"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
(On the left) My dear friend; (On the right) My dear stooge.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: The White House from Washington, DC) Details Source DMCA
Oh my. The "Steele Dossier" has resurfaced, by the magic hand of that Barr/Trump creation designed to supposedly "set things right about Trump and the investigations of him," John Durham. "Debunked," Durham says about the Dossier, and man-oh-man, one could see the crunch as both the Right and some of the liberal media jumped right on board. (To date Durham could only find some mid-level staffer who Durham claims lied to the FBI about some details of reporting[that person denies that he did it]).
And so, I decided to go back and take a look at some of what I wrote about Steele Dossier at the time it all was the rage (figuratively and literally). In what I thought at the time, is well-summarized in a column in which I reviewed an in-depth study of the Dossier, its origins, and sources, written by the very careful The New Yorker journalist, Jane Mayer. I have yet to see any comments from her about the current contretemps. (By the way, it was David Corn of Mother Jones who originally broke the "Steele Dossier" story in October, 2016. I have yet to see any comments from him on the current right-wing storm on the subject either.)
In this column am re-running chunks of that earlier column, which in Ms. Mayer's view was largely based on reliable sources, and presented reliable evidence of the bunch of Russia/dirty tricks that Trump was engaged in, even some time before he ran for President in 2016. By the way, while the right-wing media is going You-know-what over these Durham-grasping-at-straws developments, Steele is denying the charges that the Dossier is filled with falsehood.
And so, to Jane Mayer and the column which I wreote about what she found in re "The Steele Dossier" (edited some here). Again, note that the column from which I am drawing below was published on March 14, 2018. And here's the link to Jane Mayer's article: Click Here.
Let me first say that, unlike many of my friends on the Left, some of them quite good friends, I fully believe that Trump and the Trumpites colluded with the Russians to help them win the election. Indeed I have believed that that could have been possible from the time the first rumors about the possible compact began to appear in the summer of 2016, and certainly when David Corn's first article on the matter, in the context of the "Steele Dossier," was published in October, 2016.
I'm a New Yorker. I've known about Donald Trump for a long time. I wrote a column and him and his racism back in 2011. So just like I had said to myself "Nixon's behind this" when I saw the first "Watergate" article in June, 1972, when I first saw "Trump/Russia" I said "sounds just like him." Of course, the FBI had been quietly looking into the possibly of such a connection well before the "Dossier" appeared, through, among other things, a FISA tail on Carter Page, which they first obtained in 2013 (remember that date). But the "Steele Dossier" has certainly played a role in the later FBI probings and now in the full-throated Mueller Investigation.
Last week, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker published an extensive (15,000 words[!]) article on the subject (Click Here the-trump-dossier). The rest of this column (which again is a re-posting of an earlier column on "Trump and the Dossier") is devoted to a highlighting of some of the points in it that I found to be most illuminating in her column (which happen to bear on the current Durham-and-the-Right-grasping-at-straws brouhaha).
Steele, as you undoubtedly know, was a long-time British MI6 (CIA equivalent) operative who specialized in the Soviet Union and then Russia, spending time in Moscow in the 90s after the overthrow of the Soviet Union, and then heading the MI6 Russia Desk in London from 2006 to 2009. He came to the assignment that produced the Dossier through his small private intelligence company called Orbis. In the Spring of 2016, it contracted with a U.S. opposition research firm called Fusion GPS to look into the Trump campaign. The original funding for the operation came from an anti-Trump Republican named Paul Singer.
After Trump clinched the nomination, Singer dropped out of the operation. But the effort was picked up by a law firm, Perkins Coie, that did oppo research work for both Hillary Clinton and the DNC. However, on this particular matter, since the stuff that Steele had turned up was on the one hand highly complicated on the financial side, and salacious on the other, the lawyer at Perkins Coie, Marc Elias, essentially sat on much of the information. What he did forward on to the DNC seemed so difficult to prove, that they just sat on it too. So much for the claims of the Trumpites that the DNC/Clinton "weaponized the Steele Dossier." During the campaign neither the DNC nor the Clinton Campaign knew very much Campaign of anything about it. Late in the campaign, they likely found out more about it from David Korn's article than from their own oppo research people.
And now on to some other points made in Ms. Mayer's article:
1. Steele had run across Trump's name in an investigation well before he was hired by Fusion GPS. "Two of his earliest cases at Orbis involved investigating international crime rings whose leaders, coincidentally, were based in New York's Trump Tower." (But. Let us not get into guilt-by-association. The gangs just happened to pick a particular building in which to locate their offices.)
2. Further along this line, the FBI had previously hired Steele to assist in an investigation of a Russia-based international gambling and money-laundering ring, which also just happened to have had space in Trump Tower.
3. Steele, through his Russian connections, was also aware of possible Trump/Russia connections of, shall we say, various kinds, occurring around the Miss Universe Pageant that Trump put on in Moscow in 2013. (It was at that time that one Carter Page's name first appeared on the FBI's radar.)
4. Investigating Trump on contract from Fusion GPS, at that time on behalf of a Republican payor, Steele became so worried that Trump might have exposure to attempted Russian blackmail that he took his information to the FBI. There was no connection with the Clinton campaign when he did this. In fact, in the summer of 2016 Clinton was unaware that the FBI had already launched an investigation into the Trump/Russia connection.
5. The "Papadopoulos revelation" to the Australian diplomat about the Clinton emails being hacked, which he (the diplomat) eventually passed on to the FBI, took place in April, before Steele first talked to his contact at the FBI, in July.
6. According to Mayer, Carter Page is indeed a central figure in the whole affair, a matter on which I speculated in a recent column. As it happened, he was already being monitored by the FBI well before Steele came into the picture. (The Right, led by the now-no.-2 shouter-at-Fox [but he was then number 1] loved to scream about how the [false] Steele Dossier played a major role in the issuing of a FISA warrant against this Carter Page. The problem for them, never acknowledged of course, was that in the then-most-recent-FISA-warrant application for Page, the Dossier was referenced once, in a footnote. What they also didn't say, by the way, was that FISA warrants had been being issued on Page since 2013.)
7. Although the FBI had previously paid Steele for assignments on which he worked, they did not pay him for any of the information he turned up on Trump/Russia that he turned over to them. (Again, he did that because he was so concerned about the risk to the national security of both the US and the UK, based on of what he was finding out about.)
8. The FBI kept very quiet about what they were finding out from their own inquiries, in addition to those presented in the Steele Dossier, and follow-ups to it, on "Trump/Russia." (But of course, they, through Jim Comey, did not keep quiet about what they found out about the "Clinton emails," which at first, July 5, 2016, was "there's no there there, but nevertheless, she had terrible judgement" (hardly a judicial or, during a Presidential campaign, judicious statement). And so, Steele was shocked when Comey made the above-referenced second "Clinton emails" statement 11 days before the election (only to withdraw it a week later, with another "there's no there there" statement [after the damage had been done]), because Steele was pretty sure that there was plenty of Trump-there-theres, while from what he knew on the Clinton side there wasn't.
9. The FBI did not "depend" on the Dossier for its own early internal report on Trump/Russia, gained from independent sources, but rather relegated it to an appendix. (This is a very important finding in re "Steele." Because even if it were indeed filled with false-hoods, its findings didn't matter much in terms of what was coming up about Trump from other sources [which eventually led to "Mueller" see: Click Here and Click Here Jonas- Articles-Of-Impeachment_Congress_Fascism_Government-191220-298.html.)
10. Steele talked with the Mueller team last September. And of course, there have been no leaks about what they talked about.
11. Then there is that second "Steele memo," about how the Kremlin blocked the appointment of Mitt Romney as Trump's Secretary of State. (And now, who knows what role the Putin government might have played in the firing of Trump's first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has been taking an increasingly strong position against Russia on several fronts, while Trump has remained pretty quiet on those matters.)
12. And finally, obtained by Mueller there are those guilty pleas by U.S. persons, the indictments of the 13 Russian nationals (oh my!) and the two Manafort indictments.
We will see what the Mueller investigation eventually comes up with. However, in terms of the Trumpites' efforts to undermine the Mueller investigation, carrying out its role as water-carrier for Trump, echoing what legislative bodies do in fascist regimes, that is crossing over the line to assist executive branches in non-legislative functions, the GOP majority on the House Intelligence Committee has closed down its formal investigation. In the process, they have echoed Trump to the letter: "No collusions, NO collusion."
However, the Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing its work on the matter. And if the Democrats manage to take control of the House of Representatives in November, you can bet that Adam Schiff and his team will be hitting the ground running on January 3, 2019.
So, it ain't over yet, folks. And the "Steele Dossier," far from being fiction while also far from being the basis of the original FBI investigation and certainly just a sidebar to the Mueller investigation, has been shown to be accurate in major parts, by the FBI. I must say that it is likely that not too many of my friends on the Left will accept this conclusion. One can, of course, be absolutely sure that those folks on the Trump Channel and in the bulk of the Trump/Republican Party will never accept any of it, regardless of what is in the final Mueller report, and will continue to attack Mueller, Schiff, Steele, etc. with the loudest voices they can muster. But, if there were "nothing to see here" why are the Trumpites bellowing so loudly about the whole matter, over and over and over again?
And oh yes, the "pee" tape. Whether it exists or not is immaterial. The noise that surrounds it serves the interests of the Trumpist Right very well.
And so, we come to the end of what Jane Mayer had to say at the time, with lots of specifics. (Just like I have seen nothing on the current right-wing-screaming from Jane Mayer, I have not seen anything yet from David Corn.) Presently from the Right (and that includes Durham) there is lots of yelling a screaming. But, as so often is the case, not much in the way of specifics.
A final note on the Mueller Report. It is known that it found about 75 cases of collusion between the Trump campaign and one Russian element or another. The Report also highlighted 10 instances or so of obstruction of Justice by Trump. A couple of points here. A) Mueller was VERY careful. B) To repeat, Mueller did not rely on the Steele Dossier at all. C) Much of the Mueller Report has been published, but key elements were redacted by Barr et al. (They must be key, or why else would they have been redacted.) D) When is Merrick Garland's Dept. of Justice going to release those redacted portions? E) Much more importantly, when is Merrick Garland going to move on those findings of the Mueller Report that have been released? They are damning.
F) Finally, and this applies not only to moving forward by Garland on the findings of "Mueller," but also to his moving on what is known so far on the involvement of Trump, et al in January 6th. Is Garland: a) p*ssy-footing, or b) being VERY careful before doing anything, or c) and this I haven't seen elsewhere, is he worried about what the FBI might do and/or not do were he to proceed, based on, for example, what they already have from cooperating rioters and possibly others-with-knowledge.
Remember, we know that Christopher Wray was "reluctant" to move on the "Red Flags that Were Everywhere" warnings about what might/would happen on Jan. 6. He claimed that it was because he was concerned about appearances, of possibly interfering with freedom of speech. Oh really? There are no Supreme Court precedents that say that projections/threats of violence are considered "protected speech." And then again, on the possible pro-Trump role of elements within the FBI, one of the reasons that in 2016 Comey announced, just before the election, that there was "new evidence about Clinton's private server use" (when there was none, as he admitted a few days later), was that he had been receiving unrelenting pressure from the strongly anti-Clinton New York FBI office, which was being cheer-led by (wouldn't you know it) Rudy Giuliani, to "do something about Clinton." Has Ray been under similar (in this case pro-Trump/anti-Biden) pressure from within the FBI, such pressure then being applied to Garland? Stay tuned.
And with that we come to the end of the current chapter in the Trump-Russia-Collusion-and-who-knows-what-else saga. One thing we know for sure, the Washington Post's claim to the contrary notwithstanding, is that Mueller did not use the Dossier (that is, unless Mueller and his people were lying). A second thing that we know for sure is that Durham is grasping at straws to try to do Barr's "mess-it-all-up-about-Trump" bidding. A third thing we know, just from what is publicly available in the 1000 published pages of the Mueller Report, is that Trump and his crews did lots of illegal things (and who knows what else might be hiding in the redacted portions of the Report). A fourth thing is that, to repeat, we don't know whether the Attorney General is ever going to do anything about any of this.
(Article changed on Nov 19, 2021 at 8:21 AM EST)
(Article changed on Nov 20, 2021 at 7:13 PM EST)