In Defense of Trump’s Steele Dossier Tweet

I can’t believe what I’m about to do.

I’m going to defend this tweet from Donald Trump as reasonable.

Before I do, let me say two things.

First, I have zero doubt that the Russians attempted to influence the election. I think it likely Robert Mueller will eventually show evidence that senior people in Trump’s camp attempted to and may have coordinated with people working for Russia, and people more tangential to the campaign sought out Russians for help. I think if the full story of the Russian involvement in the election comes out, it will be worse than what people currently imagine.

I also think Trump opponents have made a really grave error in investing so much in the Steele dossier. That’s true because, from the start, there were some real provenance questions about it, as leaked. Those questions have only grown, as I’ll explain below. The dossier was always way behind ongoing reporting on the hack-and-leak, meaning it is utterly useless for one of the most important parts of last year’s tampering. The dossier provides Trump officials a really easy way to rebut claims of involvement, even when (such as with Michael Cohen) there is ample other evidence to suggest inappropriate ties with Russia. Most importantly, the dossier is not needed for the most common reason people cling to it, to provide a framework to understand Trump’s compromise by Russia. By late January, WaPo’s reporting did a far better job of that, with the advantage that it generally proceeded from events with more public demonstrable proof. And (again, given the abundance of other evidence) there’s no reason to believe the Mueller investigation depends on it.

But because Trump opponents have clung to the damn dossier for months, like a baby’s blanket, hoping for a pee tape, it allows Trump, Republicans, and Russians to engage in lawfare and other means to discredit the dossier as if discrediting the dossier will make the pile of other incriminating evidence disappear.

I believe the Trump opponents’ investment in the Steele dossier will ultimately lead to a bad own goal.

All that said, I think Trump’s tweet today, while as typically douchey as all his tweets, is somewhat defensible (and the fact that it is defensible should serve as a warning to those still clinging to the Steele dossier).

Workers of firm … take the 5th

Trump is referring to the fact that two Fusion employees refused to testify before the House Intelligence Committee under a subpoena issued unilaterally by Devin Nunes. There is significant confusion, spread in part by their attorney, as to why they would not testify. Beforehand, their attorney said the First Amendment permitted them to blow off the committee (which wouldn’t even be true for a journalist, much less an oppo research firm pretending for convenience to be a journalistic enterprise). Since it happened, several credible journalists have said Fusion’s lawyer said they pled the Fifth (which would work, but would also mean they felt they had criminal exposure).

So the point it at least contested.

My guess is they’re just stalling, with the knowledge that if Nunes has to find a way to enforce his subpoena, the rest of the committee will get to weigh in and will refuse to back his effort.

Discredited and Fake

It is true that anonymous sources say that the FBI has corroborated some things in the dossier (and Andy McCarthy makes an uncharacteristically worthwhile argument for what the tea leaves say). It is also true that Dianne Feinstein confirmed during the summer that we only have part (and given the numbering, probably a very small part) of the dossier. So we can’t be sure whether the bits FBI has corroborated are public at all.

There are things, as I’ve noted, that totally discredit parts of the dossier, such as the fact that it reported Russia hadn’t succeeded in hacking top targets almost a year after it was widely reported FSB already had (in general, the dossier is awful on the hack, as I lay out in this post; Steele’s speciality is in following the money and it shows).

Then there’s the fact that the unnecessary report on Alfa bank misspells their name: it’s a minor point but one those engaging in lawfare always point out.

The one thing that most people focus on — a Prague meeting between Cohen and the Russians — is not backed by the US passport he showed BuzzFeed.

A number of people have claimed that the dossier reported, 11 days after it occurred, the June 9 Trump Tower meeting. But as I lay out in this post, the dossier says the kompromat in question is older stuff based off wiretaps of Hillary, and it actually claims that Russia had not yet shared the intelligence in question, meaning the dossier did not confirm the June 9 meeting.

That doesn’t mean it’s discredited. But it doesn’t mean we know what parts of it have been corroborated, and some parts are not true (as we should expect from raw intelligence).

Who paid for it: Russia

The most problematic thing Trump said is that Russia may have paid for the dossier. It’s true we don’t know who paid for the dossier (indeed, that is the chief reason why Fusion doesn’t want to testify, to hide who did pay for it). Rumors say that a Jeb Bush supporter paid for it up until June 2016 (meaning, for a bunch of reports that aren’t public at all), and a Hillary supporter paid for it until November. Steele has claimed in court filings that the reports that came after that, including the December 13 report that has the most incendiary claims (including that Trump paid hackers involved in the operation), that he worked for free after November and that his sources — who normally would be paid — also just dumped the intelligence that happened to be the most inflammatory parts into his lap.

The Defendants continued to receive unsolicited intelligence on the matters covered by the pre-election memoranda after the US Presidential election and the conclusion of the assignment for Fusion.

After receiving some such intelligence [Steele] prepared the confidential December memorandum, … on his own initiative on or around 13 December 2016.

That last claim — that Steele worked for free — is pretty sketchy, especially when you consider that (given the numbering in the dossier and Feinstein’s confirmation we’ve got just part of the dossier) there were likely 31 reports filed between October 19 and December 13.

Regardless of who really paid for the work, the fact that Steele claims he (and his sources) were working for free, the fact that the Russians would have known about the dossier at least by October 31, when David Corn wrote about it, and possibly by mid-September, when Steele started briefing journalists on it, the fact that Aleksej Gubarev quickly sued, the fact that a suspected dossier source died in mysterious circumstances in December, and the fact that the last report tied everything up in a neat little bow, suggests the Russians may have been feeding Steele disinformation by that last report.

Does that mean the Russians paid Steele? Absolutely not. It’s an outrageous insinuation. Does that mean that any disinformation in the dossier was ultimately paid for by Russia and that it is not crazy to imagine the later reports included at least some disinformation? Yup.

Then there’s another detail that makes the Russian accusation at least reasonable: the fact that Rinat Ahkmetshin had a relationship with Fusion (to work on anti-Magnitsky stuff) at precisely the same time as Fusion was working on the Trump dossier. Not only does that fact make it more likely Russians eventually learned of the dossier and fed Steele disinformation, but it also means Fusion was getting paid by Russians at the same time as or not long before it was producing free Steele dossier work.

Who paid for it: FBI

People seem most offended by Trump’s claim that FBI may have paid for the dossier. The reporting on this point conflicts, but note that CNN has said that Steele got paid by the FBI for expenses.

CNN:

The FBI reimbursed some expenses of the former British intelligence operative who produced a dossier containing allegations of President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, people familiar with the matter said.

WaPo:

The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.

The agreement to compensate former MI6 agent Christopher Steele came as U.S. intelligence agencies reached a consensus that the Russians had interfered in the presidential election by orchestrating hacks of Democratic Party email accounts.

[snip]

Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

NBC:

The FBI reached a deal in October to pay a former British spy who had compiled a dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, an indication of how seriously the bureau was taking the allegations, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The deal for the former operative, Christopher Steele, to continue his work on behalf of the FBI fell apart when Steele pulled out, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the situation.

Given what Chuck Grassley has asked and said in response, my suspicion is the reality is that FBI paid Steele’s expenses for trips to explain sourcing and other details of the dossier to them, meaning their funds didn’t pay his sources or for his time, but did pay for him to meet with the FBI.

Who paid for it: Dems

This claim is a no-brainer. According to the public story, a Hillary supporter — who has always been presumed to be a Democrat though there’s no reason that has to be true (indeed, it is utterly conceivable that the same person paid for the work first in Jeb’s name and then in Hillary’s) — paid for all the reports we have, save the December 13 one.

(or all)?

Finally, people are especially offended that Trump, with his “or all,” insinuated that the FBI and Russians were colluding against Trump.

It’s certainly possible that’s what he intended. But the public record at least claims that three different entities paid for the dossier over time; that same record makes a reasonable claim that both the Dems and FBI paid some money to support the dossier.

All of which is to say the serial payment for the dossier does not require that “or all” to be a malicious insinuation of collusion (heh) between FBI and Russia.

I know this will be an unbelievably unpopular post. But the dossier simply isn’t as pristine as those clinging to it want it to be. Which is a good reason for Trump opponents to spend more time highlighting the great reporting of the WaPo or NYT, which often as not has been confirmed and is backed by public information.

Update: Made some tweaks in my argument that Trump opponents should stop clinging to the Steele dossier.

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.

53 replies
  1. SpaceLifeForm says:

    My choice: CIA/TSB.
    It’s all misdirection.

    POTUS has bad intel.

    It is what it is. It is what he is being fed.

    FBI cooperating with Russia is known.

    But cooperation does not equal collusion.

  2. scribe says:

    As usual, what EW has to say makes more sense and on more levels than the tripe coming from the Beltway Wise People.

    I’m sitting back and just enjoying the hell out of all the leftwingers (and Establishment types) patting themselves on the back and stroking their friends and audience members on how Moral, True, Just and Right they are about all the horrible things they say about Trump.  And how they seem to be engaged in a game of “can you top this?” when it comes to saying horrible things.

    Just to be real clear, I have no affection for The Donald.

    But the over-the-top moralizing and condescension are just this side of hilarious now, especially in light of the crushed Hopes the same Morally Superior folks went through last winter.

    As to the provenance of the dossier, I don’t give a shit.  I really don’t.  Moreover, as to the contents of the dossier I likewise don’t give a shit.  Really.  The Moralizers and Condescenders overlook, in their partisan furor,  that the dirty business of politics, particularly at the highest level, seems to draw people who like to wallow in filth.  The Donald is a piece of shit.  So what?  And he goes toward shit as though drawn by its magnetic pull?  Big surprise, that.  Kompromat can only be compromising if the person being compromised cares about being embarrassed or worse.  Anyone with eyes should have seen a long time ago that The Donald revels in dancing in embarrassing situations, situations which would have long before sent mere mortals to hang themselves from the nearest tree out of shame.  And when the situation isn’t embarrassing enough, he cranks it up to make it more of a show.

    What matters here is that, despite all the skills Mueller and his team have, and all the money and influence they might wield, Trump has the power to wipe it all away with a single pen-scratch on a document labeled “Pardon”.  He knows it, Mueller knows it, and all the Moralizers and Establishmentarians know it.  And all the rest is kabuki, a fun parlor game, keeping revenues and circulation up at the dailies and giving the pundits something to chatter about.

    And, as EW noted, if someone gets too uncomfortable, they can wake up dead really easily.  Just ask that Maltese journalist who wrote too much about that island’s Premier and First Lady and their too-intensive appearance in Panama Papers and such.  Unfortunate, how her car exploded with her in it.

    I don’t think it will get to that here, b/c everyone playing the parlor game knows the rules.  Especially the out-of-bounds lines.

    • Kathleen says:

      Many of the “leftwingers” were totally willing to protect HRC’s war record during the campaign,  Never even whispered about it. 

      “What matters here is that, despite all the skills Mueller and his team have, and all the money and influence they might wield, Trump has the power to wipe it all away with a single pen-scratch on a document labeled “Pardon”.  He knows it, Mueller knows it, and all the Moralizers and Establishmentarians know it.

      And the powers that be keep repeating “no one is above the law”  The peasants out her know that is pure horseshit.

  3. Bay State Librul says:

    Scribe,

    Can’t believe you don’t give a shit

    Trump is a fucking lying sack of shit and a traitor.

    It is not a fucking parlor game. It’s not a game at all.

    • scribe says:

      Kompromat can only be compromising if the person being compromised cares about being embarrassed or worse.  Anyone with eyes should have seen a long time ago that The Donald revels in dancing in embarrassing situations, situations which would have long before sent mere mortals to hang themselves from the nearest tree out of shame.  And when the situation isn’t embarrassing enough, he cranks it up to make it more of a show.

      All the back-and-forth about how Eeeevil The Donald is, is just so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.  He can let Mueller and his investigators dig and so on until the cows come home, then wipe it out with a single pen-stroke.

      Earnestly pondering the complexities of who bought whom and whether there really is a Piss Tape seems to me just so much wasted effort.  But it does make entertaining reading, especially the dirty parts.

      More to the point, the main reason people to the Left of Trump are complaining is not because he may have sought Russian cooperation or help or whatever.  Their big complaint is that he won the election and they lost.   They need to get over it.

      In the meantime, for a thumbnail:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphne_Caruana_Galizia

      • orionATL says:

        scribe:

        “… More to the point, the main reason people to the Left of Trump are complaining is not because he may have sought Russian cooperation or help or whatever.  Their big complaint is that he won the election and they lost.   They need to get over it…”

        oh come on scribe, you’re just rapping well-worn trumpster shuck-and-jive.

        there is every reason to object to trump in a way that no other president has ever been objected to. i can think of no other president in my lifetime who has from the beginning received the contempt trump has, not even the devil’s disciple on earth, v. p. dick cheney.

        – trump is psychologically and tempermentally incompetent to be a president.

        – trump is the most intellectually ignorant president we have had since… who?

        – trump has the most limited political experience of any president i can think of, even barack obama with his 2 yrs in state senate and 2 yrs in u. s. senate.

        normally americans, and particularly mainstream media, make every effort to give a president his due and time to show his merits. trump, by virtue of his pychological/interpersonal and his political incompetence, canceled that due from his first day.

  4. Rapier says:

    To me the whole, Russian/Eastern European/Trump family circus is primarily a story of geeks, grifters and two bit back stabbers playing around in the mud, thinking they are ultra savvy and important players  on the global stage but actually are the living embodiements of Dr Evil. Cartoon characters in other words.

    The damage that is being done by, I will single out Josh Marshall  and of  course the NY Times and their 20 year campaign of naming Putin as the devil, is going to be serious. Well it is impossible in a small space to detail why because it hinges on the back stories of back  of the back stories of the back stories dating to the Bill Clinton days.

  5. matt says:

    Right, being rude, disgusting and morally aberrant is not a crime. But isn’t the point of the whole Russia investigation to gather evidence of a crime? In the Steele Dossier (missing pages?) or elsewhere what’s likely to be the smoking gun(s)? I would guess that Mueller already knows (and Trump for that matter) what conspiracy/collusion events are in play. Like any investigation justice depends on key witness corroboration, and hard evidence (tapes, video, financial documents, communications, cover-ups). If the Steele Dossier is a dead-end, any guesses as to what evidence/event, if any, will be significant?

  6. Willis Warren says:

    The pee tape is real!!!!

    I’ve never understood why people thought Trump would care if there was video of him watching girls pee on Obama’s bed. But, it’s still hilarious to hashtag

    • Judson says:

      I suspect if the Pee tape was real, he would have made Pence sit down and watch it while he laughed. “God I soaked her good!”

       

      If you go back read it with fresh eyes it really was a pretty poor attempt at creating drama. Reads like a rejected hollywood script.

  7. GKJames says:

    Scribe
    Spot on. Everyone with a brain knows that moralizing and condescension are the unique purview of self-styled “conservatives,” of the family-values crowd, the Moral Majority, pro-lifers, and Constitutional “originalists” — all uniquely (and only) REAL Americans. How dare “leftwingers (and Establishment types)” muscle in on that monopoly. Shit, indeed.

  8. orionATL says:

    alas, the chickens are coming home to roost and the dossier will indeed be used by the fox-breitbart media propaganda machine to shut out the relevance of any russian intervention and trump team complicity for some portion of the electorate.

    the mainstream media, to protect its foolish concern with its precious reputation for “fairness” and “balance”, will follow fox-brietbart’s lead like a piggy with a ring in its nose.

    nonetheless, nothing in this post credits steele personally with any sort of righteous indignation (even if old, cold- war indignation) as i do. there is also a hint of serious anti-putin activity among a some russian higher level officials (serious – and disastrous for a few).

    finally, as to who paid for what, there is no necessary connection between people paying for something and the truth or falsity of the info paid for. nor is there for trivial fbi payments. nor is there any credit to steele for working for a cause, not money. but for most trump supporters, and more than a few critics, this possibility will have no credibility.

    there is still a lot of crucial info to be learned, but this small and potentially overinterpreted/misinterpreted activity is all the leverage the mighty whurlitzer will need from now on.

    that who paid to intiate and who paid to maintain the dossier is still allegedly a mystery to me, washington being the town it is. there wouldn’t be any connection between these events and g. w. ‘s speech on white nationalism would there?

  9. dalloway says:

    The dossier is a red herring, useful to divert attention from what Mueller’s really doing:  building an airtight case against Trump and his minions.  But believing the special counsel will base any part of his case on the dossier is laughable.   Mueller knows nothing less than Nixon-level proof will be required for impeachment and a sketchy, politically tainted dossier from a foreign intelligence contractor (no matter how highly respected) won’t cut it.   Given the prosecutorial team he’s assembled, I’m betting Mueller’s got intercepted conversations (from the Russian end) and bank records nailing Manafort, Flynn, Kushner and Trump for bribery and money-laundering, if not actual treason.   That’s before he even gets to Jim Comey’s notes (the ones we didn’t see) and the very solid obstruction case against Trump.  The dossier is chum for the media and possibly for Trump, but in the end, it won’t matter.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, that is one view. I will take the complete opposite. And to that of most here.

      I will bet that, while certainly not entirely, the key info in the Steele Dossier is more credible than most give it putative credit for being, and that there is a reason the FBI were interested in it and that the Mueller shop seems to have been paying attention to it. But, hey, we shall see.

      • emptywheel says:

        But we don’t know what the key information is bc we have a fraction of it.

        And what is public is pretty easily discredited. I already got yelled at today for going so easy on it.

      • orionATL says:

        bmaz –

        i think that is a good bet and a bet i would also make.

        right now i still don’t see any serious misconduct by any party to the actual dossier; i don’t consider any corporate business maneuvering – playing both sides, hiding its clients – by fusion gps as central to the accuracy of the dossier.

        i do see a lot of innuendo and tisk-tisking by those positioned, for various reasons, against the released dossier. the “problems” with the (released) dossier could be no more than amplified innuendo, some sloppiness, some inaccuracy, and some russian misdirection from mid-october, all this in an enterprise – vetting info about a powerful american from russians brooking a powerful russian – that was time pressured and very risky.

        i echo any appreciation of the likelihood that american counterintelligence officials in various agencies were well-trained enough and impartial enough to sift thru the dossier and decide early on if it was merely scurilous oppo research. this possibility seems to have been completely shouldered aside in the push to demonize steele and american counterintelligence skill.

        the dossier could be a false and meretricious document designed to harm trump politikally :). that is the undercurrent of innuendo that floats all the criticism of the dossier. i simply cannot yet see any serious reason to consider either steele or american counterintelligence as being suckers for that kind of stuff.

        nor can i envision trump being harmed by the dossier even if this were the case – “i could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot people and people would still support me.”

        the criticism so far seems peripheral to the core warning of the dossier and indifferent to its accuracy in this regard – some hanky-panky was going on with the russians and the american election. mostly the dossief is being used to generate paranoia about critics claiming russian intervention and in general critics of the impetial trump. i fear there will be a big penalty to pay for that finagling.

        cry me some more crocadile tears about the horrible, terrible, no-good steel dossier.

  10. PG says:

    Whatever comes of Mueller’s investigation, the story of the provenance and distribution of the dossier is important in itself. It’s had tremendous impact; a large segment of the population has been influenced by it; investigations have used it and been initiated because of it. The role of firms like Fusion GPS, how they operate in political systems as a whole and in the case of the dossier in particular, is critically important for the public to understand. So thanks again for the clear-sighted reporting.

    • orionATL says:

      “… the dossier is important in itself. It’s had tremendous impact; a large segment of the population has been influenced by it;…”

      you could be right, but i really don’t think you are. the dossier is probably #76 on a list of things americans are concerned about with regard to president trump. i’d bet few have ever read about it, or can recall even a small amount about it.

  11. Bay State Librul says:

    Scribe and et al

    I’m not a moralist and could care less of the pee tape.
    What I care about is that Don the Con was compromised, and as such is a traitor, and a money launderer. He knows he is guilty and could pull the trigger because he will have nothing to lose. He is a 72 year old dick

  12. Evangelista says:

    KOMPROMAT:  [Also known as “A Steele Mill”]:  An automated, or virtually automated, mechanical, or virtually mechanical, device related to, or derived from, the 20th century monkey-operated-typewriter, that one may insert coins (money) into to obtain compromising material, informational dirt, deprecatory inuendo, unfound assertion, unverified and unverifiable allegation, asseveration and speculation tailored to desires or purposes.  In the U.S.A. “Main Stream Media”, “MSM”, newspapers, TV-news and “The News” in general is commonly Kompromat.  The term is also used, by understandable logical extension to reference coin-op newspaper vending boxes, also known as “coin-op latrines”.

  13. Brad Casali says:

    Can I just add that no one would be talking about this if BuzzFeed didn’t forego journalistic standards and outright publish the damned thing.

    My overall take on the thing is that other news outlets had this for a while and refrained from reporting on it because, like ethical news outlets, they wouldn’t report on something that they can’t verify.

    My take is that in the end this dossier won’t matter.  It will, certainly, act as a political flashpoint and a wedge issue for the Trump administration to discredit Mueller.  But, that’s nothing new, or unexpected.

    Most of what has been of interest has NOT been mentioned in the dossier, and it has been uncovered (and verified) chiefly by the press at large.  For instance, take the Trump Tower meeting.  It is mystifying, to me, why that would not have slipped into the dossier.

    Trump seems to have had (allegedly) his hands in lots of shady deals that don’t exceed Mueller’s mandate.  And that’s not including what Trump has done since installation of Mueller.

    The dossier will end up irrelevant since it’s incomplete, unverified, and full of otherwise disconnected ideas.  In other words, it will act as a great aspersion for Trump.

    • bmaz says:

      It was newsworthy and they published it. So what? That is what news organizations do. Buzzfeed did not vouch for the veracity of every element of the contents. I see no reason for any hand wringing over the fact they published it. In fact, I think they did the public a favor.

       

      • Brad Casali says:

        There are valid arguments for both sides of the debate in regards to whether Buzzfeed should have published it, but I clearly fall on the side of they erred here.

        But, as I pointed out, I don’t think it’s going to matter in the long run.  It will only benefit Trump once we find out what Dem paid to continue to support it.

        • bmaz says:

          As to first paragraph, fair enough. I too can see both sides. But personally err on the side of putting it out there as Buzzfeed did. Frankly, David Corn had already put it in play well before Buzzfeed. But, absolutely, people can differ on the straight up publishing by Buzzfeed.

          As to the second paragraph, I dunno about that. It may as to the hard core Trumpalo/Fox News set, not sure about anybody else. The original sponsor was a GOP camp, and the FBI was interested in pursing it. That some Dem PAC or outside outfit did so seems pretty irrelevant at this point. To anybody that is sane, at least. The “dossier” may have been a hit job, but its provenance is all over the board.

    • orionATL says:

      brad writes:

      “… The dossier will end up irrelevant since it’s incomplete, unverified, and full of otherwise disconnected ideas.  In other words, it will act as a great aspersion for Trump…”

      i think you are on the mark. i’ve felt the same for some time.

      as for journalistic standards being ignored, the curse of trump that has befallen this country is proving to be (or at least is being signified by) the destruction of lots of mores, lots of rules of behavior, lots of moral imperatives that no longer are such – like making money off of secret service protection, or publishing unverified material, or a powerful official publicly attacking individual citizens, or giving presidential suport to white supremacists, or refusing to help some americans in a hurricane crisis.

      by 2020 i’d guess more rules and mores, barriers to our non-warlike behavior, will have fallen.

      but i’ll leave all the above aside to make my main point – thanking you for causing me to learn more about the word “aspersion”.

      i thought i understood it well and i’m confident i took your meaning correctly, but in this context i discovered “aspersion” can be taken to have a very different meaning :)

      https://www.thefreedictionary.com/aspersion

      “… as·per·sion  (ə-spûr′zhən, -shən)

      n.

      1.

      a. A false or damaging accusation or insinuation:Don’t cast aspersions on my honesty.

      b. The act of slandering or libeling; defaming.

      2. A sprinkling, especially with holy water.

      American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved… ”

      the steele dossier may well prove to be a baptismal event in the presidency of the most flagrantly churches-courting heathen in american presidential hisyory.

    • Judson says:

      There is the lingering question of  “Was this what they got a FISA warrant off of”  if so that becomes highly problematic. The dossier one could write on Kamala Harris would be amazing.

      • bmaz says:

        Uh, no.

        Not a chance in hell. There could be corroborated and verified items that are also mentioned in the dossier that went into the probable cause affidavit, but, no, the dossier itself would not be. And that would be only as to the second FISA warrant on Manafort. The first FISA warrant on him was issued well before the existence of the dossier.

  14. Pg says:

    @orionatl 8:52
    (Trouble with reply button)

    Personally, I’ve despised Trump since he first started making a name for himself in New York. Over the years, my distaste for him grew to disgust and now, horror. I will not be the least surprised or disappointed if Meuller’s investigation leads indictments. Simultaneously, I am horrified by the state of our political system and the anti-social practices of firms like Fusion GPS. I don’t think those horrors are mutually exclusive.

    • PG says:

      To clarify my point — While the dossier hasn’t altered my opinion of Trump one way or the other, and while it may or may not be high on the list of Americans’ concerns regarding Trump, the edited dossier published by Buzzfeed was meant to sow confusion rather than to enlighten.  It muddied rather than clarified the waters.  As one news outlet put it, “it went off like a hand grenade.”  So, while it may be true that few Americans have read it (I don’t know) it has had its effects.

    • orionATL says:

      pg –

      i understand. tx for the comment.

      glad to see you got reply figured out. it is tricky, very non-obvious.

  15. person1597 says:

    Could this be about weaponized AI — Rubots galling the gullible…?

    As in… “Generative adversarial networks “…

    “The generative network’s training objective is to increase the error rate of the discriminative network (i.e., “fool” the discriminator network by producing novel synthesized instances that appear to have come from the true data distribution).”

    Nothing like an existential zero-sum game to pique and poke.

    Virality enhances yeild.

  16. Avattoir says:

    “this will be an unbelievably unpopular post”

    I think it will be quite believably unpopular, but not because it’s necessarily wrong – those “missing pages” mean we don’t know one way or the other.

    It does not appear to be “unpopular” here, not do I other thoughtful lefty websites to have a markedly different reaction.

    Regardless, I do not see emptywheel’s argument here compelling. She makes lots of good points. But in extending those points out into a unknowable future political landscape, her criticisms are obliged to carry along limits which ew acknowledges: our inability to know what actually is in those other pages. And that’s quite apart from my skepticism about the nature and range of political response to whatever the hell’s in them

    • GKJames says:

      Right. But isn’t the answer for Congress (read, Republicans who control Congress) to exhibit curiosity and spine in connection with a serious public matter? The end result of a thorough airing might well be, There’s nothing to see here, folks. But until that happens, the public — and the press that’s reporting on the issue — are left piecing together limited bits of data and drawing reasonable inferences. And while it’s true that partisans on both sides are overselling their case, one thing on which rational people should be able to agree: there’s enough here to merit a closer look. That Republicans refuse to take that look solely because the president’s a Republican suggests a rot far more toxic than a pathological juvenile in the White House.

  17. Willis Warren says:

    Why don’t people understand what the “pee tape” is? All it says is that Trump paid some Russian girls to pee on a bed that Obama had slept in. That’s it. Read it.

    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984-Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.html

    I’d bet that really happened. I would also bet Mueller can prove it happened, or at least has witnesses.

    I don’t think it’s as big a deal as people think, beyond proving that our president is an asshole. It certainly isn’t enough to blackmail him into doing anyone’s bidding.

  18. matt says:

    If there is no Trump + underage girls evidence in the missing pages of the Dossier, or meetings documentation with Trump + Russians planning hacking or voter interference, it is as said above- a perfect foil for any future breakthroughs in the investigation.

    We know without a doubt that Russian operatives were involved with the DNC hack, hacking of voter registrations, anti-Hillary campaign advertising, and possibly attempts to compromise local voting districts/elections officials. We know of 8+ Trump campaign associates/nominees meeting with Russians. And, Trump had something pretty important to say (or be told) in his private White House meeting with Lavrov & Kislyak.

    Despite all this, it could be that the Russians just did what they did for their own self interest- that Trump benefited is not a crime, and it could be said that the effort backfired on the Russians, as any policy dealings are now under microscopic scrutiny.

    My strong feeling is that we have bigger problems than Russian interference and a jerk of a president. Voter suppression and gerrymandering in Wisconsin alone turned the election to Trump. The Koch bros who own Wisconsin (Scott Walker & Paul Ryan) (and Priebus in the WH before he left) hated Hillary just as much as Putin, and have been operating to undermine the vote for longer and with more money.

    If we look at what is happening with the attacks on health care, public education, civil liberties, labor, the environment, progressive taxation, foreign policy, and journalism – it is the fantasy playbook of the extreme Libertarians. They have changed the political spectrum so drastically that Dems are what Conservatives used to be and Republicans are anarchists.

    FORGET RUSSIA AND TRUMP!

    We need to look at how to mitigate our own homegrown threats to democracy. I’d be watching closely the Supreme court on the WI gerrymandering case, voter suppression tactics, and following the money of the massive 501c(4) political donors…

  19. orionATL says:

    while we consider here with greatest scrupulosity a sideshow (steele dossier) of the russian intervention into the 2016 presidential elections, earnestly seeking to know if there was even a breath of impropriety in a piece of oppo research,

    trump presidential appointees are not at all interested in scrupulosity, either as it involves small matters like private airplane flights for major officials, or much more consequential unscrupulous partisan behavior such as this:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-director-distorts-intelligence-communitys-findings-on-russian-interference/2017/10/19/d7f8e05e-b4ed-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?

    cia director mike pompeo, hard right republican who assuredly kissed trump’s ring, may be cooking the books on russian involvement in the 2016 election.

    this is the usual bifurcation of investigations of political power:

    any investigation that may lead to criticism of “his great power” will be viewed and critiqued with minute scrupulosity, no i’s may be (dare be) left undotted.

    on the other hand, any investigation that may exonerate his behavior or glorify “his great power” will be accepted with barely sufficient scrupulosity.

    as it happens, both matters have to do with the same national security issue.

  20. matt says:

    Then, let me ask you honestly, Willis, which had a bigger effect on the 2016 election AND the policy agenda of Trump?  Russians… or Libertarian/Alt. Right political operatives?

    • bmaz says:

      Or COMEY. Whatever. There are many factors that may have tilted 2016 election. But the Russian factor has extremely large significance due to potential for future mischief.

      So, no, no one should forget it.

  21. matt says:

    Future mischief by the Russians? This is not anywhere near the magnitude of the threat that extreme partisan political organizations pose.  They are embedded in fabric of our system, and with Citizens United/501c(4) can fund without limit or disclosure subservient candidates.    It terms of real world effect on both the presidential election and countless others for congress and the judicial system in 2016 and in the future, it would defiantly be Koch over Putin.   Where do you think Trumps policies come from? Was not Paul Ryan chosen for VP running mate to Romney in 2012? Was there not the brandishing about the name Scott Walker for president? Do you think, that in a liberal fantasy world where Trump is impeached the extreme Libertarian policy agenda would be any different with Pence? or, a future Ryan or Walker as POTUS?  Russia has a limited interest in American politics, basically get the fuck out of my back yard! (missile defense in Poland, NATO courting of Ukraine, oil hegemony in the Middle East),  Can you blame him for aligning with Nationalist leaning forces vs. the Clinton/Obama globalists?

    I’m no fan of Putin.  And, I would hope the Russia Investigation brings justice to all its shady players.  But, I would also hope that both progressives and conservatives that oppose the current regime in Washingon see the the FUTURE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY depends more on problems at home than foreign meddling.

    • greengiant says:

      You must be self aware to know that if you are pushing Putin’s agenda that the likelihood that he is paying you increases.

  22. Willis Warren says:

    No one is doing more research and beating on libertarians than me, bub. But, from my perspective, the Russians have infiltrated them to the point where they’re nearly synonymous. And, I’m talking about anCap/Austrians, not the social libertarian whatevers.

  23. dk says:

     I have zero doubt that the Russians attempted to influence the election.

    Well me, too. But I also have no doubt that they’re not the only nation to attempt do so.  Until the matter is placed in a larger context of political donation and influence (foreign and domestic), the focus on Russian activity in this arena is intrinsically distorted and incomplete.

    • orionATL says:

      “stolen half of russia” by allowing bureaucratic insiders and connected politicians in the ’90’s to buy public properties, services, and raw materials supplies for pennies on the dollar and then emerge in time as capitalist billionaires.

      but it doesn’t stop there. this kleptocracy works hand-in-glove with what is essentially a mafia. putin sits on top of this dysfunctional economy like satan on top of hell (see dante, not the bible :) )

      that is why russia is said to be one of the most dangerous countries in which a foreigner can try to do business. totalitarianism swapped for total corruption.

      putin survives on nationalism which is what he has in common with the likes of bannon and trump and why he subverted the american electoral process in 2016. in my view that effort was more than just getting back at secretary clinton; it was removing the u. s. as a competitor opposed to nationalism.

  24. Willis Warren says:

    And, as I’ve said from the beginning, the Republicans don’t want this investigation because it will ultimately reveal that the Russians are just imitating what they do

    • orionATL says:

      or, at the very least, we will learn (unless facebook/google/twitter can buy enough congressmen to continue hiding the political manipulation they make possible) that the republicans figured out via mercer and cambridge analytica that they could do nationally in 2016 exactly what the russians had independently figured out they could do in the u. s. because they had already seen it work in europe.

      the only difference being that what the russians did may be judged illegal, immoral, or fattening and what the republicans did will surely be defended as just good old american politics.

  25. matt says:

    greengiant, God no, I am not pushing Putin’s agenda.  As Willis says, he and the oligarchs have stolen half of Russia. I’m only saying that we have our own “oligarchs” to worry about.  Also, our Full Spectrum Dominance foreign policy has us acting as the aggressor in many nation states in Eurasia.  I don’t believe in Imperialism by any nation state, but Americans don’t understand that we are competing with Russia and China for every scrap of dirt in the world with ore, gas, or oil.  If the Chinese or Russians brought their military to occupy parcels in South America would we perhaps feel threatened? As “bad” as Putin’s motivations are, I think it is disingenuous to assume ours are any better.

  26. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Over the past few days, we’ve heard that HPSCI Republican staffers may have been coaching witnesses, and the House investigation will probably produce a split report, along with news that Nunes has been freelancing and issuing unilateral subpoenas to obtain all of Fusion GPS’s bank transactions over the past couple of years.

    The question there is: does Noo-noo already have an idea of what he’s going to see, and believes it’s enough to sell the “discredit the dossier, discredit the broader claims” line that’s been adopted by the loyalists, or should he be careful what he wishes for? Given that Noo-noo is a dim bulb (though with less dim staffers) I do not know.

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