Shortly before his inauguration, Trump was hit by a scandalous report published by Buzzfeed.
The document – the so-called “Steele Dossier,” named after its principal author Christopher Steele – describes evidence extracted from a variety of unnamed sources regarding the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian authorities during the presidential election.
The dossier also includes allegations of bizarre sexual acts Trump may have engaged in, including one scenario where he paid prostitutes to urinate on a bed that Barack and Michelle Obama once slept in.
Buzzfeed was hit by a defamation lawsuit from a Russian named in the report. The highly esteemed journalist Bob Woodward declared the report “garbage.” The dossier has since receded into the background in respectable news outlets’ coverage of the Trump Administration.
But we now know that the FBI investigators looking into Trump’s Russian ties are taking the dossier very seriously. Just last month, Steele divulged his sources to Robert Mueller’s team. And, as the legal expert Seth Abramson points out, much of the information in the report has been – quite shockingly – proven correct.
This is the MOST IMPORTANT Trump-Russia link I've ever tweeted. Please read and share it widely. It's GAME-CHANGING. https://t.co/BfiPFW3IYr
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) September 6, 2017
Abramson has circulated an article written by former CIA professional John Sipher for the website Just Security that breaks down what investigators look for in a document like the Steele Dossier, and how much of its contents may or may not be true.
Sipher’s general take: much of the dossier’s information could be very real.
While journalists have focused on the report’s unverified nature, the fact of the matter is that Steele – a former British spy and head of a private intelligence firm called Orbis Business Intelligence – produced “raw reporting” drawn from unnamed sources. This type of information may not be useful from a journalist’s perspective, but intelligence analysts routinely process such reporting.
All of these details fit squarely within the standard operating practices of the world of espionage.
Sipher points out that the Steele dossier was prescient on a number of facts that have since come to light, including Trump surrogate activities in Russia carried out by Carter Page and Paul Manafort, as well as Russian attempts to pass along damaging information on Clinton to the Trump camp; recall Don Jr.’s “I love it” email?
With many of these facts alluded to in the Steele dossier – which was written before major news outlets broke these scandalous stories – what about the other details in the report, such as Trump’s sexual activities in Russia?
Sipher thinks that the allegations may hold water:
I think it is fair to say that the report is not “garbage” as several commentators claimed. The Orbis sources certainly got some things right – details that they could not have known prior. Steele and his company appear serious and credible…All that said, one large portion of the dossier is crystal clear, certain, consistent and corroborated. Russia’s goal all along has been to do damage to America and our leadership role in the world. Also, the methods described in the report fit the Russians to a tee.
Time will tell how much of the Steele Dossier is true. But with Mueller’s team in possession of Steele’s sources and the former British spy considered reliable amongst the international intelligence community, we could be in store for some spectacular fireworks.