Well, it took them a while to get there but the NY Times has finally taken notice that the Steele dossier appears to contain a lot of false and unverifiable garbage:
The 35-page dossier, spiced up with tales of prostitutes and spies, sketched out a hair-raising story more than two years ago. Russian intelligence had used bribery and blackmail to try to turn Donald J. Trump into a source and ally, it said, and the Kremlin was running some Trump campaign aides practically as agents.
But the release on Thursday of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored what had grown clearer for months — that while many Trump aides had welcomed contacts with the Russians, some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove. Mr. Mueller’s report contained over a dozen passing references to the document’s claims but no overall assessment of why so much did not check out…
Interviews with people familiar with Mr. Steele’s work on the dossier and the F.B.I.’s scramble to vet its claims suggest that misgivings about its reliability arose not long after the document became public — and a preoccupation of Trump opponents — in early 2017. Mr. Steele has made clear to associates that he always considered the dossier to be raw intelligence — not established facts, but a starting point for further investigation.
Hold on a minute. If Steele considered the dossier raw intelligence and merely cause for further investigation, why was he talking to multiple news outlets about the dossier prior to the election? He gave quotes to Mother Jones about it in October of 2016. That doesn’t sound like someone who is handling raw intelligence. It sounds like someone helping to dump oppo prior to the election.
After pointing out that the dossier itself is now under scrutiny from AG Barr, the DOJ Inspector General and Republicans in Congress, the Times suggests two explanations for why the document appears to contain so much that isn’t so:
By January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document and three people familiar with the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. After questioning him about where he’d gotten his information, they suspected he might have added his own interpretations to reports passed on by his sources, one of the people said. For the F.B.I., that made it harder to decide what to trust…
How the dossier ended up loaded with dubious or exaggerated details remains uncertain, but the document may be the result of a high-stakes game of telephone, in which rumors and hearsay were passed from source to source.
If the FBI knew this might be a bunch of hearsay by early 2017, why did they brief the president and thereby provide the news hook needed for CNN to publish the allegations (and Buzzfeed to publish the dossier)? Shouldn’t they have been downplaying this rather than elevating it?
Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.
Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said…
Last year, in a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Buzzfeed, Mr. Steele emphasized that his reports consisted of unverified intelligence. Asked whether he took into account that some claims might be Russian fabrications, he replied, “Yes.”
The whole premise of this investigation was that Russia may have compromised Trump or people close to him. But what if the truth turns out to be that Russia compromised the dossier? This shouldn’t be shrugged off as a passing thought experiment. The NY Times is reporting that Steele thinks it’s possible his dossier contained disinformation and a former KGB general says he may be right.
Think about what the claims in the dossier have generated? Much of the past two years of anger and public outrage, the desire to eliminate the electoral college, claims Trump isn’t a legitimate president, etc, etc.—it may all be based on Russian lies. If that’s the case then the bulk of the damage Russia did to our system wasn’t though a few million dollars spent on Facebook and Twitter, it was through billions of dollars in earned media on CNN, MSNBC, and Buzzfeed (among many others). Let that sink in a moment.
What if Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the big problem he’s been made out to be for the past two years? And what if Jeff Zucker and Rachel Maddow are? The NY Times seems to get it, while largely excusing itself:
While The New York Times and many other news organizations published little about the document’s unverified claims, social media partisans and television commentators discussed them almost daily over the past two years. The dossier tantalized Mr. Trump’s opponents with a worst-case account of the president’s conduct. And for those trying to make sense of the Trump-Russia saga, the dossier infused the quest for understanding with urgency.
I’d like to think the media might take a moment to think about all of this but they are so partisan and thin-skinned I don’t think they will (this article aside). They’d rather rush onto the next Trump scandal than stop and admit that the last Trump scandal may turn out to be the worst media scandal in American history.