Senator Feinstein Confirms the Public Steele Dossier Is Not the Whole Thing

For something else, I’m rewatching the confirmation hearing for Brian Benczkowski to be Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. (at 1:55)

Feinstein: Before you go on, do you have the whole dossier?

Benczkowski: I read the dossier online as it was published on BuzzFeed [raises two fingers]

Feinstein: The whole dossier is not online.

Benczkowski: The only thing that I have done, Senator, in that regard, was read the two pages as to Alfa Bank.

Feinstein: You have not seen the whole dossier?

Benczkowski: I have not.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had, by this point, been investigating the Steele Dossier for months (though this question preceded the Glenn Simpson testimony by a month). This is the classic Feinstein hearing disclosure, and past history suggests it would be accurate.

Which is to say what we’re seeing is just a fraction of the dossier — which is a point I’ve been making from the start (it also means the balance of the dossier may be more sensitive). It also means that someone made cherry picked the reports to first brief and then ultimately to leak to the press, which itself should be an issue for inquiry.

 

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    For something else, I’m rewatching the confirmation hearing for Brian Benczkowski to be Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. (at 1:55)

    For newcomers here, this is vintage Marcy. Let’s break this down, shall we?

    (1) She admits to having to having watched a confirmation hearing for a third-level DOJ position.

    (2) She admits to watching it a second time.

    (3) She tosses off this post while taking a coffee break in the midst of another project.

    (4) She loves footnotes, timestamps, links, and otherwise showing her work.

    Then there’s that conclusion:

    Which is to say what we’re seeing is just a fraction of the dossier — which is a point I’ve been making from the start (it also means the balance of the dossier may be more sensitive). It also means that someone made cherry picked the reports to first brief and then ultimately to leak to the press, which itself should be an issue for inquiry.

    (5) She admits to making this point before, and now notes the additional confirmation of her thinking.

    (6) Points (1) through (5) ought to worry the “someone” to whom she refers.

    (7) Her parenthetical observation ought to also worry those in the media and elsewhere who are disparaging the dossier as a nothingburger. It suggests eggs may be approaching your faces. Again, see (5)

    (8) Her overall point ought to greatly worry those who feature prominently in the dossier, as she also loves showing your work too.

    For those who might disagree with (8), see “Libby, Scooter, Anatomy of Deceit and”.

    tl;dr: Nice catch, Marcy. But then, that’s just how you roll.

    • bmaz says:

      I am good with all that, but let’s not undercut how critical the position at DOJ Benczkowski is filling.

      You really don’t want to do that.

      • Peterr says:

        No, not at all. But that’s my point.

        Most folks stop at hearings for cabinet secretaries and SCOTUS nominees.

        Some folks will go in for hearings for deputy secretaries and appellate judges.

        A very few will listen to hearings for assistant secretaries and district court appointments, despite the fact that these are the folks who do a lot of the heavy lifting on a day to day basis.

        That was not meant as a slam on either Marcy or the position of the AAG of the Criminal Division. It was meant as a slam on those who think that position is not worth noticing, and praise of Marcy who takes notice.

  2. Rugger9 says:

    In many of the discussion topics, we can only work off of what is out there in the press, which can be incomplete or “edited” to mean something other than what’s actually true.

    I’m not surprised the Steele dossier has a classified component which may corroborate the stuff already reported about it.  So, what might be the valid reasons for clamming up on the details?  Sources and methods, mostly.  Invalid reasons include embarrassment to senior administration officials or some misguided idea the American public would be unable to handle what’s in it.

    This also assumes it is true.  As I’ve noted before HUMINT can be difficult to evaluate because a particular comment or event can be interpreted (the “why”) in many ways depending upon personal biases.  Back in the CW days, this is what “kremlinology” was all about, starting with who was atop Lenin’s Tomb at the May Day parade and what order they were in line.

    Let’s get the facts first about the dossier. As I’ve also noted, I would be very surprised if Mueller relied solely upon the dossier for any of his warrants. He’s too careful to do that from what I have seen.

    Also, DiFi wants to run again. However, I suspect she will not make it out of the primary here in CA because she is no progressive, not really.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    Alfa Bank keeps coming up in the discussions about sleazy dealings, and as we saw reported during the campaign, the Trumpies had a suspicious amount of activity tied to Alfa’s server.  I haven’t seen a real explanation for this connection other than something analogous to “nothing to see here”.  However, this smoke keeps puffing out and I’m sure Mueller is definitely looking at this one piece of the puzzle.  Press silence in this case is not a good thing for the Kaiser or the GOP.

    • lefty665 says:

      I wouldn’t put much weight on the Trump/Alpha traffic. That was chased down and pretty thoroughly debunked.  It was essentially junk mail coming from a contract marketing server.  Doesn’t mean there is nothing else there, just that particular traffic really did come under the heading of nothing worthwhile to see here. There was considerable chatter about it here and elsewhere at the time.

  4. person1597 says:

    Back in July, DiFi said,

    “It is clear to me that Mr. Benczkowski is knowledgeable about issues related to an ongoing investigation. So I asked before this hearing if he would commit himself to recusing—not only from cases involving Alfa Bank as his former client, but also matters within Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

    He would not commit to recusing himself. I’m concerned with his refusal, especially given the position for which he has been nominated. ”

    Tell of the Loyal Trumpie.

    Ctrl-alt-del preemptions R US.

  5. lefty665 says:

    We have a dossier of political dirt that was paid for and provided to partisans of both parties, but we as citizens only get an edited version that may well have been cherry picked to influence public opinion? WTF?

    Thanks Marcy. Do you have any sense about what kind of fraction of the dossier, content as well as word count, we have seen? Most or very little? 1/10,  7/8? Any inferences about what likely has been hidden?

  6. PG says:

    Thank you for covering this.  Considering the myriad questions this raises and the possible implications, one would think other news organizations, especially Buzzfeed, would be delving into it, too.  But I’ve not seen this reported anywhere else and hope to learn more here.

     

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