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Is the Steele Dossier Full of ‘Russian Dirt’ – or British?
By JAMES GEORGE JATRAS
With text messages between US Justice Department (DOJ) conspirators Peter Strzok and his adulterous main squeeze Lisa Page now revealing that then-President Barack Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing,” it now appears that the 2016 plot to subvert the rule of law and corrupt the US organs of state security for political purposes reached the very pinnacle of power. To call the United States today a “banana republic” increasingly may be seen as a gratuitous insult to the friendly spider-infested nations to our south.
Still, don’t expect to see Barry Hussein Saetoro doing the perp walk anytime soon or even being deported back to Kenya. Don’t expect to see orange prison suits on Strzok, Page, former FBI Director James Comey, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and others implicated in putting a political thumb on the scales to, first, get Hillary Clinton elected, and then, when that failed, to neuter Donald Trump’s presidency with a phony Russiagate probe. Officials’ getting “former-ed” is one thing, their getting prosecuted quite another. (Just imagine if a GOP administration had similarly skewed the supposedly non-political law enforcement and intelligence services for partisan reasons. We’d have Watergate on steroids. The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN would be calling for hanging, drawing, and quartering.)
Indeed, it’s not even clear the Russiagate investigation itself will be impacted. After all, the narrative may have flipped on one variable – from Trump campaign collusion to Democratic and FBI collusion – but the constant remains the same: Russia. Trump’s defenders are as insistent as his detractors that the real culprit is Russia! Russia! Russia!
Sean Hannity of Fox News has been particularly hyperventilative that the entire Steele Dossier lying at the black heart of the mess consists of “phony, fake-news Russian propaganda” and “Russian intelligence lies” from British MI6 (supposedly “former”) spymaster Christopher Steele’s “Russian sources.” Even level-headed observers like Paul Sperry and Patrick Buchanan characterize the file as a “Kremlin-aided smear job” and “Russian dirt [that] Steele was spoon-fed by old comrades in the Kremlin’s security apparatus.”
Christopher Steele is not Russian
But what do we really know about Steele’s claimed sources? Not much.
Sure, maybe Vladimir Putin personally whispered every word of the dossier into Steele’s ear. Or maybe Steele invented his supposed sources from whole cloth: your clients are paying for sleaze, you give them sleaze. Or anything in between: maybe Steele consulted some imaginative Russian cranks with only a marginal, and most likely adversarial, relationship to the Russian authorities, whose “inside knowledge” Steele padded to justify his fee. (Steele claims he didn’t pay his “sources” – assuming they exist at all – but that’s no more worthy of credit than anything else he says.)
As analyzed by Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen:
‘Where, then, … did Steele get his information? According to Steele and his many stenographers – which include his American employers, Democratic Party Russiagaters, the mainstream media, and even progressive publications – it came from his “deep connections in Russia,” specifically from retired and current Russian intelligence officials in or near the Kremlin. From the moment the dossier began to be leaked to the American media, this seemed highly implausible (as reporters who took his bait should have known) for several reasons:
- ‘Steele has not returned to Russia after leaving his post there in the early 1990s. Since then, the main Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, has undergone many personnel and other changes, especially after 2000, and especially in or near Putin’s Kremlin. Did Steele really have such “connections” so many years later? [JGJ: Is it credible that the head of MI6’s Russian branch is on a first-name basis with top Kremlin insiders? Turn the identities around and ask whether the chiefs of the US section of Russian or Chinese intelligence are on intimate speaking terms with the US president’s top advisers or with the leadership of the CIA or FBI. Hardly.]
- ‘Even if he did, would these purported Russian insiders really have collaborated with this “former” British intelligence agent under what is so widely said to be the ever-vigilant eye of the ruthless “former KGB agent” Vladimir Putin, thereby risking their positions, income, perhaps freedom, as well as the well-being of their families?
- ‘Originally it was said that his Russian sources were highly paid by Steele. Arguably, this might have warranted the risk. But subsequently Steele’s employer and head of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, wrote in The New York Times that “Steele’s sources in Russia…were not paid.” If the Putin Kremlin’s purpose was to put Trump in the White House, why then would these “Kremlin-connected” sources have contributed to Steele’s anti-Trump project without financial or political gain – only with considerable risk?
- ‘There is the also the telling matter of factual mistakes in the dossier that Kremlin “insiders” were unlikely to have made, but this is the subject for a separate analysis.
‘And indeed we now know that Steele had at least three other “sources” for the dossier, ones not previously mentioned by him or his employer. There was the information from foreign intelligence agencies provided by Brennan to Steele or to the FBI, which we also now know was collaborating with Steele. There was … a “second Trump-Russia dossier” prepared by people personally close to Hillary Clinton and who shared their “findings” with Steele. And most intriguingly, there was the “research” provided by Nellie Ohr, wife of a top Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, who, according to the Republican memo, “was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” Most likely, it found its way into Steele’s dossier. (Mrs. Ohr was a trained Russian Studies scholar with a PhD from Stanford and a onetime assistant professor at Vassar, and thus, it must have seemed, an ideal collaborator for Steele.)’
The reference to “people personally close to Hillary Clinton and who shared their ‘findings’ with Steele” dovetails with another intriguing suggestion from former Clinton insider Dick Morris, who knows the modus operandi of the Clinton lie generator better than anyone else. On the Fox News “Ingraham Angle” show, Morris suggested to host Laura Ingraham that the bulk of the dossier was invented by veteran political dirty tricksters and Clinton-machine hatchet men Sid Blumenthal and Cody Shearer, who then engaged “former” spook Steele, because of the Brit’s known relationship with the FBI, as their conduit to give their garbage credibility. (Never underestimate the residual “colonial” mentality of Yanks to find any sort of gibberish convincing if delivered with a British accent, as confirmed by the ubiquity of posh Brit voices in American advertising.)
Andrew Wood is not Russian
But Steele isn’t the only limey link to #Dossiergate. In late 2016, after Trump’s election victory, Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia, told US Senator John McCain about the existence of compromising material on Donald Trump, according to Wood’s account to BBC4. Wood then set up a meeting between Steele and David Kramer, an associate of McCain’s. It’s unclear whether McCain already knew about the dossier at that point or whether Wood alerted the Senator to its existence.
For what it is worth – not much – Wood states that McCain had obtained the documents from the Senator’s own sources. “I told him I was aware of what was in the report but I had not read it myself, that it might be true, it might be untrue. I had no means of judging really,” and that he served only to inform McCain about the dossier contents: “My mission was essentially to be a go-between and a messenger, to tell the Senator and assistants that such a dossier existed,” Wood told Fox News. Wood elsewhere relates that McCain was “visibly shocked” at his description and expressed interest in reading the full report. That doesn’t sound as though McCain had already obtained the dossier from his “own sources” but, rather, that Wood was the instigator.
So which is it? Did McCain already know about the dossier, and if so how did it “happen” to get raised with a British diplomat? Conversely, was the initiative from Woods to induce the Senator – known to be a strong Trump critic as well as for his hostility to Russia – to pass the dossier on in Washington? Keep in mind that the dossier had already been used to secure a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor Carter Page, a peripheral asteroid in the Trump orbit, and that Trump had already been elected. By this time the conspiracy’s purpose had shifted from preventing Trump’s victory to tying down his incoming administration, especially with respect to blocking any opening to Moscow as Trump said he intended to do. What better way to set the cat among the pigeons than for a supposedly totally non-political British diplomat (certainly no intelligence officer, he!) to quietly peddle the material from Steele (whom Wood called a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up.”) to the right man in Washington?
GCHQ is not Russian
Finally, while it’s clear the dossier served to get a FISA warrant for American services to spy on the Trump campaign and later the transition team, US agencies’ might not have been the only eyes and ears monitoring them. Amid all the hubbub over Michael Wolff’s slash-and-burn Fire and Fury, little mention (other than a heated denial on the floor of the House of Commons, from the notoriously truth-challenged former prime minister Tony Blair, and from the relevant British agency itself!) has been made of the suggestion that the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – Britain’s version of the NSA – was spying on Trump and providing their sister agencies in the US with additional data. Keep in mind the carefully worded deflection last year from James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), that “there was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the national intelligence community... including the FBI,” thus begging the question of whether Trump was spied on not by a US “national” agency but by one of the Anglosphere “Five Eyes” agencies – most likely GCHQ – which then passed the information back to their American colleagues. With Steele’s and Wood’s involvement, and given the virtual control of America’s manifestly corrupted agencies of their counterparts in satellite countries like the United Kingdom, involvement by GCHQ and perhaps other “friendly” foreign agencies cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Madame Prime Minister is not Russian
To be sure, in 2016 the majority opinion in Russia was that Donald Trump’s election would be preferable to Hillary Clinton’s for the simple reason that the former openly advocated better relations with Moscow while the latter was a notorious warmonger. But there was also a strong minority view, especially among more pro-Western elements of the Russian establishment, that Hillary – “the devil you know” – was preferable to rolling the dice on an unpredictable and unknown quantity. Plus, Hillary was delightfully corrupt, with the Clinton Foundation an open invitation for many foreign powers to buy influence.
There was no ambiguity in the position of the British government, however. In 2016 Prime Minister Theresa May, like her German counterpart, made little effort to hide her disdain for the “just plain wrong” Trump and her preference for Hillary Clinton, whom she expected to win (as did most other observers). Why should anyone be surprised that her MI6 and GCHQ minions would share the same views and perhaps acted on them to provide some helping “hands across the water” to their US counterparts whose anti-constitutional conspiracy now stands exposed?