Steele dossier farce shows why Trump relies on Twitter

The media refrain on the Trump dossier has been that “considerable amounts of it have been proven.” No one had explained exactly what has been proven, however, until The Washington Post decided to answer the question itself.

Per the Post, the Trump dossier must be evaluated as a guide to the overarching claim that Russian government officials allied with Trump employees and campaign aides to help his election.

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Yes, the Post is still interested in the Russian collusion story: that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee financed the dossier does not mean that its claims are automatically false.

 

As someone who follows Russia closely, my own first reaction to the Christopher Steele dossier back in January was incredulity. How could anyone take this combination of gossip and trash talk seriously?

The dossier claims to provide a breath-taking peek into the highest echelons of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. Dossier informants are presented as having first-hand knowledge of the most significant events within the highest levels of the Kremlin:

The dossier’s purported author, Christopher Steele of Orbis Business Intelligence, acknowledges that these sensational claims are unverified, but he and Glen Simpson of Fusion GPS peddled them to media and to Trump opponents anyway.

Steele claims, improbably, to have senior Kremlin informants who were prepared to sing upon command to contacts of a former British spy, who had not been active in Russia for a quarter of a century. That’s a tough one to believe.

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Of course, the claims are unverified. Who, after all, can verify the most intimate workings of the rarified circles of Putin’s immediate entourage? The Post has concluded that it cannot, but at least it tried.

The Washington Post’s “fact check” of the dossier concludes that it consists of “rumors that couldn’t be independently verified” and claims “that would have been publicly known.” Its grand conclusion: “Although it’s impossible to say that the dossier is entirely inaccurate (there are some glimmers of accurate predictions), it is also impossible to say that it has been broadly validated.”

Trump haters surely had hoped for more than “some glimmers of accurate prediction” from the Post. The Post, however, consoles its readers with the fact that there is still hope: The “unsatisfying answer has a side effect: It gives either side of the political fight all the ammo that it might want.”

In other words, keep up the good fight.

The Washington Post’s attempt at validation must answer one simple question before readers bother to dig into its contents: Why would any Kremlin insider share the most intimate secrets of the Kremlin with one of Steele’s spooks?

Even though Steele received healthy compensation for his dossier work, the funds available to pay legitimate Kremlin insider informants (we assume they were paid until further notice) would have been grossly inadequate.

Any Kremlin insider, with access to the inner circle’s secrets, would be many times over a millionaire and would not risk his or her sinecure for such paltry payments. Those working at a lower level, and less wealthy, would have been inspired to spin tall tales confirming what their contacts wanted to hear to justify their financial reward.

The Washington Post’s effort to keep the Trump dossier alive borders on farce. Are not Steele and Simpson now defendants in courts in London, Florida and Washington, D.C., where they are being asked (and, eventually, are likely to be compelled) to describe their sources?

Do we not have several congressional committees whose majority members are anxious to learn about their sources? Do we not have an independent counsel presumably investigating the Steele dossier?

If the Post, other mainstream media outlets and the Democrat establishment really want answers, should they not be clamoring for Steele’s and Simpson’s testimony? I do not believe they are, and why might that be?

Consider the precedent that the Steele dossier sets for American electoral politics. An opposition party can cook up some terrible charges that cannot be disproven one way or the other. If the target of the attack is disliked by the establishment media, he or she will be required to supply the burden of proof against the charges that, as the Post has found, cannot be proved or disproved.

This is exactly the position in which President Trump has been placed, regarding the Steele dossier. Is there any wonder why he resorts to Twitter? That is his only means of defense.

Paul Gregory, Ph.D., is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Gregory has written extensively on Russia and the former Soviet Union, including, "The Political Economy of Stalinism," (Cambridge, 2004), which won the Hewett Prize, an award given annually for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.