The strange Russian dossier story

While I was away for the birth of our grandchild, I could only follow the news in a cursory manner but what I could catch dealt primarily with two things: the confirmation hearings of the Trump administration nominees and the story of a dossier that detailed some bizarre activities by Trump while visiting Russia as well as claiming that Trump associates were working with the Russian government and intelligence agencies. While we now should not be surprised by bizarre and even repulsive behavior by Trump, the more explosive element of this story was that this dossier had been prepared as part of an ongoing attempt by Russian intelligence agencies to co-opt and assist Trump. That raised the seriousness of the issue to a far higher level.

On my return, I found this article by Matt Taibbi that gives a useful timeline and background of the dossier, and he writes that the existence of the document had been known for some time, even before the election, but the details were hard to verify and so journalists had held back from revealing its contents.

Three days into the “Russian dossier” scandal, which history will remember by a far more colorful name, we still have no clue what we’re dealing with. We’re either learning the outlines of the most extraordinary compromise to date of an incoming American president by a foreign power, or we’re watching an unparalleled libel and media overreach.

The tale was first made public by David Corn at Mother Jones a week before the presidential election. Corn’s October 31st article was entitled, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”

Corn, with whom I spoke Wednesday, had documents back in October containing explosive accusations of Trump sex romps and other serious blackmailable behavior. But he chose not to publish them, because he couldn’t confirm those details.

Corn says now he was also concerned that running the documents might lead to damage to/outing of some sources. (Hang on to that thought.)

Corn ultimately focused on the elements he could confirm: that a dossier asserting that Russians had a file of compromising information on Trump had been prepared by a veteran intelligence source, one with enough standing in Washington that the FBI chose to investigate the claims.

Buzzfeed decided to publish the entire dossier, a move that has sparked considerable controversy about publishing poorly substantiated stories.

After going through all the twists and turns that this story has taken and all the players involved, Taibbi concludes:

Meanwhile, Ynet in Israel is reporting that Israeli intelligence officials are deciding not to share intelligence with the incoming Trump administration. The report indicates they came to this conclusion after a recent meeting with American intelligence officials, who told them the Russians have “leverages of pressure” to use against Trump.

This is an extraordinary story. If our intelligence community really believes this, then playtime is over.

No more Clapper-style hedging or waffling. If Israel gets to hear why they think Trump is compromised, how is the American public not also so entitled?

But if all they have are unverifiable rumors, they can’t do this, not even to Donald Trump.

The only solution is an immediate unveiling of all the facts and an urgent public investigation. A half-assed whispering campaign a week and a half from a Trump presidency, with BuzzFeed at the center of the action, isn’t going to cut it. We need to know what the likes of Clapper and Comey know, and we need it all now, before it’s too late.

It sure feels like we are in for one hell of a ride with the Trump presidency.


  1. says

    “We need to know what the likes of Clapper and Comey know, and we need it all now, before it’s too late.”

    What? I hadn’t heard Comey might know something. If Comey knew something before the election and he said nothing regarding Trump but yapped about Clinton…that partisan hack! If that is not illegal, then it is most certainly highly unethical!

    I see Taibbi also says this: “We now know they got the warrant to investigate the Russian banks in October. As a result, there’s suddenly quite justifiable outrage that Comey decided to reveal details of his Clinton email investigation and not news of this other inquiry right before the election.”

    Yeah. I’m outraged reading this! (I’m also outraged at the Sanders supporters who bought into Comey’s partisan pandering for not being more skeptical.)

  2. jrkrideau says

    Having read the “dossier” my conclusion is that whoever came up with the “yellowcake” lie for the Iraq debacle were geniuses compared to whoever wrote this crap.

    And you may remember that this type of genius intelligence analysis led to the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, being called either a lier or dupe by senior UN bureaucrats, not something that happens often,

    There may even be some truth in the dossier, for as they say, “pigs may fly though they are unlikely birds” but otherwise there is nothing in the fairytale, sorry “dossier” that I could not have invented sitting at my kitchen table.

    The real worry is the American tendency to believe in any foreign conspiracy no matter how outlandish.

    BTW, Obama was actually born in Mozambique not Kenya!

  3. says

    Taibbi’s take is pretty measured, I think.

    This will not affect Trump: everyone already thinks he’s a lying asshole. It wouldn’t have affected Clinton, either, because it would have just been confirmation of dirty campaigning.

    My conclusion from all of this is: I don’t trust news. I barely trusted news before, but now I am just not going to trust any of it.

  4. says

    Why is anyone surprised that the FBI is playing politics? Mark Felt (Assistant Director of the FBI!) was “deep throat” the secret-leaker that brought down the Nixon administration. The FBI’s hands are about as clean as the CIA’s, which is to say, “not very”

  5. anat says

    Now that everyone had a laugh about Trump’s possible taste, isn’t he all-but blackmail-proof on this front? Something has to be orders of magnitude worse to actually compromise him.

  6. says

    Now that everyone had a laugh about Trump’s possible taste, isn’t he all-but blackmail-proof on this front?

    He already was; what people don’t seem to understand is that this energizes some of his fan-base. They see this as politically motivated attacks to dismiss the same way that Obama supporters (and other rational people) dismissed birtherism and the many ridiculous “Obama muslim” memes. Trump’s just spun his messaging more effectively.

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