It now seems virtually certain that the “dossier” on Donald Trump that was published earlier this week by BuzzFeed is fake news — a fiction intended to undermine the president-elect of the United States. The potential harm to our democratic process of introducing such material into political discourse is obvious — about as obvious as the release by Russian agents of DNC and Podesta emails. In one sense, the release of the Trump dossier is even worse because it appears that the leaked emails were genuine.
How did the false dossier come into being? As I understand it based on the reporting I’ve seen, political opponents of Trump hired a British company headed by an ex-spy to investigate Trump’s dealings with Russia and his conduct in that country. It’s been reported that originally anti-Trump Republicans retained the company’s services [or those of the company that used the British company], but once Trump became the nominee, or presumptive nominee, Democrats paid the freight.
The investigation generated the dossier. The information contained therein, or at least some of it, almost certainly was concocted, perhaps by shady sources in Russia.
How did the false dossier enter into the political bloodstream? I assume the dossier was provided by the British company to the Democratic political enemies of Trump who at that point were paying for the company’s services.
Presumably, these enemies then sought to get it into circulation, quite possibly through the efforts of one of the company’s principles — the one who is said to be a former spy with a decent track record. Trump’s political enemies appear to have received an assist from one or more of our intelligence agencies and then from BuzzFeed.
Did the political enemies of Trump who paid the British company know that the information it obtained and then peddled was false? It seems clear that they knew or should have known.
The nearly universal reaction of those who have familiarity with real intelligence seems to be that the dossier is a joke. Newspapers with no love for Trump refused to run stories based on the dossier because it seemed so fishy. The enemies of Trump who were behind the dossier must, at a minimum, also have had that strong impression.
Who, by name, are the people who knowingly or with extreme recklessness injected into our politics false information with the potential to derail the president-elect of the United States? As of early this morning, I haven’t seen any reporting on this.
The question seems worth investigating. It shouldn’t be that difficult to investigate.
I understand that the mainstream media which, to its credit, didn’t push the false dossier story, would like to forget about this extraordinary attempt to bring down the president-elect. That way, it can focus its efforts on writing yet more stories about Russian hacking or on finding new ways to discredit Trump.
But perhaps one enterprising reporter will show some interest in investigating what may be the most daring attempt at political fraud since Rathergate.
UPDATE: Today, I’ve read two stories that begin to get at the back story on the dossier or issues pertaining thereto.
This Politico story looks at the Paul Manafort angle. It reports that “a Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia.” These efforts affected the campaign, says Politico, in that Manafort had to step down and assertions of Trump ties to Russia were advanced.
This amounts to foreign meddling in the election, though not through any cyber-intrusion (an important distinction). Unlike Russia’s meddling, there is strong evidence that the DNC was involved with Ukraine’s.
The Politico story doesn’t bear directly on the infamous dossier, but this article in the New York Times does. According to the Times, in September 2015, a wealthy Republican donor who strongly opposed Donald Trump put up the money to hire a Washington research firm — Fusion GPS — run by former journalists to compile a dossier about the tycoon’s past scandals and weaknesses.
After Trump emerged as the presumptive nominee in the spring of 2016, the Republican interest in financing the effort ended. However, “Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton” paid Fusion GPS to keep doing the same basic anti-Trump research.
In June, according to the Times, Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with whom he had worked before. Having previously carried out espionage inside Russia, Steele was in no position to travel to Moscow to study Trump’s connections there. Instead, he hired native Russian speakers to call informants inside Russia and made surreptitious contact with his own connections in the country.
The result was the infamous dossier which was peddled to news organizations during the Fall of 2016 without much success.
At this point in the story, the Times pivots to December. By then, the election was over, and the Times would have us believe that the Dems no longer had any interest in peddling a dossier containing scandalous information about the president-elect.
Instead, says the Times, it was Simpson and Steele who, despite no longer being paid, continued to push the story out of deep personal conviction. But what about the period before the election when, the Times agrees, the story was being pushed?
The Times thus elides the question which Democrats are/were behind advancing the highly problematic dossier that gave rise to the BuzzFeed story.
I doubt that the Times intends to say more on the subject. More likely, its efforts going forward will be devoted to seeing if there are parts of the dossier that can be salvaged for use against the incoming president.
That’s fair, I suppose. But it’s also fair to wonder which Democrats are behind the dossier which, at a minimum, contains some fake news.