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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 12, 2017

 

Trump dossier: Crooks and daggers

by Tom Sullivan

The BBC this morning offers more details about the dossier alleging connections between President-elect Donald Trump and the Russian government. First, its author: ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele. The BBC reports Steele left his home this week and is now in hiding.

The Telegraph summarizes how we got here:

The existence of the dossier, which ran to 35 pages in total, comprising several reports filed over the course of six months, had been common knowledge among journalists in the US for more than half a year, but it was only given credence when the US news network CNN reported that Mr Trump and President Barack Obama had been given a two-page summary of its contents by the FBI.
BBC news correspondent Paul Wood reports that "a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump's organisation or his election campaign." Wood reveals more about the material Russian agents compiled on Donald Trump and his business dealings:
And the former MI6 agent is not the only source for the claim about Russian kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".

Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg - and that the material was "of a sexual nature".
Wood cautions, "Mr Trump and his supporters are right to point out that these are unsubstantiated allegations."

When questioned on details in this story, "a senior member of the US intelligence community" would only confirm or deny what Wood had already put together. The task force Wood describes includes "six agencies or departments" looking for transfers from two Russian banks to the United States. Justice Department attorneys obtained a warrant from the FISA court on October 15, Wood claims. What became of that investigation Wood does not know. But the tapes?
If a tape exists, the Russians would hardly give it up, though some hope to encourage a disloyal FSB officer who might want to make some serious money. Before the election, Larry Flynt, publisher of the pornographic magazine Hustler, put up a million dollars for incriminating tape of Mr Trump. Penthouse has now followed with its own offer of a million dollars for the Ritz-Carlton tape (if it exists).
Trumpsters wanted a reality-show president. They got one.

Both in a tweet and at his press event yesterday, Trump blamed the intelligence services he will soon control for leaking the dossier members of the press have had for months.

The Guardian reports:
Intelligence veterans reacted with shock to the renewed and intensified attack, with one saying Trump had exhibited “open, irrational and hysterical hostility” to the community on the eve of Thursday’s confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Another suggested conscientious intelligence officials may have to contemplate resignation.

The intelligence agencies neither compiled nor leaked the unverified dossier. It and several of the claims it contained have circulated for months within newsrooms, including the Guardian’s, which resisted their publication until adequate verification could be unearthed.
A week ahead of his inauguration, Trump is still entangled in a self-made web of conflicts of interest - his plan for separating himself from them is a subject of ridicule. At his press event yesterday, Trump displayed a stack of folders allegedly containing documents signed to separate him from his business interests. Yet his staff refused reporters' requests to examine them.

It was a scene reminiscent of Richard Nixon's speech delivered beside a table stacked with binders of edited "Watergate" tape transcripts, and even less transparent. I'm not a crook. See?