Steele-ing an Election

The infamous “Steele Dossier” seems to have assumed a permanent place in American presidential politics. Just this week the Dossier was cited by numerous pundits in the mainstream media as proof of Trump-Russia collusion. In the remote event you missed it, the Dossier is a compilation of salacious allegations against President Trump made by unnamed Russian sources and compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy and one-time FBI informant. For unknown reasons, Steele was reportedly desperate to prevent Trump’s election. He was not alone in his angst.

Erstwhile Russian involvement is critical to the Resistance claim that the 2016 election was illegitimate. Too bad for the claim, none of the Steele allegations have been verified despite two years of heroic media effort. Yahoo News pundit Michael Isikoff, one of the first to break the story in 2016, has admitted Steele’s allegations are “likely false.” Former FBI Director James Comey has testified that FBI had been unable to verify any of the allegations. Steele himself testified under oath to British authorities that he too is unable to verify any of the Dossier’s claims. Yet the media still uses the Dossier to make its “case” for collusion.

This is not to say the Russians didn’t try to interfere in the U.S. elections, only that the Steele Dossier provides no proof of Trump-Russia collusion. Neither do the reported findings to date of the Mueller probe. The DoJ indictment of Russian agents for attempted interference explicitly rules out witting involvement of any Americans. The indictments also disavow that any votes were corrupted by Russian efforts.

Steele was hired to develop the dossier by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, a client of the Perkins-Coie law firm. Perkins-Coie was in the employ of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign organization. The GPS-Fusion dossier project was managed by company founder Glenn Simpson and employee Nellie Ohr, wife of senior Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr. The dossier was paid for by DNC/Clinton via a money-laundering pathway. Neither the DNC nor Hillary Clinton were disinterested observers.

Where the story really gets interesting is what senior law enforcement and intelligence managers did with the Dossier. They did two things that should disturb any responsible citizen: First, they participated in the leaking of the dossier’s allegations to the media. Leaking information pursuant to an FBI investigation is irregular at best, and likely illegal. Second, they used the Dossier as evidence of probable cause in support of multiple applications for a FISA warrant to spy on U.S. citizen Carter Page, a one-time advisor to the Trump campaign. The FISA warrant applications failed to clearly spell out either the funding source or the lack of corroborating evidence.

The root questions of course are whether or not Russia changed our 2016 election results and whether or not candidate Trump -- or any other American -- helped them do it. There is, as indicated above, no evidence votes were changed. But there is evidence of collusion.

First the Trump side: Members of the Trump campaign met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in the Trump Tower, ostensibly to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. No dirt was provided. Veselnitskaya instead lobbied for repeal of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, offering as she had in the past for the Russian government to ease punitive restrictions on the adoption of Russian orphans. But there is no question Trump campaign officials, perhaps Trump himself, were at least willing to deal in Russian dirt. No crime here, but nothing to brag about either.

Now the Democratic side: As we have seen, the DNC and the Clinton campaign organization went to extraordinary lengths to hide their efforts to plant disinformation unfavorable to the Trump campaign. Certainly, Clinton could argue she herself hadn’t sat with any Russians since resigning from the State Department. But the money trail from her campaign through Perkins-Coie and Fusion GPS to the hypothetical Russians tells the tale. Worse, DNC and the Clinton campaign clearly colluded with senior U.S. government officials to influence the election and, later, to effect a coup against the Trump administration. This is a whole lot worse than merely being willing to receive opposition-research dirt.

There is one more entry in the Democratic account: Russian attorney Veselnitskaya is reported to have attended meetings with Fusion GPS, immediately before and just after her meeting in Trump Tower. What was the purpose of these sit downs?

In the end, the Steele Dossier is evidence of disinformation efforts, not Trump-Russia collusion. Next time you hear media pundits touting the Dossier as proof of anything, you should know it’s just the Resistance taking another sip of the Kool-Aid.

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