ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos just interviewed Christopher Steele about his dossier. Steele doesn’t make much of a secret of why he’s trying to revive his discredited work now. Steele believes that Trump could return in 2024 and therefore he’d like everyone in the media to continue playing the game they played for the first three years of Trump’s term, i.e. making unverifiable claims and pretending the evidence to support them is just around the corner.
The problem of course is that, over the years, lots of evidence has piled up to show that the dossier is not accurate or reliable. It may even contain Russian disinformation, something Steele admits is possible. Nevertheless, Steele is doing his best to bring back the whole thing even the parts of it the FBI says are not true. ABC News lets him make these claims but the written version of the story about the interview does a pretty good job noting all of the reasons we shouldn’t be falling for this again.
Over time, journalists and experts from both sides of the political aisle grew increasingly skeptical about the dossier’s claims, noting that despite deep investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and others, many of Steele’s allegations have never been verified, and some have been debunked.
“Everyone with whom the dossier was shared sent reporters out, tried to confirm the basic allegations within it. And it never got any traction because no one could nail anything in it down,” said Barry Meier, author of “Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies,” and a vocal critic of Steele’s…
Even before the dossier surfaced publicly on Jan. 10, 2017, the FBI and several news outlets had already seen Steele’s intelligence reports and had attempted to corroborate their contents, but could not. Within days of its publication, some allegations fell apart quickly. Reports that Trump’s personal attorney and self-described fixer Michael Cohen had relatives who maintained ties to Putin were swiftly debunked…
Through it all, Steele said, he has remained confident in the broad strokes of his dossier, which he insists remain “still very credible.”
Steele would like everyone to ignore whatever parts of the dossier may be wrong and instead focus on the fact that Russia was trying to involve itself in the election at Putin’s direction. But when pressed on some of the details of the report, Steele’s response is to defend not just the general outlines but all of the dubious details. ABC Notes that his own source for the information told the FBI Steele may have taken the rumors he collected a bit too seriously. Steele has an answer for that.
His own collector — the person who actually traveled to Russia on his behalf to gather information, including the “pee tape” allegation — later told the FBI that he “felt that the tenor of Steele’s reports was far more ‘conclusive’ than was justified,” and that “information came from ‘word of mouth and hearsay’ … ‘conversation that [he/she] had with friends over beers,'” according to a Justice Department inspector general report.
Steele suggested his collector may have “taken fright” at having his cover blown and “[tried] to downplay and underestimate” his own reporting when he spoke to the FBI.
Here’s another possibility, one that fits with human nature. Steele’s source was happy to provide him with whatever wild tales he could gather over beers about Trump. He was doing it for a little cash as part of an oppo-report that no one cared about. It was easy money. Then when it became international news and the FBI got involved, suddenly the source sobered up and revealed the truth: This stuff was never that credible. It was all rumor and speculation. And that’s the possibility most favorable to Steele. The other possibility, which seems just as likely, is that the source was a Russian agent feeding him disinformation.
But again, Steele can’t really afford to admit that so he’s still maintaining all of it, even the parts that have been discredited, might be true. The pee tape, he claims, might still be out there in a safe that Putin controls. As for Michael Cohen’s secret trip to Prague, something that the DOJ IG and the Mueller report say didn’t happen, Steele is still defending that as well. Asked if he had regrets about any of the elements of the dossier which haven’t held up, Steele was defiant:
“Not the ‘pee tape,’ not Michael Cohen in Prague, not Carter Page?” asked Stephanopoulos.
“None of those things, to my mind, have been disproven,” Steele replied. “They may not have been proven. And we maybe will hear more about those things as we go forward.”
Cohen was asked for his take on Steele still defending the claim he made a trip to Prague. Cohen replied, “I eagerly await his next secret dossier which proves the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and that Elvis is still alive.”
At this point, there’s no reason anyone should be taking Steele’s dossier seriously but there are still a lot of people on the left, especially those who championed the dossier in the media, who would rather revive it than admit they were wrong about it.
Update: Here’s a portion of the Steele interview.