Posted by Curt on 9 March, 2018 at 9:54 am. 2 comments already!



Part I:

Former British spy Christopher Steele worked with Fusion GPS Glenn Simpson to get the contents of Steele’s dossier into the media before the 2016 election. Byron York reported that Steele personally briefed reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, the New Yorker, and Yahoo, all to little or no effect. Mother Jones’s David Corn gave the received version of Steele’s story on October 31 in “A veteran spy has given the FBI information alleging a Russian operation to cultivate Donald Trump.”

Corn’s account gave us the heroic version of the dossier. Howard Blum followed up in the credulous Vanity Fair article “How ex-spy Christopher Steele compiled his explosive Trump dossier.” Blum’s article is useful in helping us understand the line Steele and his employers were peddling to the FBI and to the media.

Blum’s starstruck article presented Steele and Simpson (but especially Steele) as the heroes of The Dossiad. Read how Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson threw caution to the winds and selflessly gave their all to save the republic from Donald Trump. As I see it, this version of the story enacts an update on The Dunciad. I have called it The Dossiad. In this case, however, the satire is unintended. Only the Dullness remains.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy painted a portrait of Glenn Simpson in this spirit in “The digger who commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier speaks.” I commented on Cassidy’s column in “Glenn Simpson: The New Yorker version.” Despite the New Yorker’s reputation for fact checking, Cassidy’s laughable error of fact about the Steele dossier — “his first memorandum, which was thirty-five pages long and dated June 20, 2016” — remains uncorrected. (Steele’s June 20 memo was three pages long. The entire Steele dossier posted on BuzzFeed is itself 35 pages long.)

Now comes the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer to give us the definitive version of The Dossiad in “Christopher Steele, the man behind the Trump dossier.” Subhead: “How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.”

Mayer’s article is 15,000 words long. Reading it is an ordeal. It’s not all Dullness. She mixes Dullness with Dishonesty. Indeed, in Mayer’s Dossiad, Dishonesty predominates.

The dishonesty permeates the article and it is infuriating. An article at least as long Mayer’s is needed to disentangle and rectify it. Mayer’s pretense of impartiality in adjudicating questions of fact and credibility must count as the article’s leading misrepresentation. If only she had a sense of humor, one might think surely she jests.

Mayer collects tributes to Steele from colleagues present and past. He is her hero. He is a super spy with impeccable Russian sources. Even so, the super spy had no idea for whom he was working when Simpson hired him in 2016. Behind Simpson — as we know now thanks only to Rep. Devin Nunes and his Republican colleagues — lay the law firm serving as counsel to the Clinton presidential campaign, the Clinton campaign itself, and the Democratic National Committee. Steele compiled his dossier in the service of the Clinton presidential campaign.

In his testimony before congressional committees, the incredibly devious Glenn Simpson insisted that Steele didn’t know the identity of his clients while also insisting that he had otherworldly powers to discern the veracity of his Russian informants. It didn’t add up.

Mayer is not completely dull. She depict Steele as a super spy. She ignores Simpson’s testimony on this score and instead reports: “Several months after Steele signed the deal [with Fusion GPS], he learned that, through this chain, his research was being jointly subsidized by the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C.”

So it only took Steele “several months” to figure it out for whom he was working. How did he learn it? When did it come to him? How did he arrive at the realization? What do you mean exactly by “through this chain”? What did Steele think about it? You can bet that nobody in the New Yorker’s editorial “chain” cut the answers to these questions for reasons of space. Mayer’s curiosity has predictable limits.

Mayer’s article should not be ignored. Mayer and the New Yorker mean to fix — repair and set — the Democrats’ story line. The article has not yet attracted the attention and commentary that it deserves from knowledgeable observers. As of this morning I recommend Chuck Ross’s Daily Caller post “6 revelations in that Christopher Steele puff piece” and George Neumayr’s American Spectator column “Jane Mayer’s publicity work for Christopher Steele.”

Part II:

Jane Mayer’s 15,000-word New Yorker profile of Christopher Steele reads in part like the stuff of breathless teen girl fan magazines of old — Tiger Beat, say, or 16. Mayer presents Steele as a left-liberal heartthrob. She has fallen for the guy and she wants you to fall for him too. The profile also reads like the tendentious brief of an extraordinarily dishonest lawyer — perhaps a lawyer who has fallen for his client — or a lawyer turned politician, selling a pile of goods in the service of a blinding cause. Here Adam Schiff is the incomparable model.

Mayer drones on at eye-glazing length. Having suffered through Mayer’s profile, I want to address Mayer’s ploys and maneuvers in bite-size portions. I will take it up in pieces that struck me as representative of Mayer’s slippery dishonesty.

In this installment I want to highlight two moments in which I hear the clock striking 13. In these moments our reporter reveals herself as highly invested in her story. She all but declares that she is not to be trusted.

Mayer makes a point in passing on the adoption of “pro-Russian positions on many issues” which seemed to a Clinton foreign policy adviser to be “inexplicably outside the Republican mainstream.” Mayer swallows and regurgitates whole the canard that the Trump team “appeared to play a role in modifying the G.O.P. platform so that it better reflected Russia’s position on Ukraine policy.” Mayer quotes the Clinton adviser: “It was all beginning to snowball.”

There is at least one problem with this account. The modification of the Republican platform has been exposed by Bryon York as “one of the enduring misconceptions of the Trump-Russia affair.” York published his Washington Examiner column exposing the misconception in November 2017. A journalist peddling it as fact in March 2018 is peddling a lie; she is up to something other than journalism.

Perhaps more than anything else, Mayer seeks to vindicate the Steele dossier in her article. If you’re going to fall in love with Steele, you’re going to have to love the dossier with which he sought to save the republic. Mayer does what she can (and what she can’t or shouldn’t) on this score.

It struck me when I came across Mayer’s reference to Michael Cohen’s defamation lawsuit against Fusion GPS: On January 9th, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, filed a hundred-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against Fusion. He also sued BuzzFeed. Cohen tweeted, ‘Enough is enough of the #fake #RussianDossier.’” Here she comments: “Steele mentioned Cohen several times in the dossier, and claimed that Cohen met with Russian operatives in Prague, in the late summer of 2016, to pay them off and cover up the Russian hacking operation. Cohen denies that he’s ever set foot in Prague, and has produced his passport to prove it.”

It sounds bad. This is the best Mayer can do: “A congressional official has told Politico, however, that an inquiry into the allegation is ‘still active.’ And, since the dossier was published, several examples have surfaced of Cohen making secretive payments to cover up other potentially damaging stories.” Translation: I’m pretty sure that the truth defense won’t prevail against Cohen’s claim. Mayer’s apologetics are something worse than pathetic.

This is Mayer’s only reference to a defamation lawsuit in her profile. In England, however, Steele is himself the defendant in a defamation lawsuit or two based on that dodgy dossier. Mayer doesn’t even mention them. And the reason for her omission has nothing to do with saving space. The space devoted to her profile by the New Yorker is wide as the plains.

Faced with a defamation claim “in a forum where it was clear to him that making exaggerated or false claims could cost him dearly, [Steele] decided his allegations were not of such ‘huge significance’ after all. The quote comes from Andrew McCarthy’s National Review column(the internal quote is from Rownan Scarborough). McCarthy continues:

One of the libel suits against Steele was filed in London by Aleksej Gubarev, whom Steele accused of participating in Russian intelligence hacking. To defend against the suit, Steele and his attorneys had no choice but to respond to interrogatories. In answering, Steele markedly downgraded the seriousness of his dossier reports.

According to Steele’s courtroom version, the dossier is merely a compilation of bits of “raw intelligence” that were “unverified” and that he passed along because they “warranted further investigation” — i.e., not because he could vouch for their truthfulness. He gave them to American and British government officials, he maintains, only because they raised potential national-security threats, not because they actually established any such threats. That, he now says, was for government investigators to figure out. In sum, Steele’s defamation defense is not that what he wrote was true but that his reports “must be critically viewed in light of the purpose for and circumstances in which the information was collected.”

There is laugh-out-loud stuff here: Steele’s declamation of his profound commitment to discretion and secrecy lest his “raw,” “unverified,” and possibly false reports defame anyone. He claimed that he and Fusion GPS had a solemn agreement not to disclose his work . . . except for whenever they decided to disclose his work — including to Fusion’s clients and to major press organs during the stretch run of a contentious presidential election. But not to worry: These discussions were “off the record,” a term Steele claims to have understood to mean “to be used for the purpose of further research but would not be published or attributed.” Right. Somehow though, when his briefings to journalists about his reports were published, he kept doing the briefings.

Mayer should have been especially interested in Steele’s disclaimer of the veracity of his dossier. She represented the New Yorker among the “major press organs” who met with Steele “during the stretch run of a contentious presidential election.”

Read Part III here

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