. And none of the circumstances surrounding this episode — not CNN’s story, not Trump’s dubious history with Russia, not the fact that the intelligence community made a report on it — should change that ethical rule.”
Indeed, while Steele’s dossier has been floating around Washington since at least early fall, no legitimate news organization – on the left or right – made the editorial decision to publish the unsubstantiated raw reporting behind the story.
Seeing the holes in the story and recognizing the dubious claims made without corroboration, mainstream American media did the right thing and reported on the story but did not give the source report the light of day. That is, until Buzzfeed released the raw report in an unmistakably politically motivated effort to discredit the incoming President of the United States on the eve of his ascension to power.
That’s the labyrinth by which the Steele dossier landed on the country’s collective doorstep. But now we must question the content.
Steele cites a number of sources in his reports, identified as Source A, B, and so on. His citation of high-level Russian government officials and code names of intelligence operations lends his reporting a tinge of credibility. He also makes reference to the actions of a number of Trump associates.
It is here that Steele’s credibility begins to unravel. For example, Steele’s dossier claims that Michael Cohen, Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization and President-Elect Trump’s personal Special Counsel visited Prague in August 2016 to meet with Russian officials. US intelligence officials have confirmed that while a Michael Cohen visited Prague in August 2016 it was a Michael Cohen from a different country. Trump’s Michael Cohen claimed was confirmed to be in California with his son visiting the baseball coach at USC in August 2016, the same time Steele’s report claimed he was in Prague.
This is just one of many documentable falsehoods included in the Steele dossier, and it makes one wonder why such a reputed intelligence operative would release such a sloppy report.
There are a number of reasons why the report is so sloppy; however, there are two most likely possibilities.
First, Steele’s sources could have gotten overzealous and reported links to persons s/he thought were Trump associates when there weren’t any and, in the case of the Ritz Carlton episode, invented a scenario that would be impossible to disprove unless actual recordings were disclosed by Russian intelligence.
Second, Steele may not have had any sources at all and was actually running a modern-day Garbo operation.
Agent Garbo, the code name of Spanish citizen Juan Pujol Garcia MBE, single-handedly ran a massive disinformation operation against the Nazis during World War II. Agent Garbo really worked for the British, but became a double agent by convincing the Nazis he was really working for them. Agent Garbo ran a network of nearly 30 fictitious assets who were the “sources” of the “intelligence” he passed on to the Nazis. Of course, the “intelligence” was as false as the “sources” providing it. Garbo’s reports were so credible that when they were intercepted by the Ultra program MI5 launched an all-out spy hunt.
To classify Christopher Steele as on par – or even in the same league – with Agent Garbo is laughable. The poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation found in his reports are indicators enough that his attention to detail is terminally lacking.
The holes in Steele’s reporting are also indicators that he does not possess the multi-tasking skills required to run a sophisticated disinformation operation without getting caught. Nevertheless, we cannot discount the possibility that Steele could be a genuine Garbo “wannabe” and that his Trump dossier is an ill-fated attempt to emulate the famous spy.
In the end we must ask, for whose side is Steele really working? Is he a double agent working for the Republican or Democrat Party but really working for the Russians? Or is it the other way around?
In the final analysis it really doesn’t matter. Steele’s sloppy reporting and unverifiable allegations – the same indicators that have kept the FBI from pursuing any real inquiry into his claims – label this as nothing more than a smear piece whose only intent was to tarnish the reputation of a man duly elected by the American people to the highest office in the United States of America.