The Democrats Newfound Love for Russian Intelligence Product

As you know, Buzzfeed published a dossier laying out Donald Trump’s ties to Russia last night. The dossier is described as oppo research done by a former MI6 agent first for a GOP rival (which doesn’t make a ton of sense as the dossier starts in June 2016) and then picked up by Hillary. There are competing reports on whether this dossier was included in the briefing on the Russian hack intelligence provided to Trump the other day (and I and others falsely claimed that this dossier is what some Senate Dems have pointed to as evidence they’ve been briefed about Trump’s ties to Russia).

I wanted to make a few points about the dossier.

First, note that this is not the complete dossier. There are references to reports that are not included with this dump. That means, even assuming the provenance on all else is solid, this is a cherry picked version of what the former MI6 consultant reported to Hillary.

Second, ask yourself why Hillary didn’t leak this dossier during the election (besides sharing the contents of it with David Corn). I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d sure like to know it (and I’ve got some theories that don’t raise my confidence about the dossier generally).

Third, as a number of people have noted, there are errors in this report, down to the spelling of Alfa Bank. That’s not itself discrediting, but it should caution people not to take this as finished intelligence.

For what it’s worth, I find some of it very credible. Some of it accords with stuff I know. Others of it conflicts in material ways with well-sourced information I know. I find other claims transparently silly (such as the report that anyone believed Trump didn’t have serious business ties to Russia). That may simply speak to the credibility of the individual underlying sources, or it may speak to the dossier generally. I don’t yet have an opinion on that.

Which brings me to the sources. Trump’s team has claimed that these reports come from Russian intelligence, which ought to raise the very good question of why we’d take as Gospel something Russian intelligence said now when we’re supposed to disdain known accurate information (Hillary emails) leaked on behalf of Russian intelligence. Trump’s claim is — as regards the most sensational of the claims in the report, that Trump had prostitutes urinate on a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama had used while in Moscow, as well as a few more of the claims — true. It is not true for others of the claims.

Which is to say, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this dossier yet. It is more interesting to me as an artifact — as something that Hillary had but chose not to leak but that got leaked yesterday of all days — than as a source of information, but I do think some of the information in the dossier might, with far more vetting, turn out to be somewhat accurate. There are reports FBI is investigating this document that I’m not 100% sure I believe.

I’ll come back to this analysis when I can print out the document, but here’s a list of all of the sources used in the report. Remember, before you get to these embedded sources (most are described as a “compatriot” of the actual source), you’ve got to remember the former MI6 agent paid to do opposition research (and perhaps directing his agents to look for opposition research). So everything here is Hillary’s surrogates to former MI6 agent to (usually) a “compatriot” to the underlying source. Also, some of these sources are obviously repetitive (such as the source close to Ivanov), so the entire dossier likely relies on closer to 10 underlying sources than the 31 listed here.

  1. Source A: Senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure with knowledge of intelligence the Kremlin was feeding Trump [via trusted compatriot]
  2. Source B: Former top level Russian intelligence officer still active insider the Kremlin, who says the Russians have enough material to blackmail Trump [via trusted compatriot]
  3. Source C: Senior Russian financial official
  4. Source D: A close associate of Trump who knows that the Ritz Carlton is under control by FSB
  5. Source E: redacted, possibly a staffer at the Ritz Carlton, which is reportedly controlled by FSB
  6. Source F: A female staffer at the Ritz, which is reportedly controlled by FSB
  7. Source G: A senior Kremlin official
  8. Unlabeled senior government official claiming the Russians had had only limited success penetrating foreign governments we know they’ve penetrated (like the US) but explaining RU had had increasing problems with its own hackers
  9. A Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge of FSB’s coercion and blackmail used to recruit hackers
  10. An IT operator inside a leading Russian State Owned Entity familiar with FSB penetration of a foreign director
  11. An FSB cyber operative
  12. Source E2: An ethnic Russian close associate of Trump who claims Trump has a minimal investment profile in Russia
  13. A Russian source close to Rosneft President Igor Sechin
  14. A compatriot of an official close to Presidential Admin Head Sergei Ivanov
  15. A trusted associate of a Russian émigré figure
  16. A Kremlin source close to Sergei Ivanov
  17. A Kremlin source close to Dmitri   Medvedev
  18. A close colleague of Sergei Ivanov
  19. A Kremlin official involved in US relations
  20. An ethnic Russian associate of Trump, who had spoken to Carter Page
  21. A compatriot of a Kremlin insider discussing Duma Head of Foreign Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev
  22. A well-placed Russian figure
  23. An American political figure associated with Trump
  24. A trusted compatriot of a senior member of Presidential Administration and of a senior Minister of Foreign Affairs official
  25. A former top level Russian intelligence officer
  26. A trusted compatriot of a top level Russian government official
  27. A trusted compatriot of a St. Petersburg member of the political/business elite and another involved in the services/tourist industry
  28. A trusted compatriot of a senior Russian leadership figure and a foreign ministry official
  29. A trusted compatriot of a close associate of Rosneft President Igor Sechin, a senior member of Sechin’s staff, and a Kremlin insider with direct access to the leadership
  30. A longstanding compatriot friend of a Kremlin insider
  31. [Redacted]

 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

38 replies
  1. Henry says:

    Which leaves us … where?  I know it’s early.

    One scenario:  Buzzfeed doc (a mix of fact and fiction and errors) has enough problems for GOP to dismiss the accurate portions.  On Jan. 20th, we see a Friday Night Massacre in the intelligence community.  Then what?

    • TarheelDem says:

      As best I can figure out, we are left with a craftsmanlike compendium of widely varying source material that varies from the outlandish and incredible to the pedestrian, the truth of which is being judged from the context clues.

      Apparently it has enough problems that the Clinton campaign decided not to use it.

      The consequences of any Friday Night Massacre in the intelligence community likely depend on who is shown the door.  Will we know all of those let go?  Will it be the people responsible for misjudgments or failures or, like most purges, the ones trying to make things work for the benefit of the country?  Or will it presage and expansion of extra-Constitutional surveillance and covert action, especially within the US itself?

  2. joejoejoe says:

    Suppose none of this particular dossier is true. What are the odds that there are people in the world (mob partners is US real estate, foreign partners in overseas development, entertainment industry cronies, debauched golf cronies, etc.) that have possession of similar information — that they are witness to some behavior from Donald Trump that would leave him prone to blackmail?

    This dossier reminds me of the stupid kerning debates about Bush and the National Guard. Who cares? The debate about a free ride as a child of wealth and privilege and all of that got subsumed to some tiny details about documents. Small questions obscure the big picture. I think simpler questions like “who benefits?” and “where do you get your money?” need to be asked about Trump more frequently before we get into the weeds.

    Trump could show his own tax returns and say “These are my tax returns” like, say, Mike Pence. Why don’t Dems ask about that every day? It ties Trump to Russian money a lot more than alleged prostitute urine.

  3. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    Just reading through your analysis now. One thing… you write, “Trump’s team has claimed that these reports come from Russian intelligence, which ought to raise the very good question of why we’d take as Gospel something Russian intelligence said now when we’re supposed to disdain known accurate information (Hillary emails) leaked on behalf of Russian intelligence.”

    This sentence makes no sense. Trump’s team has not claimed the reports come from Russian intelligence, so far as I know. He opines the report is “fake news” leaked, probably, by the U.S. intelligence agencies. Or am I missing something? I think you mean the Intelligence agencies, much of the press, and numerous Democratic and GOP politicians claim the reports come from Russian intelligence, via the shadowy ex-MI6 operative.

  4. klynn says:

    If you are Ryan or Pence and you want an easy “in” to the presidency of course you would pay for that oppo but remember that in late May and into June there was a GOP movement afoot to create a delegate revolt. There were op-ed pieces by so many GOP around that time…Kristol, National Review, Plaats…all kinds of Cruz supporters. So the date makes perfect sense if you go back and look at the GOP dynamics going on around that time.

    Why did HC not leak it? Come on! Look at what she was facing at the time. She had Donald stating the following in June speeches and this quote comes from a 6/22/16 speech:

    “To cover-up her corrupt dealings, Hillary Clinton illegally stashed her State Department emails on a private server.

    Her server was easily hacked by foreign governments – perhaps even by her financial backers in Communist China – putting all of America in danger.

    Then there are the 33,000 emails she deleted.

    While we may not know what is in those deleted emails, our enemies probably do.

    So they probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be President of the United States.

    This fact alone disqualifies her from the Presidency.

    We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”

    (Boatloads of projection?)

    On the other hand, she was seeing record fundraising time in June as long as she did not go negative. What do you think would have happen to her if she released this in June? She would have been torn apart by the media and social media. It may have caused the delegate revolt some of the GOP were trying to make happen and then she might have ended up going up against someone in the election who would look better. It was all about optics and game theory. That is why she did not release it.

    • Piraeus says:

      I don’t follow. There isn’t any “game theory scenario” I can’t conceive of where the release of that dossier wouldn’t have been advantageous to HRC with the sole exception of a scenario where their contents is entirely unreliable.

      • Desider says:

        The golden showers bit would have discredited it (pre-pussy grabbing days), and then like Bush’s Guard duty after Rather got sacked, the whole thing would have been forgot and discredited for future use.

        Even now knowing as much as we know, it’s not pure enough to cry “jackpot” – why would it have been 6-8 months ago? Seriously, Donald gets away with innuendo, not Hillary.

  5. Cujo359 says:

    “It ties Trump to Russian money a lot more than alleged prostitute urine.”

    Yes,it does. Maybe I am missing something, but I also doubt that a guy who brags that he grabs women’s crotches without their consent could be blackmailed by that sort of thing. He seems to be beyond shame, and surely his wife knows what she got herself into by now.

    In many ways, Trump is new territory on the American political landscape. Things are going to be interesting, assuming we survive, of course.

  6. Piraeus says:

    “The debate about a free ride as a child of wealth and privilege and all of that got subsumed to some tiny details about documents.”

    Tiny detail? Those letters were the smoking gun that proved W received preferential treatment. The whole story hinged on their authenticity.

    • Desider says:

      No, it didn’t.

      “Killian’s secretary at the time, Marian Carr Knox, stated, “We did discuss Bush’s conduct and it was a problem Killian was concerned about. I think he was writing the memos so there would be some record that he was aware of what was going on and what he had done.” Although she believed the content of the memos was accurate, she insisted that she did not type the memos CBS had obtained, called them fakes,[22] and noted they contained Army terminology that the Air Guard never used.

      So the secretary already verified the info – the document was redundant and a target for discrediting the larger story, which it successfully did. Wonder if Karl Rove’s fingerprints were on it.

  7. martin says:

    Gawwwwwwwwwwwdamn.   Even the writers for House of Cards couldn’t make this shit up .  I’m on my second bag of pornpopcorn already, and it’s only 2pm. Sheezus, it’s even better than Church Commission vs Watergate vs Irancontra!! Excuse me now, got some dishes to do before the next episode starts! The best part is.. unlike Teh Veh.. you don’t know how many episodes are left. Which makes it so cool.  Heck.. might even end with a nuclear war!!

  8. trev006 says:

    We”Trump’s team” is not claiming the document depends on Russian intelligence. The document itself cites super secret sources in Russian intelligence, even while everyone at the top of the Russian government calls it “complete nonsense” most charitably, and insane garbage more accurately.

    Unless someone delivers actual video (aaaaany day now), I’ll be more inclined to believe the Russians who are talking down the credibility of their alleged product.

    By contrast, whoever hacked the Hillary server leaked files which are overwhelmingly authentic.

    If this masquerades as analysis, the American intelligence community is in more danger than it ever anticipated.

  9. JerryN says:

    Not sure it’s that relevant, but the Guardian has this story https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/11/trump-russia-report-opposition-research-john-mccain that provides something of a timeline of how the dossier came into being and its journey to publication. It indicates that the initial contract was with a Republican candidate, but ultimately was done for a Democratic client.

    By the time the contractor had started his research, however, the Republican primary was over. The original client had dropped out, but the firm that had hired him had found a new, Democratic client. This was not necessarily the Hillary Clinton campaign or the Democratic National Committee.

    Also, if the story is accurate, the ex-MI6 guy delivered a copy of the info to the FBI shortly after he finished the report.

    • Steve Hatton says:

      The dossier, as we now know, came from the former head of MI6’s Russian desk, Christopher Steele – who now has gone into hiding as a result of this exposure.

      Steele had been first hired by some of Jeb Bush’s donors to do opposition research on Trump and his Russian connections such as Paul Manafort, Carter Page and several others. When Jen’s campaign crashed, an anonymous Democratic donor hired him. But since this summer at least, Steele was working for free as he came to realise that this went beyond mere party politics:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-russia-dossier-file-investigation-hacking-christopher-steele-mi6-a7526901.html

       

      …Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

      It is believed that a colleague of Mr Steele in Washington, Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and, at the end also continued with the Trump case without being paid.

  10. klynn says:

    Marcy, one of your timelines would be eye opening on all of this. Although it sounds a bit “tin foil”  and unrelated, I do not think we should overlook what was happening 6 months earlier in Great Britain. The ten year old case re: Litvinenko had come to a close and implicated Putin – so US intel had that information from British sources. In June 2016 Gordon Brown released a bomb shell book with more Putin focus. Then in September there was this focus again:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/16/world/europe/britain-russia-alexander-perepilichnyy-litvinenko.html

    Just wondering about these in this context…

     

  11. chris says:

    So, members and ex members of the Russian gov. ,which denies “hacking our election”, are helping the US gov. prove that they did just that? That’s not strange. Not. At. All. Every day this story gets crazier.

  12. Bob In Portland says:

    My morning theory:

    This stuff wasn’t supposed to come out during the election because Trump was already supposed to lose. No need for golden showers, the intel people presumed, to push Hill past the finish line.

    Much of this shitstorm of false news was reserved for after Hillary (Deep State’s choice) won, and would have been to establish rationales for the next war against Russia. There are a lot of Ukrainian fingerprints on all of this stuff, which should point to Clinton’s ethnic heritage Ukrainian oppo research on her campaign staff, Alexandra Chalupa (Ukrainian, no known connection to Taco Bell), the Atlantic Council’s Dmitri Alperovitch Alperovitch’s CrowdStrike et al.

    http://www.newsbud.com/2016/12/09/propornot-evidence-of-a-cia-psychological-operation/

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/12/site-behind-washington-posts-mccarthyite-blacklist-appears-to-be-linked-to-ukrainian-fascism-and-cia-spying.html

    http://www.therussophile.org/dnc-refused-fbi-access-to-its-servers-instead-gave-access-to-a-dnc-consultant-tied-to-organization-promoting-russia-conflict.html/

    The last link may explain why the DNC didn’t want to FBI to be nosing around their computers. The Ukrainian link might have raised suspicions.

    When pieces of evidence come in with hidden Ukrainian fascist salutes and analysis that says Russian intelligence agents are Jewish, I think we can triangulate the source.

    And some history: https://www.thenation.com/article/seven-decades-nazi-collaboration-americas-dirty-little-ukraine-secret/

    • bevin says:

      Moon of Alabama agrees. So do I, the links between the Clinton campaign and the Maidan neo-nazis are clear enough, and have been at least since the graduates of the Joseph Goebbels Institute in Lvov were put into power by Hillary’s henchwoman  Mrs Kagan.

  13. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    To Jerry N above, re The Guardian, or anyone else’s “timeline”: as long as we are not given the name of the research company involved, or the former British intel guy (?) who gathered the intel, then nothing is worth examining. It can’t itself be vetted.

    Moreover, I am highly suspicious when no one is interested in the identity of the key figures involved. That smacks of a political operation, not journalism.

  14. bloopie2 says:

    “There are reports FBI is investigating this document that I’m not 100% sure I believe.”  Meanwhile, real life gun-toting nutcases are not investigated, robberies and kidnappings go unsolved, cybercrime affecting tens of millions of us is not deterred, etc., etc.  Honestly—this thing is so nutty to start with–who sets the priorities for these things?

  15. lefty665 says:

    If nothing else, now that this stuff is out it is worthless as blackmail. Could the spooks the other day have been inoculating Trump by discussing it?

  16. Jeffrey Kaye says:

    Re revelation of identity of Christopher Steele and Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd…. now maybe we’ll learn something. I misinterpreted press silence as disinterest, when really it was a scramble for a scoop.

  17. bevin says:

    “The ten year old case re: Litvinenko had come to a close and implicated Putin – so US intel had that information from British sources..”

    This is a possible interpretation, but not one that I share. The Enquiry concluded that it was, in the Judge’s opinion, probable that… however no proof was produced. This is one of those smears which it is profitable not to take to court because charges would never stick.  In my view Khodorskovsky the convicted fraud artist and oligarch is a much more likely candidate for the crime. But then he is a ‘good guy’ in the eyes of the City of London where he launders his profits.

    As to the latest and increasingly extravagant charges against Trump, suffice it to say that the absence of evidence continues. When this party is over, which is to say soon, a lot of journalists are going to find that their credibility has been fatally damaged. I just hope that the Clinton Foundation can find jobs for them all.

  18. john says:

    you are buying all this bullshit up.

    oh well, this used to be a good blog — guess we just have to relegate it to the pile of fake news

    • bmaz says:

      Hi John,

      I am with John Casper, can you be more specific? Also, since this seems to be your first comment here, ever, not so sure about your professed dedication over all the years.

      Marcy laid out a LOT of specific content, analysis and basis. If you are going to call bullshit, please do so a little less blithely.

  19. greengiant says:

    As Marcy writes,  “conflicting reports on when Trump was briefed”.   What are the US sources of the Agitprop and why is that not part of the media’s story?   Bottom line,  the NYTimes sources had their asses handed to them and have taken most of the MSM down with them.   The political appointees will be history and the few rube civil service actors will be shuffling card decks in windowless offices like they were members of UAW.

    1. Friday,  Friday,  cbsnews reports  heads of agencies to brief Trump.     DNI James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers.

    2.  Tuesday,  Jan 10th,  roughly 3PM Eastern Buzzfeed publishes excerpts from Steeles memo.  CNN follows reporting Buzzfeed has published.   WaPo,  Slate, NYTimes,  publish within minutes.  Guardian reports they have been sitting on it for months.

    3. NYTimes  Jan 10th.    Trump informed with 2 page appendix so says NYTimes

    “The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.” “The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on Russian hacking efforts during the election, the officials said.”

    4. On Seth Meyers late Tuesday,

    Kellyanne Conway, said of the claims in the opposition research memos, “He has said he is not aware of that.”

    5.  Very early Wednesday,  NBC Cynthia McFadden reports it ain’t so,  and he didn’t hear the Clinton server appendix either.

    http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/01/11/nbc-senior-intel-official-says-trump-not-briefed-on-russia-addendum-was-example-of-unvetted-disinformation/

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/trump-cites-nazi-germany-rejects-dossier-alleged-russia-dealings-n705586

    6. During Trump’s press conference Wednesday morning, the president-elect said he was made aware of the information “outside that meeting.”    Trump does not link McCain to the memo at that time.

  20. Mitchell says:

    Better: The corporate media’s defense of Russian denials.

    However accurate the golden shower documents are, what’s known about Trump’s connections with Russia and the Russian oligarchy a/k/a Putin’s alter ego, is as bad if not worse than anything in the alleged report. And that John McCain passed it on to the FBI: incredible.

    Much ado….

  21. Thierry Fernand says:

    This document could not easily be leaked by Hillary, for as soon as it gets leaked, journalists would rapidly find out the name of the author of the report (as they so did) and its ties to Clinton. The whole affair would soon be seen as a machination by Clinton.

    One can also imagine that the Russians secretly gave the information to Steele, on purpose, so as to send a message to Trump (we have materials that we can leak on you, so even if you are president, you must do what we want).

    No matter how well-connected is Steele, it’s hard to believe that he can so easily obtain information on comprimising materials detained by Putin on a US candidate. The only reasonable explanation I can find is that the Russians decided to give it to him. It may be that some information is false, which provides a way for the Russians to discredit the report if they wish.

  22. Steve Hatton says:

    Read this UK Independent story:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-russia-dossier-file-investigation-hacking-christopher-steele-mi6-a7526901.html

    If this or my previous comment get allowed onto the blog, I want to apologize for saying that Steele worked for free since this past summer. The Independent says he worked for free since the end of the election in November. I tried to fix that but couldn’t within the five-minute edit window.

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