Yesterday The New Yorker published a 15,000 word piece about Christopher Steele, the former British spook who created the "dossier" about alleged Russian interference with Trump. Written by Jane Mayer the piece is designed to let Steele shine in the very best light. A civil servant who only followed his conscience when he peddled his made-up dirt to the FBI, the media and Congress.
That a private investigator, highly paid by the Clinton campaign to find dirt about Trump, was acting out of decency, would be unbelievable in the best case. But the piece is way worse. There are at least six factual errors in it which anyone who has followed the affair can easily detect. Some new allegations in the piece are so thinly sourced that any decent editor would have thrown them out.
The first graph is already a mess:
In January, after a long day at his London office, Christopher Steele, the former spy turned private investigator, was stepping off a commuter train in Farnham, where he lives, when one of his two phones rang. He’d been looking forward to dinner at home with his wife, and perhaps a glass of wine. It had been their dream to live in Farnham, a town in Surrey with a beautiful Georgian high street, where they could afford a house big enough to accommodate their four children, on nearly an acre of land. Steele, who is fifty-three, looked much like the other businessmen heading home, except for the fact that he kept his phones in a Faraday bag—a pouch, of military-tested double-grade fabric, designed to block signal detection.
A friend in Washington, D.C., was calling with bad news: ...
A phone, kept in a Faraday bag designed to block signals, rings? How please can a phone that can not send or receive signals, take a call? That is impossible. How can a fact-checker and/or editor at The New Yorker let such nonsense slip into the opening graph of such a large piece?
- The piece misleads the reader by insinuating that Steele was original paid by Republican money. GPS Fusion was paid by a Republican opponent of Trump to find dirt on him. That job ended after Trump had won the primaries. GPS Fusion then started to work for the Clinton campaign. Steele was hired by GPS only after the GPS client had changed. He was then tasked with finding something "Russian" on Trump.
- Mayer claims that the Democrats were only alarmed about the "hacking" of the DNC emails after, in late July 2016, Wikileaks started to publish those. That is wrong. Marcy points out that one month earlier the Guccifer 2.0 figure had already published internal details from the DNC "hack". That, at the latest, set off the alarm bells.
- Mayer also claims that none of reporters who were briefed by Steele then wrote about the dossier. But Michael Isikoff did write about it without revealing that Steele was his source. His report was used by the FBI as a confirmation of the Steele claims.
Later the piece comes up with this unfounded assertion to further polish the dossier:
It’s too early to make a final judgment about how much of Steele’s dossier will be proved wrong, but a number of Steele’s major claims have been backed up by subsequent disclosures.
That the Steele dossier was backed up by subsequent disclosures would be news to me. What evidence does Mayer have to support that?
His allegation that the Kremlin favored Trump in 2016 and was offering his campaign dirt on Hillary has been borne out.
No, it has not. Dirt on Clinton was offered to the Trump campaign by one Rob Goldstone, a British lobbyist who tried get a date with the campaign for a Russian lobbyist hired by some oligarch who wanted to get rid of sanctions enacted against him. A meeting with both lobbyists was held in the Trump Tower but cut short when it became obvious that they could not provide any dirt on Clinton. This had nothing to do with Steele or the content of his dossier.
So has his claim that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks were working together to release the D.N.C.’s e-mails.
No evidence exists to support that claim. Wikileaks, Craig Murrey and Kim Dotcom haveconsistently said that the DNC emails Wikileaks published did not come from a "hack" or from Russian sources and that Russia was not involved in their release. This again has nothing to do with the dossier.
Indeed, it’s getting harder every day to claim that Steele was simply spreading lies, now that three former Trump campaign officials—Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates, who served as deputy campaign chairman—have all pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and appear to be cooperating with the investigation.
And again: None of the cases against those persons had anything to do with Steele or his dossier. They pleaded guilty on unrelated issues.
None of these three points Jane Mayer makes is supporting the claimed veracity of the Steele dossier or any part of it. She is evidently misleading the readers by claiming that they do so.
There are some details in the Mayer piece that could be news and would normally deserve some discussion. But the piece is full of obvious errors, unreliable arguments and its sourcing is very thin. Thus nothing in it can be taken at face value.
The famous fact checking of The New Yorker completely failed with this piece. It is sad that the once venerable magazine and the admirable Jane Mayer have become willing propagandists for this lost cause.
Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller (yes, I know it is not deemed reputable) looked into some claims Mayer makes in her piece which, if true, contain new morsels on the issue. They support the standpoint that the whole dossier is fake. These points are:
- Steele likely knew who funded the dossier
- Steele used dozens of paid confidential ‘collectors’, not unpaid ones
- Steele may have earlier worked for a Kremlin-connected oligarch
- The salacious claims in the dossier were based on secondhand information
- Steele briefed Jane Mayer during the campaign
- A John McCain associate wanted to use dossier to force Trump to resign
Another new point in the Mayer piece, not in the above list, is an alleged meeting between the head of the British spy service GCHQ and the head of the CIA John Brennan in which GCHQ briefs Brennan about alleged interceptions of communication between Trump campaign associates and Russia. This is curious because the usual contact for such a case should have been the FBI, not the CIA.
But some have suggested that the Brennan came up with the idea or at least directed the campaign of smearing Trump over made-up connections with Russia. For legal reasons and deniability the affair the creation of "evidence" was outsourced to the British partners. As Pat Lang, who has led large intelligence spying and counter-intelligence operations, opines:
IMO there was a criminal conspiracy among various parts of the government, the Clinton Campaign and the MSM to rig the election against Trump, and it continues.