I think it would be a mistake to ignore Jane Mayer’s 15,000 word New Yorker profile of Christopher Steele. Perhaps it will be overtaken by the forthcoming congressional committee reports, but it may stand to serve its intended purposes stand until the Mueller project comes to fruition.
Doing their bit to keep the narrative alive, MSNBC and NPR provided Mayer a forum to tout her work shortly after publication last week. It is a laughable piece of work. Even so, the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross has suffered to extract “six revelations” from the glop. As Drudge would say, impacting…
Mayer calls on Steele’s colleagues to serve as a kind of Greek chorus supporting her story line. She quotes Peter Fritsch, for example, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele: “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.” This she believes.
She also calls on Chris Burrows of Orbis at his home in Winchester, southwest of London. Burrows struggles to express to her “how odd and disturbing it was to have his business partner targeted by the President of the United States.” I don’t think Mayer herself quotes Trump attacking Steele. Has he?
Describing Burrows as “[a] tight-lipped fifty-nine-year-old who is conservative in politics and in manner” and as someone who “had spent decades as a British intelligence officer, Mayer quotes Burrows: “This whole thing has been quite surreal. We are being made into a political football, in U.S. terms, which we really regret. Chris is being accused of being the heart of some Deep State conspiracy, and he’s not even in your state.” In light of Steele’s work on behalf of the Clinton presidential campaign, however, the asserted paradox is no paradox at all. Mayer counts on her readers not to notice.
Toward the end of her article Mayer breaks some big news. It may even count as a preview of coming attractions:
One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.
This reminds me. I recently consulted my own Russian sources on future Trump administration staffing issues. Source X is a current Russian foreign service officer. Source X tells me that the Russians have barred Senator Jeff Flake from taking any position in the Trump administration when Flake leaves office next January. You can take it to the bank.
There are a few loose ends in Mayer’s article. I would appreciate help from Mayer and the Orbis crowd on how to square the disclosure this past December that the Trump administration has approved the the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine since 2014. In the world according to Mayer, that must count as a true (rather than a seeming) paradox.