It is the burden of Jane Mayer’s 15,000-word New Yorker profile of Christopher Steele to keep hope alive in the veracity of his dossier. To do so, Mayer whips up the ardor of a smitten teenager in the flush of first love. One can almost feel Mayer’s hormones raging. Given the comic book portrait of Steele as the mighty would-be savior of the republic, the thing should have been titled “Man of Steele.”
Despite the interminable length of her profile, Mayer gives short shrift to the dossier itself. It is seen as though a glass darkly. If readers want to have any chance of understanding the story here, they have to review it with their own eyes. I am embedding the documents below once again so that readers can do so.
From the time I first read the dossier documents as posted by BuzzFeed in January 2017, assuming that the documents are what they purport to be, they struck me as Russian disinformation. They were filled up with the best dope that the friends of Vladimir Putin could supply to their man in London for their own purposes.
Consider that the dossier was bought and paid for by the Clinton presidential campaign through the campaign’s general counsel at the Perkins Coie law firm, which contracted Fusion GPS, which contracted former British MI-6 officer Christopher Steele at Orbis Business Intelligence, Ltd. Why the cutouts? One might get the impression that the dossier was not to be traced to the Clinton campaign.
Steele was supposed to produce opposition research in the style of an intelligence operation. Drawing on his professional background, he called in (or called up — he hasn’t been to Russia since 2009) the friends of Vladimir Putin to deliver the goods on Donald Trump. Steele’s alphabetized sources include: Source A (“a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”), Source B (“a former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin”), Source C (“a senior Russian financial official”), Source D (“a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow”), Source E (“an ethnic Russian” and “close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump”), Source F (“a female staffer” at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel, who was co-opted into the network by an Orbis “ethnic Russian operative”), and Source G (“a senior Kremlin official”).
Steele reported that the friends of Vladimir Putin apprised him of Russia’s efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. Why, you might ask, would the friends of Vladimir Putin entrust Christopher Steele with the goods on Russia’s alleged efforts to intervene on behalf of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign?
I have not seen a good answer to that question and Mayer doesn’t really offer one other than that everybody loves Christopher Steele like she does. And of course there are obvious reasons why knowledgable Russians would not deliver true intelligence to Steele. As Eric Felten puts it in the excellent Weekly Standard article “A doozy of a dossier”: “Given the relative trivialities that can get one beaten to death in a Russian prison, these senior officials would seem to have exhibited an extraordinarily cavalier attitude toward their own health and well-being.”
The word “disinformation” appears once in Mayer’s profile. Here is the full paragraph in which it appears (emphasis added):
The election was over, but Steele kept trying to alert American authorities. Later that November, he authorized a trusted mentor—Sir Andrew Wood, a former British Ambassador to Moscow—to inform Senator John McCain of the existence of his dossier. Wood, an unpaid informal adviser to Orbis, and Steele agreed that McCain, the hawkish chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should know what was going on. Wood told me, “It was simply a matter of duty.” Steele had gone to him before the election for counsel. They’d discussed the possibility that Steele’s sources in Russia were wrong, or spreading disinformation, but concluded that none of them had a motive to lie; moreover, they had taken considerable risks to themselves to get the truth out. “I sensed he was distinctly alarmed,” Wood told me. “I don’t doubt his good faith at all. It’s absurd for anyone to suggest he was engaged in political tricks.
This is simply idiotic. It is not serious. It is a joke.
For serious considerations of the dossier as disinformation, I recommend retired CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman’s Wall Street Journal column “The Steele dossier fits the Kremlin playbook” and Edward Jay Epstein’s City Journal column “A question of motive.” Ed also responded to my request for comment by email in the Power Line post “Disinformation, Democrat style: Edward Jay Epstein comments.”