In his January 7 NR column “The Steele Dossier bacillus,” Victor Davis Hanson assesses responsibility for the Russia hoax in the aftermath in light of the recent Department of Justice Inspector General report on the FBI’s FISA-related misconduct. The column is animated by the the same spirit I have brought to this series.
Dr. Hanson first sets the context: “In 2016, Hillary Clinton presidential candidate hired an ex-intelligence officer and foreign national, British subject Christopher Steele, to use Russian sources to find dirt (‘opposition research’) on her then political opponent Donald Trump. So much for the worry about ‘foreign interference’ in U.S. elections.”
It took the exertions of then House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes to ferret out the hoax operation: “The public would take years to learn of the funding sources of Steele, because Clinton camouflaged her role through three firewalls: the Democratic National Committee; the Perkins-Coie legal firm; and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS opposition-research firm.”
Dr. Hanson continues with an exposition of what we now know about the sinister fabrications of the Steele Dossier. “As a result,” he concludes, “all who trafficked in the infectious dossier as if it were factual and disinterested have lost all credibility. Many are now seeing their careers demolished and in ruins.”
I’m not sure about that, but would that it were so. Here Dr. Hanson identifies a few of the perpetrators as he sees them:
Rachel Maddow: “She is a Stanford graduate, Rhodes scholar, and MSNBC host — and she is emblematic of how academic progress often accompanies ethical and intellectual regress. Many of her 2016–19 evening cable news commentaries focused on the supposed dangers that candidate and then president Trump posed to the republic. She cited the Steele dossier chapter and verse as factual in making her arguments that Trump was dishonest and amoral and therefore an illegitimate president who should be removed. It will be difficult for any audience to take Maddow’s on-air assertions seriously in the future. She rose to high ratings promoting the dossier, and she will likely suffer the consequences in reverse.”
Again, would that it were so, but you get the point.
James Comey and the FBI: “It is no exaggeration that James Comey, the former director of the FBI, knew intimately of the dossier, approved its use to spy on American citizens and to launch an investigation into Donald Trump’s purported Russian connection, and then serially lied about both the dossier’s authenticity and his own agency’s use of its author Christopher Steele, who at times was a paid informant for the FBI. More than a dozen top FBI agents, investigators, and lawyers who worked for Comey in the FBI’s Washington’s office have now either been fired, disgraced, reassigned, demoted, or they quit or have abruptly retired….”
The late Senator John McCain: “McCain was tipped off about the dossier by a British intelligence official, who apparently in turn had been prepped by the ubiquitous Steele in an effort to promulgate his work among high American officials. McCain, who had engaged in a well-publicized feud with Trump, almost immediately met with federal officials and sent his former associate David Kramer to the UK to talk with Steele. McCain himself then gave the dossier to FBI Director Comey. Kramer made sure that the unverified dossier was leaked to media sources before the 2016 election and well after it also. In McCain’s final memoir, he and his coauthor were defiant about the senator’s role in spreading the unsubstantiated gossip around Washington…”
James Clapper and John Brennan: “[B]oth…have not told the full truth about their own knowledge of the Steele dossier, its unverified and mostly false information, and the role they both played in circulating and promulgating the dossier to the media and high government officials. That both directors were deeply involved in spreading the dossier around Washington, leaking its comments, and then denying their roles while they worked as paid television commentators on CNN and MSNBC only ensured the rapid erosion of their beltway careers and reputations. And both still may have a rendezvous with federal prosecutors in regard to the dossier.”
Well, let it be.
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: “A number of federal judges approved FBI and DOJ requests to surveille Carter Page both before and after the 2016 presidential election, supposedly as a way to learn of Trump-Russia collusion….Fairly or not, the impression remains that FISA judges either were incompetent or simply did not wish to learn evidence that might have discredited their decision to allow the FBI to surveil a former Trump official, as part of a larger effort to discredit Donald Trump. And like it or not, the entire reputation of the FISA court is now in shreds, both for being so easily or willingly fooled, and for so opportunistically and belatedly criticizing those who deluded them.”
Hillary Clinton: “Think of the paradox: While Clinton pounded president Trump for supposedly using Russians to win an election, she herself had used fraudulent Russian sources to obtain political advantage by smearing her opponent, apparently in the expectation that she would win the election and her modus operandi would never be discovered, or, even if Steele’s work were publicized and thus discredited, her own fingerprints would never appear — or no one would dare to question President Clinton.”
Adam Schiff: “Schiff’s two-year insistence that Steele’s research was reliable and that it nonetheless did not provide the chief basis for FISA warrants was demonstrably untrue. (How paradoxical that Steele’s promoters both defended the dossier and yet denied that it was pivotal.) Schiff may remain a hero to the Never Trump fringe for his any-means-necessary efforts to destroy Trump, but even the media now distrust him. His own party will come to see him as a transiently useful dishonest prevaricator whose utility is already waning.”
Finally: let it be.
Dr. Hanson briefly discussed the column excerpted above on the John Batchelor Show (audio below).