The Steele Dossier: Making sense of a new revelation
After a year of rumor and speculation, we finally have our most “tangible evidence” that U.S. parties conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. election, said David Harsanyi in the New York Post. The culprits? Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Last week, The Washington Post broke the story that the infamous “Steele Dossier,” a sheaf of unsubstantiated claims about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia that circulated in media and government circles in the months before the election, was in fact paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Funding for the project—a reported $9 million—was funneled discreetly through a friendly law firm to the research firm Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, to research and compile the dossier. Steele paid for information from Russian contacts. What a sudden “about-face from the dominant media narrative of the last year,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Liberals have been hyperventilating over the possibility of President Trump’s alleged complicity in Russian election meddling, but what we know for sure was that “Democrats paid for Russians to compile wild allegations about a U.S. presidential candidate. Did someone say ‘collusion’?”
What a “disingenuous” and nonsensical attempt to confuse the public, said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Opposition research is commonplace, and hardly a scandal. Steele didn’t work for Russia or any other government; to find out about Trump and his campaign’s dealings with Russia, he naturally spoke to Russians with knowledge of their government’s attempts to cultivate the Republican candidate and his aides. Finally, the Clinton campaign never publicized any of Steele’s findings or used them in campaign ads; the report became public weeks after Trump was elected. Besides, who cares who paid for Steele’s work? said Alex Shephard in NewRepublic.com. It doesn’t affect “the substance” of the dossier, which the FBI and other federal investigators have largely corroborated: The Russians did wage an orchestrated campaign to woo Trump aides and entangle them in their scheme to produce a pro-Russian administration.
It very much matters who paid for Steele’s shoddy dossier, said Mollie Hemingway in TheFederalist.com. The FBI may have relied on this politically motivated hatchet job to obtain surveillance warrants against members of Trump’s inner circle during the Obama administration. When FBI Director James Comey briefed President-elect Trump about its contents in January, that news “really got the ball rolling” on the conspiracy theory that Trump colluded with Russia, eventually leading to special counsel Robert Mueller’s “massive, sprawling, limitless probe.” What we’ve just learned, in short, is that the “Russia scare” consuming the nation’s attention had its basis in a partisan Democratic effort “to harm Trump in the 2016 election and beyond.”
Behold Trump’s “biggest disinformation campaign yet,” said Max Boot in ForeignPolicy.com. The Steele Dossier was not the basis of the “unanimous assessment” by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked Democratic computers and meddled in our election to help Trump. Putin emphatically did not want that known, so the idea that the Russian government played some role in the Steele Dossier is absurd. The dossier is at most “a sideshow” in the Russia scandal. With “Mueller and his Untouchables” producing the first indictments in what will no doubt be a damning investigation, Trump’s frantic loyalists have resorted to echoing their leader’s grade-school retort to Clinton during one of their debates: “No puppet, no puppet. You’re the puppet.” ■