Posted by Curt on 2 January, 2019 at 10:26 am. 4 comments already!


A trove of recently released documents sheds further light on the scope and logistics of the information operation designed to sabotage an American election. Players include the press, political operatives from both parties, and law enforcement and intelligence officials. Their instrument was the Steele dossier, first introduced to the American public two years ago.

A collection of reports compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, the dossier is now engraved in contemporary U.S. history. First marketed as bedrock evidence that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, the dossier’s legitimacy took a hit after reports showed the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the work.

The revelation that the dossier was used to secure a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page compromised the integrity of the investigation the FBI had opened on Page and three other Trump associates by the end of July 2016. Nonetheless, that same probe continues today as the special counsel investigation.

The dossier plays a central role in Robert Mueller’s probe. In the unredacted portions of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo outlining Mueller’s scope are allegations that Trump adviser Paul Manafort colluded with Russian government officials interfering in the 2016 race. That claim is found in no other known document but the dossier. It is unclear whether further dossier allegations are in the redacted portions of the scope memo.

Further, with Mueller in charge, the dossier-won warrant on Page was renewed a third, and final, time in June 2016. It expired in September, when confidential human source Stefan Halper reportedly broke off regular communications with Page.

The Dossier Model Is Being Replicated

Paradoxically, it is the Mueller investigation that has most thoroughly tested the veracity of the dossier’s claims. After the FBI’s monitoring of Page for nearly a year, with access to his electronic communications prior to the warrant, the special counsel has brought no charges against the former Navy officer alleged in the dossier to be at the center of a criminal conspiracy.

Yet the dossier abides. Even as prominent and early collusion theory promoter journalist Michael Isikoff now questions its probity, many still contend that Steele’s reports have not been “disproven.” After nearly two years since the Steele dossier was published, it remains the cornerstone of the case for collusion. Moreover, the dossier model has given rise to similar operations, joining the press, political operatives, and intelligence officials, not all of them American, targeting Trump policies.

The reported murder of Arab intelligence operative and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi was used as a platform by Turkish intelligence, the government of Qatar, and U.S. operatives to advance a campaign through the press, with the Post playing a leading role, against the administration’s pro-Saudi policies.

Democratic officials teamed with the media to thwart Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, also using an FBI investigation as a political tool. “We were very concerned when Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed for another FBI investigation of Kavanaugh,” said a congressional investigator on the Republican side familiar with the dossier operation. “We didn’t know who would get it at the bureau and who we can trust over there.”

Cyber-security experts hired by the Senate Intelligence Committee to write a report on how Russian social media accounts helped Trump beat Clinton themselves created fake Russian social media accounts to dirty the GOP Senate candidate in last year’s special Alabama election. As the dossier operation targeted Trump, the bot operation created the impression that Roy Moore was supported by the Kremlin.

Pretext for Two Years of Treason Accusations

The dossier operation has not only damaged institutions like the FBI and DOJ, it has also poisoned the public sphere, perhaps irremediably. As a result, it is now accepted journalistic practice to print, and reprint, any garish fantasy so long as it’s layered with Russian intrigue and Trump team treason. Even as the rest of the country sees an institution that has made itself a laughingstock, the press continues to salute itself for its bravery—or the courage and industry required to take leaks from law enforcement and intelligence officials and Democratic operatives in an effort to topple a president it doesn’t like, elected by neighbors it holds in contempt.

How did it come to this? Former FBI director James Comey ushered in the era of the dossier when he briefed Trump on January 6, 2017 on reports that “the Russians allegedly had tapes involving him and prostitutes at the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow from about 2013.”

Last week, the Department of Justice released a heavily redacted version of the two-page memo on the dossier with which Comey briefed the president-elect. The “source’s reporting,” reads the memo, referring to Steele, “appears to have been acquired by multiple Western press organizations starting in October.”

As Comey later recorded in a separate memorandum documenting the meeting, he told Trump that “media like CNN had [the reports] and were looking for a news hook.” The briefing provided one.

According to Comey’s recent testimony, James Clapper ordered the briefing. The former director of national intelligence is believed to have then tipped off CNN, which later hired him as a commentator. After the award-winning CNN story posted, BuzzFeed published the document, passed to the news organization by Republican aide David Kramer.

The Frame Game Is Bipartisan

In his testimony, Comey again pushed the fiction that Republicans opposed to Trump first paid for the dossier. Congressional Republicans are right that Comey is trying to muddy the waters—the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded Steele’s work.

But credit Comey for underscoring, and maybe not accidentally, a larger truth—the operation that sought to defraud the American voter had bipartisan support all along. Court documents released in December show that Steele gave his final report to Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks.

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