Why I Believe the Steele Dossier About Russian Interference in the 2016 Election Is Credible.
One would have to be living far off the grid indeed not to be aware of the political and media uproar over Russian interference in the 1916 presidential election. By this time, all but the ideologically blind accept as fact that the Russians interfered in the election campaign process through manipulation of social and other media, and through in-person interactions. Perhaps the most damning set of allegations were contained in a report compiled by Christopher Steele, a former Russia expert of the British Intelligence Service who was acting as a contractor for Fusion-GPS, a business research company led by Glenn Simpson. Among descriptions of specific contacts between members of Trumps campaign and Russian functionaries was a report that during a trip to Moscow, Donald Trump participated in a sex party(s) in including one in which prostitutes at his direction urinated on a hotel bed in which President and Mrs. Obama slept during an official trip to Moscow. Mr. Steele found the information from his sources to be reliable enough, and which raised concerns that the Russians might have compromising material with which to blackmail Donald Trump, that Mr. Steele referred his findings to the FBI. The “Steele Dossier” later became public. To White House Republicans and their supporters, this was all “fake news.” What should we believe? Since the matter is paralyzing the American governmental process and poisoning public discourse, one would think that knowing the truth (if there is such a thing anymore) to be important. A variety of legislative and law-enforcement entities have been addressing the matter in their own ways and for different motivations.
Earlier this month, one of an unknown number of documents prepared by one of the Senate or House committee investigations of Russian interference was made public: an interview before the Senate Judiciary Committee of Mr. Glenn Simpson on August 22, 2017. As a lover of original documents, I downloaded and read all 312 pages of the 9 1/2-hour session and also the famous Dossier that was its ultimate subject matter.
I offer a few summary comments and the basis for my opinion that the Dossier has been a self-proving document.
•Although this was a high-profile session in the United States Senate, no senators were present for the “interview.”
•In my judgement, the interview was not an impartial effort to ascertain whether or not there was Russian interference. The session resembled an adversarial trial with Republican party inquisitors seeking to discredit the motivations of Simpson and Steele to protect President Trump, and their Democratic counterparts seeking to reinforce the objectivity and reliability of Fusion’s work and the Dossier. I must say, from the bias of a second-career investigative journalist, the Democrats made the better case that the document deserves to be taken seriously.
•Both Simpson and Steele have expert subject knowledge about Russia. Both are experienced investigators/researchers. Simpson was an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal– hardly a left-leaning newspaper. His current work is apparently largely document-based. He does work for all sorts of entities. He says the right things about research objectivity that I like as a scientist and journalist. Based on the work he has done, others seem to agree with my assessment-at-a-distance. Steele was a for-real spy for MI-5 with Russia experience. My longstanding love of the James Bond books may bias my observations, but he has apparently worked with the FBI before. I am not aware of any reason not to at least listen to what he has to say, and apparently the FBI is doing so with the current results listed below.
•In my opinion, and until proven otherwise, the Dossier is probably largely accurate, in breadth if not in fine detail. Even the golden shower episode seems believable given what we have come to learn about the personal habits of Donald Trump. Yes, Steel may himself have been the victim of Russian disinformation, but based on what is happening to the Americans named in his report, the Dossier appears to be self-proving!
•I made a list of all the individuals named in the 35-page Dossier available to me. There were over 22 Russians listed, at least three of whom were also named in the Senate interview. In the Dossier I counted the names of 10 American citizens whose names were not redacted. Of these, five were major players in the Trump campaign, his administration, and his personal lawyer. The names of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were present only as targets of Russian interference. Names linked to Donald Trump himself included: Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Flynn, Cory Lewandowski, and Michael Cohen. As of this writing, and following ongoing investigation by the FBI, Paul Manafort has been indicted for money laundering, and Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Carter Page denies any wrongdoing but is still in the hot seat of the news with his political fellows fighting mightily to disparage any investigation. The allegations against Michael Cohen are serious, and which in my opinion and for the best interests of the nation, need to be resolved definitively. With so much smoke emitting from the Dossier, the likelihood that at least some of it is true approaches certainty.
•[Addendum 4-16-18: The involvement of Michael Cohen continues to emerge to the point that he is under formal FBI and Justice Department investigation. It is definite that he is a fixer for Donald Trump, having more than once used legal maneuvers and money to cover up Trump’s sexual adventurism. It has been reported that Cohen was in Czechoslovakia within the time-window stated by the Steele Dossier. How he got there and who he met with for what purpose may be revealed in documents seized last week by the FBS authorized by the Justice Department.]
•Members from the campaign of candidates Jill Stein and Lyndon LaRouche were alleged to have accepted Russian funding for trips to that country. This information was new to me and raises questions of its own.
•Two other individuals associated with the Trump campaign but not named in the Dossier have been charged with wrongdoing. George Papadopoulos pled guilty of lying to the FBI, and Rick Gates, a close associate of Paul Manfort, has also been arrested and is under house arrest. I fully expect the list of arrests, indictments, and confessions to grow longer.
Reading these documents is like reading a Russian novel, full of difficult-to-pronounce names that are hard to keep straight. No doubt a series of who-done-it books and spy movies will be spun off. I encourage you to read the original documents yourself. Doing so made me more confident that the FBI is doing the job it is supposed to do, and even more unhappy that the targets of the investigation are attempting to win their case in a manner that threatens the very stability of our democracy. Mr. President, if you have nothing to hide, let it all hang out. No sponsored disclosures of selected materials. It is currently impossible for a reasonable person– and I consider myself one of those– to take you at your word. For the sake of our country, be honest for at least once.
30 January 2018