Someone Has Already Been Charged for Most of the Actions the Steele Dossier Attributes to Michael Cohen

Because of a McClatchy story claiming two new details corroborating a Steele dossier claim that Michael Cohen had a meeting with people serving the interests of Putin’s Administration, people have gotten themselves into a tizzy again about what a smoking gun it would be if the allegations in the Steele dossier were proven true.

It’s an utterly bizarre tizzy, both because the allegations in the Steele dossier not only don’t match some more damning allegations Cohen has already pled guilty to, but because Mueller has already charged other people for some of the allegations about Cohen made in the dossier. In other words, the McClatchy story has people excited about the wrong allegations, rather than focusing on the damning things Cohen (and others) have already been charged with.

Indeed, most functional allegations made in the Steele dossier have already been publicly explained in either court filings or sworn testimony. That doesn’t rule out that Cohen had a role in some of them, however. Indeed, one detail from Cohen’s SDNY plea — that among the things Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen for in January 2017 was a $50,000 payment to a tech services company — actually could confirm a detail made in the dossier. But generally, Mueller and other entities have already explained away many of the allegations made against Cohen in the dossier.

I’ve put the substantive claims the Steele dossier made about Cohen below. I’ll take each and show public reporting that explains who did something attributed to Cohen in the dossier.

Cohen met with Russian Presidential Administration Legal Department officials

The central allegation involving Cohen is that he met with people from Putin’s Presidential Administration’s legal department or, in a later version, someone acting on their behalf.

By the time that allegedly happened in August or maybe September, however, Cohen had already established a paper trail with someone more central than some anonymous lawyers. Cohen’s Mueller plea describes Cohen receiving an email on January 20, 2016 from Dmitry Peskov’s personal assistant and shortly thereafter calling her. Somehow Mueller knows that the assistant “asked detailed questions and took notes.” The day after Cohen spoke with the personal assistant, someone from Putin’s office called Felix Sater.

Given that Cohen made reservations to travel to St. Petersburg (for a possible meeting directly with Putin) on June 9, then canceled those reservations on June 14 (after Russia’s role in the DNC hack was made public), those communications about a Trump Tower deal surely tie to the hack-and-leak operation.

It’s certainly possible that, later in the summer (or in the fall, during Cohen’s known trips to London), Cohen would attempt to reschedule that meeting, though the purpose was originally and probably would remain more central to a quid pro quo trading a Trump Tower and election assistance for sanctions relief and policy considerations. But having already exchanged easily collectable communications directly with Peskov’s office (whom the dossier calls “the main protagonist” in the operation), it’s not clear how helpful using Rossotrudnichestvo would be to hide the Trump role. Furthermore, there are other known cut-outs for related matters, including Steele dossier source Sergei Millian and the Agalrovs.

Cohen aimed to contain the Paul Manafort scandal

The three Cohen reports in October all claim that Cohen got involved to tamp down scandals connecting Trump to Russia. That’s not, at all, far-fetched. After all, Cohen was Trump’s fixer and he told a bunch of lies to Congress in an effort to hide Trump’s Moscow Project.

That said, a filing explaining why Mueller might have to mention the Trump campaign in Manafort’s aborted DC trial and a filing in Alex Van der Zwaan’s prosecution show that Manafort and Rick Gates themselves — with the direct involvement of Oleg Deripaska associate Konstantin Kilimnik — worked to contain this scandal.

As Mueller laid out in numerous ways, the Manafort-Gates-Kilimnik team went on a crime spree in the fall trying to cover up their past activities with Russian-backed oligarchs.

Indeed, that a claim that Cohen managed this pushback (and its timing) appeared in the dossier is particularly tantalizing for two reasons. First, one of the things Manafort reportedly lied about after agreeing to cooperate with Mueller pertained a boat trip he took with Tom Barrack; Mueller seems to know that Kilimnik joined the two men. If that happened, then it would show that someone did indeed hold a meeting in August to contain the damage of Manafort’s burgeoning scandals, but that meeting would have been between a key Trump funder, Manafort himself, and someone suspected of ongoing ties with GRU, the agency that conducted the DNC hack.

More intriguing still, as I noted above, Kilimnik was Manafort’s go-between with Oleg Deripaska. That’s interesting because in 2016, Christopher Steele was attempting to convince DOJ’s Bruce Ohr that Deripaska could be a useful source on Russian organized crime. If Steele thought Deripaska would be a useful source for DOJ, he may well have been relying on Deripaska himself. If so, the report that Cohen (who in fact did have communications with Peskov!) was containing the damage of Manafort’s ties to Russian oligarchs might be an attempt to distract from the way that a Russian oligarch was actually working through his handler, Kilimnik, to minimize that damage himself.

Cohen aimed to contain the Carter Page scandal

It likewise seems unlikely that Cohen was the one to try to contain the Carter Page scandal. While he shouldn’t be relied on for anything, several claims in Page’s testimony to HPSCI provide an alternate explanation about who was containing the scandal tied to him.

Page denied ever speaking to Cohen.

But he did describe Keith Kellogg discussing the allegations with him. And he did describe Steve Bannon, both by himself and with the assistance of Trump’s election lawfirm, Jones Day, trying to minimize the Page scandal.

That’s consistent with a number of on-the-record claims from the campaign in the days following Page’s resignation in September. Which is to say, minimizing the Page scandal fell to the campaign itself.

The people who carried out the information operation had been paid by Russia and Trump

The three initial reports on Cohen came, in suspiciously quick succession, in October, after the number of reporters briefed on the Steele dossier started to expand.

The one other report implicating Cohen was the December 13 report, based on intelligence Steele claimed he obtained for “free.”

The report is most notable for the legal battle it caused. The allegations most clearly resemble what Adrian Chen had identified and attributed to the Internet Research Agency year earlier and there had been extensive reporting on it all through the campaign. But instead of blaming Internet Research Agency, the report blames all that on Webzilla. And Webzilla’s owner, Aleksei Gubarev was sufficiently comfortable facing the prospect of discovery to sue BuzzFeed right away (though he lost his lawsuit a few weeks back).

There’s another reference in the report to a long debunked claim made by the Russians — that a Romanian hacker was involved, presumably an allusion to Guccifer 2.0’s half-hearted claim to be Romanian.

Still, much of that last report instead presented the most inflammatory claim in the entire dossier: that Trump’s campaign had helped pay for the information operation targeting Hillary.

On its face, that claim makes zero sense. The scenario as a whole assumes that the hack was done by independent hackers coerced to work for the FSB — perhaps people like Yevgeniy Nikulin, who had already been arrested in Prague by this point. As far as Mueller has shown publicly, however, the information operation was instead done by two entities: Russians in the employ of Putin crony Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency and officers in the employ of Russia’s military intelligence agency, GRU. In indictments of both conspirators, Mueller provided details about how the money was handled.

So we’ve already got explanations for how the information operation was funded: by Prigozhin and the Russian state, using a range of money laundering techniques to hide Russia’s role. We even have evidence that — contrary to the claim about information warriors’ loyalty to Sergei Ivanov — Prighozhin’s employees even sucked up to him in one of their dry runs getting Americans to perform IRL actions.

Cohen arranged deniable cash payments to hackers working in Europe against the Clinton campaign

As noted, the December report involving Cohen made the most incendiary claim of all: that the Trump organization planned to pay for some of the hackers that targeted Hillary.

In spite of the fact that Mueller has already explained how the two main groups of participants in the information operation got funded, this allegation gets more interesting given details laid out in Cohen’s SDNY plea. Several of his SDNY crimes, after all, involving making deniable payments, in that case to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

That shows Cohen’s modus operandi for paying off Trump’s illicit debts. Mind you, it shows that he didn’t use cash. He laundered the funds using more sophisticated money laundering. But it does show that Cohen was the guy who did that kind of thing.

Which makes this detail included — but not explained — in the same plea document intriguing.

Cohen paid some tech company $50,000 in connection with the campaign.

That’s not a whole lot of money, in any case. And if it went to pay off part of the information operation, it would have to have involved some part of the operation not yet publicly identified. Even the one known instance of Trump supporters reaching out to hackers in Europe — Peter Smith’s reported consultation of Weev — is known to have been paid for by other means (in that case, Smith’s own fundraising).

Still, it’s certainly possible that that $50,000 went to some still unidentified entity that played a role in the information operation that, for some reason, didn’t get paid for by Putin’s cronies or the Russian state.

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post.


18 October

Speaking separately to the same compatriot in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider with direct access to the leadership confirmed that a key role in the secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin was being played by the Republican candidates personal lawyer Michael COHEN. [redacted line]

19 October

1. Speaking in confidence to a longstanding compatriot friend in mid-October 2016, a Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s lawyer, Michael COHEN, in the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership. COHEN’s role had grown following the departure of Paul MANNAFORT as campaign manager in August 2016. Prior to that MANNAFORT had led for the TRUMP side.

2. According to the Kremlin insider, COHEN now was heavily engaged in a cover up and damage limitation operation in the attempt to prevent the full details of relationship with Russia being exposed. In pursuit of this aim, COHEN had met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration (PA) Legal Department officials in an EU country in August 2016. The immediate issues had been to contain further scandals involving MANNAFORT’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine and to limit the damage arising from exposure of former TRUMP foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE’s secret meetings with Russian leadership figures in Moscow the previous month. The overall objective had been to “to sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connections could be fully established or proven”

3. Things had become even “hotter” since August on the TRUMP-Russia track. According to the Kremlin insider, this had meant that direct contact between the TRUMP team and Russia had been farmed out by the Kremlin to trusted agents of influence working in pro-government policy institutes like that of Law and Comparative Jurisprudence. COHEN however continued to lead for the TRUMP team.

[snip]

The Kremlin insider was unsure of the identities of the PA officials with whom COHEN met secretly in August, or the exact date/s and locations of the meeting/s. There were significant internal security barriers being erected in the PA as the TRUMP issue became more controversial and damaging. However s/he continued to try to obtain these.

20 October

1. Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate, Donald lawyer Michael COHEN and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.

2. Continuing on this theme, the Kremlin insider highlighted the importance of the Russian parastatal organisation, Rossotrudnichestvo, in this contact between TRUMP campaign representative/3 and Kremlin officials. Rossotrudnichestvo was being used as cover for this relationship and its office in Prague may well have been used to host the COHEN Russian Presidential Administration (PA) meeting/s. It was considered a “plausibly deniable” vehicle for this, whilst remaining entirely under Kremlin control.

3. The Kremlin insider went on to identify leading pro-PUTIN Duma figure, Konstantin KOSACHEV (Head of the Foreign Relations Committee) as an important figure in the TRUMP campaign-Kremlin liaison operation. KOSACHEV, also “plausibly deniable” being part of the Russian legislature rather than executive, had facilitated the contact in Prague and by implication, may have attended the meeting/s with COHEN there in August.

Company Comment

We reported previously, in our Company Intelligence Report 2016/135 of 19 October 2016 from the same source, that COHEN met officials from the PA Legal Department clandestinely in an EU country in August 2016. This was in order to clean up the mess left behind by western media revelations of TRUMP ex-campaign manager corrupt relationship with the former pro-Russian YANUKOVYCH regime in Ukraine and TRUMP foreign policy advisor, Carter secret meetings in Moscow with senior regime figures in July 2016. According to the Kremlin advisor, these meeting/s were originally scheduled for COHEN in Moscow but shifted to what was considered an operationally “soft” EU country when it was judged too compromising for him to travel to the Russian capital.

13 December

1. We reported previously (2016/135 and /136) on secret meeting/s held in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2016 between then Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s representative, Michael COHEN and his interlocutors from the Kremlin working under cover of Russian ‘NGO’ Rossotrudnichestvo.

2. [two lines redacted] provided further details of these meeting/s and associated anti- CLINTON/Democratic Party operations. COHEN had been accompanied to Prague by 3 colleagues and the timing of the visit was either in the last week of August or the first week of September. One of their main Russian interlocutors was Oleg SOLODUKHIN operating under Rossotrudnichestvo cover. According to [redacted] the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally.

3. [redacted] reported that over the period March-September 2016 a company called XBT/Webzilla and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct “altering operations” against the Democratic Party leadership. Entities linked to one Aleksei GUBAROV were involved and he and another hacking expert, both recruited under duress by the FSB, Seva KAPSUGOVICH, were significant players in this operation. In Prague, COHEN agreed contingency plans for various scenarios to protect the Operation, but in particular what was to be done in the event that Hillary CLINTON won the presidency. It was important in this event that all cash payments owed were made quickly and discreetly and that cyber and other operators were stood down/able to go effectively to ground to cover their traces. (We reported earlier that the involvement of political operatives Paul MANAFORT and Carter PAGE in the secret TRUMP-Kremlin liaison had been exposed in the media in the run-up to Prague and that damage limitation of these also was discussed by COHEN with the Kremlin representatives).

In terms of practical measures to be taken, it was agreed by the two sides in Prague to stand down various “Romanian hackers” (presumably based in their homeland or neighboring eastern Europe) and that other operatives should head for a bolt-hole in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where they should “lay low”. On payments, IVANOV’s associate said that the operatives involved had been paid by both TRUMP’s team and the Kremlin, though their orders and ultimately loyalty lay with IVANOV, as Head of the PA and thus ultimately responsible for the operation, and his designator successor/s after he was dismissed by president PUTIN in connection with the anti-CLINTON operation in mid August.

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116 replies
  1. Willis Warren says:

    it’s gonna hurt a lot of feelings when the Mueller “report” dismisses large parts of the Steele dossier as a disinformation campaign that had also been sold to foreign intelligence agencies.

    My question is this: did Cohen KNOW he was gonna be the goat on this?

    • Avattoir says:

      AFAIK, every time my former client calls me up, asking if I’m around for him to drop off some goat meat, or inviting me to share roast goat glazed with grappa while watching some big Juventus match, not even once is the goat informed in advance of his fate.

  2. CaliLawyer says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but if the Prague/McClatchy report were disinformation to discredit the media it seems like it would get pushed harder to multiple outlets. There is still something very fishy here.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m pretty sure I know one of the sources for McClatchy. They’ve been pushing it for almost 2 years. But it’s ultimately a secondhand report.

      • CaliLawyer says:

        Whatever the reporters are chasing, Mueller and multiple intelligence agencies from multiple countries know exactly where Cohen was during the period in question. Maybe I’m overstating the abilities of the modern surveillance state, but it’s hard to believe that the personal lawyer to a major party presidential candidate could slink around Europe without raising red flags at a host of foreign intelligence services. He also has never offered any convincing explanation – not even something easy like credit card statements showing gas station charges in the States or whatever, rather than just claiming he was with his son in LA or whatever the story is.

        • emptywheel says:

          Sure. That’s what I noted here.

          But given Mueller’s public statements, it is unlikely that Mueller believes Cohen was in Prague.

          He also knows the comms that Cohen did have and finds them central to the investigation.

          • PlanetNine says:

            Cohen is not his phone. The phone and the man can be in different places at one time.  Dude had lots of phones, as you’ve pointed out.

            It is easier to mislead watchers then evade surveillance altogether. At least if one assumes phone=person.

            A phone is not just a phone. If the phone’s content is thought to be covered by privilege, a particular phone may have a value another phone may not.  A phone identified with an already known subject, and that subject with a ready-made alibi, may misidentify an unknown person who accidently pings a tower on purpose.

            Sharing information by sharing a device, and transferring information by physically moving a device (rather than sending packets over the web), may decrease the risk of cotent protection.

            Cohen’s device’s communications may be vital, but also not “Cohen’s.”

            Is it possible that “Mueller knows” that Jr (or someone) was in Prague with Cohen’s phone?  Was it important that Cohen’s phone’s content go to Prague, and return?

            Professor Plum in the conservatory with Colonel Mustard’s candlestick?

              • PlanetNine says:

                Oh you’re welcome.  Though, I think you miss my point about “technology.” Low tech evasions may be less likely to fail than high tech evasions. Wheeler made a similar point about Signal.

                I’m pointing out the location of Cohen and his phone are not necessarily the same notion. From what we know so far, one of Cohen’s phones could have been in Prague, while Cohen himself was in LA. Note the wording of Cohen’s denial. Note Mueller’s emphasis on devices (including Manafort’s). There are of course evidence that might disprove separation. Otoh, a shared device might be evidence of conspiracy.

                I also have an odd feeling about reports on Trump’s purportedly careless use of personal devices. It may be that 1. he knows that most anti-surveillance measures are over-hyped (so don’t matter) and 2. simpler ways to create an air-gapped channel.

                I agree with Wheeler’s point about the dossier vs Mueller’s submissions on substance.

                Edit: “decrease risk of content detection.”

                 

                • P J Evans says:

                  In a similar line, one suggestion I saw elseweb was that the phone’s SIM card went to Prague, but not the rest of the phone. I’m not sure that it would work, but it’s certainly feasible for people who know what to look for in the back of a phone (as I do not). I’m also not sure why it’s important that the phone (or its card) be there, but if anyone other than Cohen knows, I suspect that that person would be Mueller or someone on his staff of experts.

                    • Gamboler says:

                      Maybe he sent his phone to Prague so it could have a cultural experience: visiting phone stores to see what the Czech phones look like, shopping for classy euro ringtones, using mirrors to set up selfies at local monuments showing a photo of gnome on its screen.

  3. P J Evans says:

    @Willis – I saw it at SFGate (they’ve finally gotten their servers fixed). They had the headline “Newspaper plant virus halts Los Angeles Times deliveries” – which made me snicker, because I’m parsing “newspaper plant virus” as a disease, not a computer attack.

  4. pseudonymous in nc says:

    That “which in fact…” in the “tech services” graf is a deliberate tease. It tells a small group of people that SDNY knows what the money went towards. It may have been Geek Squad. But somehow I doubt it.

    There are two bits of Glenn Simpson’s HPSCI testimony that come to mind. I’ve mentioned one before, and Simpson’s vagueness about timing is a tell in other parts of his testimony:

    “I specifically remember assigning [Ed Baumgartner] to do work in the summer or fall of 2016 on Michael Cohen’s business connections to Russia and Ukraine and his father-in-law’s background in Russia.”

    The other is his reference to planes and boats and oligarchs:

    “The plane, you know, we have been told that Rybolovlev’s boat was also nearby. There were all these other yachts nearby and that, you know, there had been rumors of meetings between Trump people and Russians on yachts off Dubrovnik.’ And the Rybolovlev jet then flies to Budapest from Dubrovnik. And I can’t tell you whether it’s meaningful or not, but there are certainly things I was interested in and still find unanswered and intriguing.”

    That might be Simpson rehashing Mensch-and-company flight tracking theories after the fact, and I don’t think it’s connected to the Manafort-Macedonia stuff in TIME, but a lot of high-up campaign people took time out after the conventions and during the Olympics to visit the eastern Med.

    You asked on the twitters about the unexplained circumstances of Cohen’s breakup with the Family Business. I’d thought the formal announcement was early in January, but it came the day before the inauguration. Huh.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/19/michael-cohen-special-counsel-to-donald-trump-will-follow-him-to-washington/

    • emptywheel says:

      yeah, I have acute interest in that collection of boats. I’d badly like to know where the other players were when (wasn’t it Jared) the others were cavorting in E Mediterranean.

    • Trip says:

      I wonder if anyone from the Mueller camp ever spoke with Anastasia Vashukevich. She claimed Americans were onboard yachts at other times. Aleksei A. Navalny’s video of Deripaska and Prikhodko (tied to the Manafort case) seems pretty much proven at this point. The Norwegian yacht excursion was in August. Right after Manafort met with Kilimnik in NYC (and Deripaska’s jet landed in Newark, took off the following night to go on the yacht cruise)

      Vashukevich, who claims to be the former mistress of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, says she witnessed several meetings in 2016 and 2017 between Deripaska and at least three un-named Americans.

      -CNN

      At times I can edit, others I can’t. Same with reply. It’s very strange. Starting another comment is the only way to edit sometimes.

      • Jesse says:

        Since you mentioned it, I had to watch it again… for others’ with interest, here’s the Navalny video if anyone hasn’t seen it yet. For the English captions, be sure to click the CC icon as well as the gear icon on the toolbar to select the language.

         

  5. new-radical says:

    Well done EW, great work. I’d be most grateful for a couple of insights.

    Is it the consensus of the knowledgeable on this site that Steele is a BS artist just out to make a quid, who got a lot more than he bargained for? And not the caring ex-James Bond doing his patriotic bit for the BFF of the Old British Empire. Did Bruce Ohr (who seems very bright) work this out?

    Or is there something much more nefarious going on.

     

    • emptywheel says:

      Neither.

      It is my belief that Steele set out to do what he was asked to do, and collected some information that was “real,” but that because of the circumstances of its production — notably the sharing of it with the press early and often — it became really easy to insert disinformation into a collection network that would have been significantly identified in the wake of the soccer indictments.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        EW wrote, “[I]t became really easy to insert disinformation into a collection network . . . ”

        Steele ought to have known that. A decent counter-intelligence analyst could have warned Steele against disinformation being inserted into his informant network.

        I hope he wasn’t taking Deripaska’s word for it. That’d be like walking a high wire without a safety net.

  6. new-radical says:

    That the Russians manipulated Steele, is probably unimportant. But if they did it in some fashion as part of an integrated strategy, the subsequent dossier seems odd. It is very clumsy and does not fit the pattern of the professional conduct of the original hacking and the subsequent social media disinformation campaign. Is that the clever part?

  7. CaliLawyer says:

    Basically this story should have been easily disprovable and it never has been. The payments could have been to third-party cut-outs/brokers not directly employed by the GRU, or even indirect payments to WikiLeaks. That 50k reference is quite the tease.

  8. BobCon says:

    This is a reminder that if Mueller decides to speak through indictments (and other official docs) that the country really needs somebody of equal stature, outside of electoral politics, to write this all up.

    We can’t count on the NY Times to do it. A report from, say, House Intelligence will be reported as a partisan document no better than the Nunes memo, no matter how much Schiff ensures it is a professional, evidence-based report. The media will be unable to avoid giving the most specious objections of the GOP equal weight as actual facts, and Chuck Todd will give all of his shows week after week to Graham and Meadows to tell whatever lies they want.

    There must be some panel pulled out of what remains of the credible bipartisan mainstream foreign policy/intelligence/legal arena to write the narrative account of Mueller’s “report.” I have no illusions that it will convince the GOP crazies, but it is necessary to tamp down the worst conspiratorial tendencies of the media, and give cover to what is left of the GOP and corporate elites to treat this as what it is and push back against the nut jobs.

    • BroD says:

      That’s magical thinking, imho.  This is the real world–there is no universally credible authority.  Mueller is the best we’ve got.

      • Kai-Lee says:

        I’ve always thought that Mueller is the best person to do this, and it should take place in fairly seamless sessions run over a few days to a week’s worth of live TV programming. In House hearings or what have you, Mueller should be the narrator, not least because Rosenstein is a tedious and uncompelling speaker. Mueller would display his personal and professional credentials for all the deniers to see. He would “convert” many if left to talk and not interrupted by the likes of some Repug senators and representatives. Which is why they will fight tooth and claw to avoid that eventuality.

  9. Hetzen says:

    I’ve been saying to myself that a lot of this is probably a Roger Stone pantomime. The fact that Hannity trots out the ‘pee’ line when ever he can suggests this is on script.

  10. Njrun says:

    What is really bizarre to me is this concern about the “right” narrative and criticism of other stories for steering the story the wrong way. Why do you care so much whether another story in another outlet fits a preferred narrative?

    FYI, I was a journalist for 25 years, covered state houses and courthouses, securitization, won national awards in financial journalism, now work in the real estate industry. I have written about and met Trump (long time ago, it was brief and I don’t know him, most of my articles about him covered his bad loans with a little about his mortgage company which turned out to be a scam), know people who worked for the Kushners, know some of Trump’s bankers from Deutsche and elsewhere (incluring people in the news, they say he isn’t worth as much as he says, but that’s as much as they’ll say to me, the documents have non-disclosure agreements. And FWIW, there are multiple loan departments at Deutsche and money laundering isn’t coming from the real estate group IMO). I have no inside knowledge about the election, don’t cover real estate as news anymore, but I say this to note I’m not unfamiliar with this sector.

    Anyway, it’s a big world, there are a lot of stories, only so many one person can do. Every outlet has its own sources, its own emphasis. I broke a lot of big stories in the world I covered, more than anyone, but Bloomberg and the WSJ and others had their own staff and did their thing, and god bless them. Sure I watched what my competitors did, but It would never have occurred to me to engage in a public pissing match with another outlet.

    Of course I agree that what Mueller knows and charges will be dispositive to the case. In the end that’s pretty much all that matters, whatever is in the Steele dossier. Or whatever the news of the day is, it will be irrelevant when indictments are unsealed and official reports are written. And that’s true of whatever any journalist — including you —  writes about any of this.

    i read this site because it has interesting information, but the sniping is nonsense. I believe, as I’ve argued in the past, that the idea that the dossier is primarily disinformation is not logical, so I’ve said my piece on that. If you have sources that tell you definitively that Cohen was never in Prague, or if you have positive evidence that the story emanated from Russian intelligence, then report what you know and how you know it and we can judge it for what it is.

    • Andy says:

      I agree. The Dossier is raw intelligence and as such is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. He said this, they said that etc. etc. False information from someone can tell you as much as true information. Who and why are they lying to me for instance. When an interviewee makes a false statement to the FBI, they put it in the 302. Whatever is finally verified, for some reason what Steele uncovered definitely scared him enough that he felt he had to warn the US and the UK governments in addition to his clients. We don’t know all his sources or what other previous experience and information that went into his analysis. We will just have to wait and see what the real story is. I like the fact that McClatchy is trying to dig into the story. The more eyes the better from a free press. They don’t always get it right, but the more the merrier.

       

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t care what the narrative is and welcome those who talk about underreported aspects of this–as the financial side once was.

      But I care about the dossier for several other reasons. First, those who boost it have completely spun free of basic rules of logic, repeatedly arguing that not-A = A to sustain a claim that the dossier has borne out. A big part of reporting on what happened in 2016 and the aftermath is reporting on how every side lost their senses, but for some reason, the way the centrist and left anti-Trump world did gets excused.

      I also care because a central part of the story that journalists have to tell — because it will never show up in a Mueller indictment — is what happened between DNC and FBI. There are a great many people spinning a story on the other side that simply doesn’t sustain scrutiny vis a vis FBI’s norm. But there are also a lot of Democrats trying to obscure precisely what they did when. Tracking what the dossier actually said and when it said it is part of that process.

      That may look like sniping to you. When those who think it is actually make a presentation about the dossier that adheres to facts (Cheryl Rofer is one of the only people I know who has tried), then perhaps your accusation will give me pause. But that has simply never ever happened.

      • Andy says:

        Point taken, but nobody can control what people will try to do with reporting though. However, IF a Cohen owned cell phone + IF that cell phone pinged a Czech cell tower in Aug/Sep 2016 + IF that ping means the cell phone was in Czechoslovakia or nearby = that is interesting information. McClatchy did not say Cohen was there, they just reported information they were told by they say 4 separate sources. It could be  incorrect for any number of reasons. But from an intelligence stand point, until it is proven incorrect, it should give someone doubt about any theory completely discounting Cohen was there as alleged in the dossier. I have doubts about everything involving the Mueller investigation.

         

         

        • emptywheel says:

          Excellent! You’ve just laid out, with your 3 layers of uncertainty even before you get to Cohen being in Prague much less adopting one of the two very different explanations for why he was there, why the tizzy that has set off is so unwarranted.

          Nothing about the report justifies focusing on stuff that is still four degrees from being a confirmed allegation rather than stuff that is already a much stronger allegation.

    • Mulder says:

      From this powerful and moving Wired.com article on Mueller. https://www.wired.com/story/robert-muellers-search-for-justice-for-pan-am-103/

      To Mueller, the investigation underscored why such complex investigations needed a law enforcement eye. A few months after the attack, he sat through a CIA briefing pointing toward Syria as the culprit behind the attack. “That’s always struck with me as a lesson in the difference between intelligence and evidence. I always try to remember that,” he told me, back when he was FBI director. “It’s a very good object lesson about hasty action based on intelligence. What if we had gone and attacked Syria based on that initial intelligence? Then, after the attack, it came out that Libya had been behind it? What could we have done?”

      As best I can I’ve kept the admonishment that the dossier is “raw intelligence” in mind all along.

      Marcy, you continue to keep me on the edge of my seat. Thank you for all the work you have done!

  11. Eureka says:

    This headline is a contender for one of your best.  I nominate it, with hope, for Most Likely to Succeed (in changing ‘mainstream’ focus).  If they are still talking about this subject come Monday, I hope it is with you, on Chris Hayes, with the analyses of this post.

    • Eureka says:

      EW- I was so preoccupied with football that I forgot tomorrow was NYE! So sorry I inadvertently wished you a holiday appearance on cable news, lol, I meant well.

  12. Troutwaxer says:

    The important thing to remember about the Steele Dossier is that it was opposition research, and what you need to prove about your opposition during an election is VASTLY DIFFERENT than what you need to prove about a defendant in court. This distinction really, really matters. So if only half the stuff in the Dossier becomes an indictment, and a quarter of those indictments become guilty verdicts… it was still damn good opposition research!

    Once again, the Dossier is like a 911 call. If I call 911 on my neighbors, and they are arrested, then they are charged with something… are the charges going to line up with my immediate 911 report? Probably not. Are they perfectly valid criminal charges nonetheless? Probably so. If my neighbor goes into court and tells the judge that he isn’t guilty because the charges are different than the language I used on my 911 call, he’ll get laughed out of court, because the neighbor still had (for example) those unregistered guns sitting on the table next to the pound of cocaine!

    So the Dossier raised the alarm, and then the FBI and others made their moves in response and discovered what was really happening. The Dossier doesn’t need to be any more accurate than my 911 call as long as the authorities respond intelligently. It just needs to be accurate enough to start a legitimate process moving!

  13. Shaun Mullen says:

    @njrun: Yes, the sniping is ridiculous, and as deeply informative as some of the commenting is, the “my dick is bigger than your dick” stuff gets tiresome.

    Somewhat OT, my candidate for the mystery gov’t-affiliated financial institution whose appeal has wended its way to SCOTUS is Obama-sanctioned Vnesheconombank (VEB), which financed Trump Int’l Hotel and Tower in Toronto. Also, on 12/13/16,Young Jared is said to have met with Sergei Gorkov, a close associate of Putin and chief executive of VEB, at the request of Kislyak.

  14. Trip says:

    A long read, but worth it. A nexus to the ex-Soviet Union, KGB, Israel, Putin, Bayrock, organized crime and the Trump property in Canada. The journalist also spoke with Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson.

    Not the most significant quote to excerpt, but interesting nonetheless:

    I asked her whether her husband had ever been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Congress or from the ongoing FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged Russia ties. After a pause, she replied that, although she didn’t know the details, her husband had drafted an affidavit in late 2017 “saying he is not involved.” She said she didn’t know whom the affidavit was for.

    Searching for Boris Birshtein

    Boris Birshtein has made powerful friends and millions of dollars as a middleman between the West and the fractured former USSR. But who is he really, and who does he work for? Mark MacKinnon followed his trail – and ended up in a maze of geopolitics
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/investigations/article-boris-birshtein-investigation/

  15. Desider says:

    So Team Trump is trying to hush up Manafort-Russia connection, but co-paying for hackers with Putin? Sounds like someone wanted some kompromat. Especially if Putin was already paying $1.2 billion/yr for hackers & disinfo campaigns since Maidan, as reported. It’s not like Trump was supposed to provide money – his job was to end sanctions. Also doubtful Cohen would go all the way to CZ to arrange payments and further incriminate himself. As sloppy as Trump Tower meetings were, they still acknowledged they had to hide a bit.

  16. Trip says:

    Fascinating reading (I went down the rabbit hole) There’s a ton of supposition and unproven minutiae (including her indulgence in believing the kompromat part of the dossier), but her (Zarina Zabrisky) background in Russia, the attempts to recruit her as a prostitute-spy are worth wading through the rest, IMHO. She recommends following https://twitter.com/MarkGaleotti , a purported expert on the Russian Mafia.

    photo story: INVISIBLE MEN

    https://medium.com/mosaic2/mafia-kgb-putin-and-trump-208a7c8e1a56

  17. jonb says:

    seems as if a number of meetings between trump people and Russians occurred on the high seas where listening and location devices would be at their weakest . Its particularly interesting that Tom Barrack was on his yacht with a Russian agent..Hopefully Mueller has some way of knowing what was discussed..

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Will Trump dispatch Stephen Miller from the White House to Bedminster, NJ, to sort out Trump’s immigration fraud troubles there, or will he send him first to Mar-a-Lago?  Asking for a friend.

    • Trip says:

      I may be wrong, but all I see is a bunch of mid-level management being fired and/or exposed to legal jeopardy. You know how it goes.

  19. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy once again for the details.

    Reading Page’s comments, dizzying.  Manafort in bed with the Russians (perhaps being in jail protects him from the Russians).  Cohen communicating with the Russians.   Trump connecting with Russians. Russians connecting with Trump and his grifter group.  Russian hacker helpers.  Russian communications on land and sea. Follow the money … here there and every where.

    So many layers, upon layers upon layers.  Still always more being exposed.  Perhaps I need to go back and watch “From Russia with Love” (1963). Could be some parallels.

    All this makes my head spin.  Sometimes I feel like we are being punked.

  20. Njrun says:

    Can’t use the reply button above, but EW, when you use language like “utterly bizarre tizzy,” you sound like you care a lot.

    Look, the report says Cohen’s cell phone pinged from Prague, and several intelligence services overheard Russians talking about him being there. One day we’ll find out the truth, but reporting those facts is entirely appropriate.

    I’m not sure I understand the last two paragraphs of your response to me. Whatever happened between the Democrats and the FBI (or whomever financed the dossier) is unimportant compared to the facts will come out about the sale of US foreign policy to hostile countries. Because that’s why this is important. Trump sold US foreign policy to benefit hostile nations (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others) for favorable real estate financing.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s less what she cares about, it’s what she does that counts.

      I read you as taking McClatchy at face value, but not EW.  It would seem better to question both, to ask both for their evidence and to dissect their logic.  EW’s survives better than the majority of her MSM peers.

      As for the Democrats and the FBI, I understand her point to be that the Dems have gotten off easy because the FBI did not take too hard a look into their questionable behavior.

      That is important and it is not a good or healthy sign.  It elicits more questionable behavior – because they got away with it – at a time when the Dems are reinvigorating their power.  They need to hold themselves to account in order to hold others to account, and to reinvigorate their party enough that it overcomes gerrymandering and passivity and retakes the White House and a working majority in both houses of Congress.

      Mr. Trump will have left more damage in his wake than the banksters.  Both corrupted the system by design to make getting away with it easier and without accountability.  That process has to change or we will have a bipartisan string of Trumps, McConnells and Ryans in our much more limited future.

    • emptywheel says:

      Your last sentence suggests you buy the Mueller investigation, not the Steele allegations, which don’t allege that.

      If so, you might ask why you’re clinging to something that (you over state in any case) doesn’t do a thing to advance the evidence that Mueller has laid out.

      At least, that’s one reason I ask about the bizarre tizzy people get into. It’s not where the there is, which your comment seems to affirm.

  21. Jenny says:

    Trip says:
    December 30, 2018 at 9:58 am
    TRUMP’S EARLY CONTACTS WITH RUSSIA

    Yes Trip, KGB plants the seed, collects the information and creates a file for future use. They are smooth operators. Many years ago, I worked with FBI regarding Russia. Fascinating and memorable.

  22. BobCon says:

    @njrun – With all due respect, the points you’re expressing strike me as coming from a place that bothers me a lot with regard to Trump-Russia.

    The media has blown this story, and it is due in large part to completely misunderstanding the nature of this it. For your typical big story, the approach of covering it from multiple perspectives works.In the case of Hurricane Sandy, it’s great for the NY Times to have one focus and the Newark Star Ledger to have another. You can legitimately have sports reporters doing their take by interviewing the Jets, while someone on the commuter beat writes about train problems.

    That’s not Trump-Russia. This is a story with a very specific narrative – a narrow set of ringleaders, specific tools and methods, and a core set of outcomes. And yet the media is treating it like a hurricane – an event that has distant, non-personal causes and wildly different effects and responses.

    Coverage by major outlets desperately needs dedicated, expert editorial oversight. There is simply no excuse for the NY Times to be running its Haberman and Schmidt pieces with so little oversight of the wrong narrative they are telling — Mueller’s supposed focus on obstruction, his end goal of issuing a report, and so on. And likewise, their congressional coverage is filled with an interpretation of Mueller’s case as filtered through the views of the congressional GOP. It’s nuts. Reporting needs to be held to a much higher level of editorial oversight so that it conforms to the best possible understanding of the case.

    Imagine if there was an outbreak of a toxic chemical contamination in the food supply of this country, traceable to a specific corporation. It would be journalistic malpractice to treat this as a hurricane, with decentralized descriptions of symptoms, treatments, and causes. You must have strong editorial oversight over everything published.

    And what’s more, you need oversight over the assignment of stories and allocation of resources to avoid duplication and contradiction. Instead, we’re getting a dozen reporters doing reacts to Dershowitz claiming he’s being snubbed on Marthas Vinyard for his Trump defense work.

    The media is treating this like it’s a hurricane. It’s a heist.

    • Shaun Mullen says:

      All true except the “completely understanding the nature” part.  Reporters and their editors understand in the abstract, it’s just that they, for the most part, keep jamming the scandal into familiar pigeonholes.

      And while the WaPo and NYTimes have done some fine reporting, the Haberman-Schmidt drive-bys further degrade an already mediocre body of work about what indisputably is the crime of the century and easily the greatest scandal since the Soviets stole atomic bomb secrets after World War II.

      That is why we should be so thankful work the work of Marcy and her stalwarts.

      • BobCon says:

        I agree that the stove piping is behind a lot of the problems. White House reporters are going to focus by default on what White House sources tell them, reporters who cover intelligence beats are going to have their own subculture. And their immediate editors will act the same way.

        But back in early 2017 it was time for Dean Baquet and his counterparts at other outlets to start calling up sources and asking the big questions — how big is this story going to be? how arcane/tangled is it going to get? what kind of expertise am I going to need?

        The answers would then have driven an obvious response. There was going to need to be a dedicated beat to this story, with a top level editor in charge with the authority to set rules and standards for coverage. A White House reporter would no more file a Trump-Russia story without oversight than a front section writer would poach a story about a World Series game without clearance from the sports section editor.

        Like you say, this is the crime of the century, but top media management is treating it like it’s barely more than the Sony hack.

        • Shaun Mullen says:

          Baquet in particular should have known better, and as good as The Times coverage has been in some instances — notably the Trump family’s decades-long game playing with tax  laws — there is no sense of sitting back and saying, “Wow! This really is a whole lot more than a Sony hack!”

          As a journalist, I do some of my best thinking on my back (no joke), lying in bed at night or first thing in the morning and thinking about where I’ve been, where I should go and what I’m missing.  (“Maybe that mystery gov’t-affiliated bank is VEB!”)  It is apparent that Baquet, to beat up on him some more, does not reflect and does not use his players effectively despite having the deepest bench in journalism.

  23. Marinela says:

    Regarding:
    Njrun says:
    December 30, 2018 at 12:00 am

    Don’t see the sniping you are talking about.
    It is just an article pointing out few other possibilities.
    You may disagree with the premise, but now we are discussing how this article is making the point.

    We actually need more people like the empty wheel team, able to articulate points of view based on independent thinking.

    Just curious, do you ever get bothered by the “sniping” on the right?
    If you are bothered by this article so called “sniping”, boy, your blood must be boiling hearing conservatives / right wing talking points.

  24. orionATL says:

    this is an absolute jewel of a post and commentary.

    one of the most informative i’ve read in a long while about the heart of the mueller investigation – did the russian oligarchs and government employees co-opted or commanded by putin collaborate with trump and his campaign to sway the 2016 election?

    one way or another, prague or no, trump cut-out cohen and the trump machine are being woven into the russian tapestry.

    beautiful.

  25. orionATL says:

    orion replying to orion at 12/30 1:04p above.

    paragraph locator: “… More intriguing still, as I noted above, Kilimnik was Manafort’s go-between with Oleg Deripaska…”

    i may be overreading, but the following sentence seems to imply that gru agent kalimnik was handling deripaksa. i had always thought kalimnik was a handler for manafort. if kalimnik were handling both men that would be interesting because it would imply stronger controls and more close attention to the russian election influencing operation than i had thought occurred.

    “… If so, the report that Cohen (who in fact did have communications with Peskov!) was containing the damage of Manafort’s ties to Russian oligarchs might be an attempt to distract from the way that a Russian oligarch was actually working through his handler, Kilimnik, to minimize that damage himself…”

    putin seems to have made a habit of using a collection of billionaires – russian and otherwise – as part of his machinery of sabatoge/espionage. perhaps they are more vulnerable/bribeable than one might imagine.

  26. Reader 21 says:

    Calling Steele a bs artist—can you point to where EW has done that?  Sorry but that sounds some seriously Fox/Indowars Kremliny bullshit right there—Marcy have questions about the dossier, but I’ve never heard her—or anyone of good faith—question Steele’s ability or integrity.  Dude ran MI6’s Russia desk, and was highly thought of in the counter-intel world.  Busted up the corrupt as hell FIFA, and turned Russian spies who’d tired of their corrupt ass Poisoner turning the country into a mob-run shithole.  Steele had serious concerns that Britain’s closest ally could be a secret asset of a hostile foreign foe—and patriotically warned or tried to warn the fbi about it, which the NY field office (hi Rudy) tried to bury.  Not only has Steele’s main concern not been alleviated—every piece of evidence to date indicates his concerns were 100% on point.  What a troll post.

  27. new-radical says:

    @reader21. You have completely misunderstood my post. It was a question not a statement and I had no intention to imply anything. To try to ascertain Steele’s motives is an important part of this very complex system. I have always thought Steele would be straight, given his record of public service. EW also thinks this is so, but that the dossier was purposefully contaminated and she explains that in terms of Steele’s dealing with the press and his history in the FIFA programme. I am interested in the overall strategy and I find very little. The Russians are playing the same games they always have. Their game is to destabilise Europe and strengthen their access to warm-water ports – along with many other things.
    There are about five or six separate threads that rotate and join and then slide away as the complex system self-adapts and the “players/agents” try to respond to the unfolding events. They started individually but all intersect, they might be:
    1. Trump’s reliance on laundered Russian money for his real estate business going back decades.
    2. Russian money bail-outs after the casino problems.
    3. Cohen’s relationship through his wife’s family to Central European/Ukrainian criminals.
    4. Russian money creeping into the US political system, particularly the GOP.
    5. Manafort’s long-term dark and dirty dealings.
    6. The oligarchs. The judge who presided in the first Manafort trial wanted that particular term excluded from the evidence. His reason seemed to be to suggest that they were just wealthy, successful businessmen and the term was pejorative. That is to completely misunderstand oligarch. These men have been gifted their wealth from within the deep corruption of the Soviet Union break up. Their wealth is stolen from the Soviet people. Each should be understood as a part of the wider corrupt politico/economic system. Trump made much of his capacity to turn 75 million of dirty money into 25 million of good and the oligarchs worked with him.
    Undoubtedly they are working with many more “successful businessmen worldwide”.
    All these components (agents) in the complex system are linked in some nexus with Trump. When Trump walked out on that elevator, he failed to realise that he had just opened the door to the cupboard that contained much evidence of this nefarious activity and a lot of different people would now have the capacity to look inside.
    And yes, much is speculation, but quality speculation and critical thinking are the purview of the strategist. Evidence for a criminal prosecution is not my bag.

    • William Bennett says:

      The site’s comment function eschews the “like” feature, and mostly I’m fine with that, but sometimes I feel the absence more keenly than others. So: well said.

  28. Thomasa says:

    I have visualized the Trump organization and its activities as a spiderweb of international organized crime with Trump as the fat spider at the center. It is no longer clear to me that Trump is at the center other than to be the focus of so much attention. It appears to me from reading this site and comments that he was enabled as the central focus as a useful idiot who would sell out US foreign policy to line his own pockets. As someone up thread pointed out.

    But as the wheels within wheels spin, what at first looked to me like an organized spider web now looks like the picture in one of my psychology books, from back in the day when such research was possible, of the web of a spider that had been dosed with LSD. I despair at ever figuring it out despite the valiant efforts of all on this site.

    • new-radical says:

      In Complex Systems terms it is fallacious to think of a centre or a web, although the metaphor is as good as it gets. There is no isomorphy of leadership in a CAS, so no centre or spider. Although the idea of Trump as a spider on LSD is hilarious.

      Our brains interpret the open system realities by utilizing closed system theories. We see Trump as the centre because that seems to be a logical way to interpret the system, but this is probably not valid. But its the best we’ve got at the moment. Of course, he created himself as some sort of focal point for all the nefarious activities when he opened the cupboard door and invited people to look inside. The evidence that he had no idea that he was making this invitation is to be found in his hubristic  narcissism.

      • P J Evans says:

        The shiny bug trapped in the web that the spider built just for it? He really does seem to believe that he’s the smartest guy in any room and a real leader – even though the evidence seems to be pointing to him being more of a sometimes-useful tool for others to con into doing what they want.

    • Shaun Mullen says:

      @Thomasa: Structurally, you have it exactly right.

      And although I got knocked around a bit when I suggested this the other day in another thread, not everything associated with the scandal has run with Swiss-watch precision.  Many of the players are dolts and, to an extent, Putin’s success was because of circumstances beyond his control — a perfectly greedy and blackmailable patsy as a Republican candidate, GOP resistance to the idea Russia was meddling through late 2016, which gave him breathing room, and a longtime right-wing whipping girl as the patsy’s opponent.

      Oh, and if you want to see what Trump looks like on LSD, check this out.

  29. David K. Peers says:

    I didn’t fully read this article nor all the subsequent comments, and am too polite to explain why; however, is it possible the author has figured out everything the NY Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, NY Mag, CNN, MSNBC, Vox, Politico and Axios have missed?

    My money is on no.

  30. David K. Peers says:

    Quick question: why isn’t the “reply” link working? I can’t reply to a specific post – press it, nothing happens – and have to start a new post each time, which I feel screws up continuity.

    Thanks.

    • bmaz says:

      Hi there “David K. Peers”. My are you not a mouthy little troll that has been here with four arrogant comments in, effectively, an hour. If you cannot bother to read our material fully, which you already copped to, and cannot be anything other than a sanctimonious jerk, thanks, but no thanks for your lame attempt at erudite commentary.

      And, until you can show me how you have contributed significantly to this blog (that has no advertising) monetarily, or heck even intellectually, you can take your whiny crap about the state of our reply button and, well, you know.

    • Marinela says:

      Regarding the reply button, is it possible that it has a window after which it times out?Then, after the timeout, you cannot reply.

      I think the feature is not working properly.

      As a programmer, I would design a blog like this with a timeout, so if no new thread messages, you can reply life to the last message. But as new messages start, it gets dificult to follow up parallel threads. So one solution would be to allow for reply to always work, and notify the message originator when a reply occured.

      One issue with the reply now, when it works, the contributors to that thread message may never read the reply as they don’t know a reply occured, unless they look to all of their comments, just in case.

      An automated notification would be nice.

      Can take this issue offline, maybe I can help.

  31. NJrun says:

    I can’t for the life of me understand the responses to me.

    earl, you say: “It’s less what she cares about, it’s what she does that counts.” Does? This is about what is written by journalists. Who is *doing* anything?

    you say: “I read you as taking McClatchy at face value, but not EW.” McClatchy I’m judging by the facts of the story, EW I’m discussing her opinion, which I find unbecoming of a journalist.

    You say: “As for the Democrats and the FBI, I understand her point to be that the Dems have gotten off easy because the FBI did not take too hard a look into their questionable behavior.” Gotten off easy? What crimes did they get away with? And what does that have to do with a story about Michel Cohen?

    you say: “That is important and it is not a good or healthy sign. It elicits more questionable behavior – because they got away with it – at a time when the Dems are reinvigorating their power. They need to hold themselves to account in order to hold others to account, and to reinvigorate their party enough that it overcomes gerrymandering and passivity and retakes the White House and a working majority in both houses of Congress.” Seriously, preach on, but those are political opinions and what in hell does that have to do with a story about Michael Cohen?

    you say: “Mr. Trump will have left more damage in his wake than the banksters. ” Seriously, you use a nonsensical pejorative like banksters and want to be taken seriously (by someone in the financial industry)?”

    emptywheel says: “Your last sentence suggests you buy the Mueller investigation, not the Steele allegations, which don’t allege that.” How does one *buy* the Mueller investigation or the Steele allegations?

    you say: “If so, you might ask why you’re clinging to something that (you over state in any case) doesn’t do a thing to advance the evidence that Mueller has laid out.” It wouldn’t occur to me to ask myself this, even if I could unpack what it means.

    you say: “I don’t care about the narrative …. I also care because a central part of the story that journalists have to tell — because it will never show up in a Mueller indictment — is what happened between DNC and FBI.” So you don’t care but you do care.

    you say: “There are a great many people spinning a story on the other side that simply doesn’t sustain scrutiny vis a vis FBI’s norm. But there are also a lot of Democrats trying to obscure precisely what they did when. Tracking what the dossier actually said and when it said it is part of that process.” It sounds like you care a lot that some Democrats get punished, which a) is fine as an opinion but is the words of an advocate not an impartial journalist; b) has nothing to do with the story about Cohen; and c) belies the fact that you do *care*.

    What you keep saying in your responses is that it bothers you that there is some narrative created by the McClatchy article of which you do not approve. Maybe the concern is on the side of angels. But don’t say you don’t care.

    • Callender says:

      I really enjoy reading this site and trying to keep up.  It isn’t easy.   I have to say I’m sort of with NJrun on the subject of the dossier.   It’s a piece, perhaps a very small piece.  But it’s not nothing.

      There must be something I’m missing.  I’m like NJrun, in that the responses to the post seem to miss the mark.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thank you for coming here and doing nothing but sniping about what you allege is me sniping.

      It has been a tremendous contribution to what is otherwise an actually worthwhile discussion section.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Banksters has indeed a legitimate and obvious pedigree, most assuredly since they almost toppled the global financial markets a decade ago.  Failing to acknowledge that demonstrates the overweening regard for establishment egos and lack of seriousness one expects from an access-only journalist.

      To quote from the FT, cited above by holdingsteady (citation omitted):

      Bankster is a derogatory term and is often used to refer to members of the banking industry who use dishonest or fraudulent means to make money. The term is said to have been coined by Leon Degrelle, a right wing journalist, in the 1930s. It is a contraction of the terms gangster and banker and is frequently applied in situations where vulnerable people have been exploited, such as in the US subprime loan scandal that precipitated the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

  32. new-radical says:

    Dear NJrun,

    It appears to me that this is a site for people with serious opinions, and those serious opinions are earned. The web is a world for opinionated people, they are everywhere, just go to twitter and you will find a plethora.

    But this site belongs to EW, her opinion is what we are interested in. Because we (I can’t [shouldn’t] speak for anyone else) value the intellect she brings to serious, progressive, political journalism.

    So if you wade in with a fuck off, expect to be slapped.

    Just my opinion.

     

  33. Kevin Finnerty says:

    I think the deep and abiding focus on proving the Steele Dossier is true (at the expense of ignoring the damning details that have already been revealed) is driven by the desire to prove the pee tape is real. That’s what this is really about.

  34. Trip says:

    @Marinela (December 30, 2018 at 9:39 pm), clearly I’m not a techie, but the more bells and whistles, the more expensive the site is to keep up, right? Notifications aren’t really necessary, I think.

    • Marinela says:

      You have a reply button that doesn’t seem to work as designed. Why even have it in the first place? Some sort of consistency would be good.

      I know sometimes works.

      If we reply using the @Name (date) it will always work and the messages are serialized, so they cannot be missed.

      In technical world, @Name, can be used as a tag to notify.

      Anyway, just trying to help.

       

      • Trip says:

        I thought the notifications thing would add bulk. You’d have to essentially leave/make online accounts, (multiplied by every user/commenter).

    • Marinela says:

      As for notifications, you would have to register to get them. If you don’t register, which would be default setting, will behave as it does now. The notifications I am talking about, are granular to a person thread, not to everything in the blog, otherwise you would get too much noise. I think there is a general notification in place already now. I didn’t use it yet, but this is not what I am talking about.

  35. NJrun says:

    Newradical, thanks, I am a serious person. To be clear, though, on this thread I’m not talking about the dossier. My point is simply that from my experience as a journalist it is weird that EW has such strong criticism of an article– not on the grounds that it is factually wrong, but that it doesn’t implicate some other person or that it somehow moves “the story” in the wrong direction. That may or may not be right, but it’s a position of an advocate, not a journalist.

    • emptywheel says:

      Wow.

      Multiple posts in you make it clear what your beef is.

      The article is thinly sourced, even according to McClatchy itself. It is third hand information. From that McClatchy makes claims (Mueller has this information) that hundreds of other entities could claim, myself included.

      So yes, I could take issue with the article itself. Rather than doing so, I do (hmmm, wow, how about this) work. Work that is designed to test the claims of the article (which makes no independent reporting on the ACTUAL conspiracy) and the dossier (which does). That work actually shows a mixed result–one indication to those following along that I’m not ruling out the dossier claims across the board, but still testing it according to the information that has been confirmed.

      Anyway, thanks for struggling so hard to make your point clear.

  36. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The supposed disinterestedness of MSM journalism is false. It hides many things, most often an establishment bias and a determination to exclude views uncomfortable to it.

    The disinterested MSM gives us Brooks and Shields, the spectrum of opinion from A to B. Or it gives us ueber-partisan hacks like Rick Santorum, who sell lies and false equivalency, and whose job it is to bring the match to gunpowder factory.

    From the establishment’s perspective, journalism’s job is to constrict the Overton Window, not to enlarge it. It is to ostracize the Sy Hershes, Noam Chomskies, and Pierre Bourdieus, not to let them in or permit them the cultural status to affect consensus views.

    Legitimate journalism, like any academic profession, does not require having no opinion. It requires disclosing one’s biases, not the impossible task of not having them.

    Readers then have a job to do: they have to assess the journalism in light of its and their biases. That kind of journalism makes passive consumerism – the nirvana of neolibieralism – impossible. Thank God it does.

    • NJrun says:

      earl, I care passionately about journalism, and I agree that pure disinterestness is impossible. It was impossible, for example, to cover a trial and not secretly hope the bad guy got convicted. It’s hard to cover a political race and not secretly hope the idiot candidate loses.

      I also agree that most journalists fail to provide proper perspective in many articles. It was something I tried hard to capture and I think it was why I was successful (and ultimately recruited into the industry I covered).  Being someone who is now sometimes interviewed I can see the frustration of being on the other side. My quotes are not always germane or taken out of context.

      IMO Brooks and Shields are not journalists, they are minstrels in a show. That illustrates though that journalism is a wide thing, there are all sorts of varying outlets with different audiences and different missions. TV, radio, print, blogs, national, local, etc., all have different missions and so generalizing the way you do paints too broad a brush.

      Anyway, I read this site because it is informative, and rarely comment. In this case I have personal expertise on the subject I brought up and thought I could add some perspective. JMHO. I think we have much more in common than not. Cheers.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        “[G]eneralizing the way you do paints [with] too broad a brush.”

        Depends what one is trying to cover and why.

        As for one of the example’s you give, one needn’t cover a political race with the MSM’s usual false equivalency both siderism.

        One could make clear, for example, when a candidate’s statements have no obvious basis in fact, or that his views are starkly at odds with his many past statements and actions.  Once could call an obvious falsehood a lie, unless one works at the NYT.

        Equally useful would be pointing out that both candidates are two peas in a pod and have nary a hair separating them except which party they would caucus with.  Anything but the horse race pablum put forward by the most well-compensated journalists on the planet.

        • Trip says:

          This is one of the reasons I can’t tolerate Kornacki (sp?), aside from being over the top. It’s like sports coverage.

          As to the commenter, it’s not even clear to me what the hell the argument is anymore. It’s like that Monty Python Sketch about a 5 minute argument.

  37. J R in WV says:

    I have always wanted to take a small boat cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean. Such a beautiful and historic area of the world, so significant to our evolution as thinkers. Both the AIA and National Geographic sponsor small boat cruises in the area in the spring and fall.

    Could do without the Russian financiers on board, tho, or the Trump Operation scum either!

    Off topic a little, but lots of people tour in the area who aren’t associated with money laundering and other criminal conspiracies. ETA to fix this last sentence.

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