The Steele Dossier, Part 2: The McCain Connection and "Salacious" Accusations

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

The FBI stated that several of the Steele investigative memos were handed over to the Crossfire Hurricane team on September 19, 2016.  Yet, by that date, the memos were perhaps the worst-kept secret in Washington.  But only two months later they get around to doing anything about it.  

How and why did the dossier ever become public?  According to the official narrative, two things happened.  First, Comey announced that he was reopening the Clinton email server investigation on October 28.  Second, a New York Times article on November 1st reported that the FBI had determined no clear link between the Trump campaign and Russia.  According to Simpson, Steele ceased contact with the FBI because of these reports and Comey’s action while Peter Strozk contends that Steele stopped interactions with the FBI when it became known Steele was talking to reporters.  Steele blames the New York field office for sitting on the initial report in July because of political bias since that office had many cohorts of Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter.

According to Simpson, the offices of Fusion GPS became a “reading room” for invited reporters from ABC, Washington Post, New York Times, The New Yorker, and other outlets but were disappointed when no outlet ran the story before the election.  By October 1st, the dossier was an open secret among DC reporters.  

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump stunned the political world by winning the election.  It is believed that the DNC ceased all payments to Fusion GPS at that point, but the company continued to fund Steele. 

Ten days after the election, the Halifax International Security Forum was held in Canada.  In attendance were US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Sir Andrew Wood of Great Britain.  At the meeting, Wood told McCain of the existence of the dossier which indicates that Steele or US intelligence had shared it with British intelligence. 

However, Simpson later testified that Steele had met David Kramer, a longtime aide to McCain, at the Halifax forum.  Whatever the timeline, Steele handed over the dossier to Kramer who then handed it over to McCain sometime in early December.  McCain went to Comey who informed the senator that the FBI had an investigation already underway.  It is suspected that sometime in December, in an effort to smear Trump, who Kramer disliked immensely, Kramer allegedly turned the documents over to Buzzfeed.

On January 5, 2017, Obama was informed of the investigation and the dossier.  On January 10, Buzzfeed published all the memos Steele had compiled. Suddenly, the worst kept secret in Washington journalistic circles was coming out.  It started with the leak of the Obama and Trump briefings and a “seed story” by CNN that the briefing included the fact Russia had compromising information on Trump, although they played the altar boy and claimed the dossier could not be independently corroborated.  That did not stop Buzzfeed from publishing the dossier in its entirety.  The CNN story bolstered the eventual Buzzfeed story.   

When Buzzfeed first published the original 35 page document in January, each report was numbered with page numbers handwritten at the bottom.  Each report was about 3 pages long.  The first 16 reports had typewritten numbers in the header starting with number 80 to 135, but the numerical order did not match the chronological order of the dates.  The 17th report from December is numbered 166.  One would assume the order of the reports were 1 to 166, but only certain reports made up the eventual dossier.  Hence, what happened to the other reports?  The first report is numbered “80” begging the question where reports 1-79 are?  The second report is number 86- where did 81-85 go?  What was in those reports and did they bolster or refute the previous reports or the next one?  Was Steele just forwarding the most damaging and salacious information knowing he was doing political opposition research given his “first duty” to a paying client, and excluding exculpatory information?

Before looking at what was in the memos, it is important to note that some intelligence experts are still wary of their contents.  There was a reason media outlets, despite the best efforts of Steele and Simpson, refused to run with the story before Buzzfeed did so: many of the elements of the details could not be corroborated.  One person who expressed skepticism is Daniel Hoffman, the former CIA station chief in Moscow, who noted the information looked suspiciously like Russian disinformation.  He noted that Steele never traveled to Russia during the entire course of his research and instead relied on third-party intermediaries where their trustworthiness could not be determined.  Some of the sources are “an associate of a high ranking official,” meaning the information was second, or even third hand.  

Also, it is important to note that the memos, given their weird numerical ordering and dates out of chronological order, indicate the memos that comprise the dossier are simply raw intelligence.  They are a mash-up of events in real time using anonymous Russian sources.  If the Russians are intelligent enough to sway an American election, surely they are intelligent enough to take advantage of a disinformation campaign using Steele as an unwitting dupe.  That would totally destroy the reputation of Steele.

To analyze the memos, they will be presented in numerical order, not chronologically.  Hence, #80 dated June 20, 2016 is the first.  The date is the first important thing we notice since Steele had been on the payroll only a few weeks at this time.  On June 14, the Washington Post reported: “Russian Government Hackers Penetrated DNC, Stole Opposition Research on Trump.”  This is based on the findings of CrowdStrike that determined the source of the hacks was Russia.  

If we accept the official story that Russia hacked the DNC, then it is very possible that they knew Fusion GPS in general, or Steele in particular was engaged in opposition research on Trump.  If so, then they could toy with Steele and drop tidbits of information, some true, some untrue, some half-truths.   

The memo makes three main points: (1) the Russians had been cultivating Trump for five years through a series of Kremlin-backed favors, (2) Trump declined real estate favors but readily accepted dirt on his rivals, especially Hillary Clinton, and (3) the Russians had compromising information on Trump from his 2013 Miss Universe visit to Moscow- the so-called “pee pee tape” incident. 

As to the first allegation, we know that Trump had been under surveillance since the 1990s by the intelligence service of Czechoslovakia since his first wife, Ivana, was Czech.  Trump’s first visit to Moscow came in 1987 after meeting Yury Dubinin, a Russian diplomat.  The memo says the Russians had been “cultivating” Trump for five years, or since 2011- a time period where Trump was pushing the birther nonsense and when he was seriously considering a run against Obama.

The most salacious assertion was that Trump paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on the bed in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow in 2013 because Barack and Michelle Obama once slept in the bed.  Trump was in Moscow in November 2013 to attend the Miss Universe pageant.

There is a problem with this part of the memo and does not take into account certain facts.  According to a report at The Insider who interviewed a former FSB “hotel manager,” the foyer and corridors of the Ritz-Carlton would have been covered by the FSB, but not the presidential suite since this is the room reserved for foreign dignitaries and businessmen from around the world.  It is not the job or the role of the FSB to monitor these people; that is the job of FSO which guards the grounds of the Kremlin, top Russian leaders, foreigners who visit those leaders, and businessmen.  The dossier seems to take this into account saying the operation was run by the presidential administration (PA) in Russia, not the intelligence services.

Next Diving further into the memos