Fred Weir: Steele Dossier

About the Steele Dossier. From the beginning I was nagged by the question of whether anyone had seriously dug into its provenance? I mean, the chain of custody is critical in evaluating evidence, isn’t it? But that didn’t seem to matter to most conversations about it for the longest time. The impression was left hanging that Christopher Steele, crackerjack agent, had got the inside stuff straight from people in or near the Kremlin.

Now we learn that the FBI did interview Steele’s main conduit for all those claims — “Primary Sub-source” — intensively, for three days, early in the Trump administration. They just never bothered to release any of their findings to the public, even as the dossier’s main claim — Trump is a Kremlin agent of long standing, beholden to Putin due to some pee tape kompromat — took hold in the American political mind and became an article of faith for some. Still is.

The FBI notes of that interview were released just a few days ago. And they reveal the “dossier” had zero original reporting. It was concocted entirely from rumors picked up second-or-third hand, inventive guesses, drunken conversations with persons of no particular expertise, pillow talk between the main sub-source and his dependent Russian lady friend, and fragments of a garbled phone call with a “source” whose identity could not be even approximately established.

In other words, it’s way worse than even I thought. And regular readers of this page know pretty well what I thought about the likely veracity of the Steele Dossier. That such a pathetic tissue of speculation, delirium and outright falsehood could capture the American political imagination and drive debate — for years! — is simply astounding.

“Much of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump was built on the premise that Christopher Steele and his dossier were to be believed. This even though, early on, Steele’s claims failed to bear scrutiny. Just how far off the claims were became clear when the FBI interviewed Steele’s “Primary Subsource” over three days beginning on Feb. 9, 2017. Notes taken by FBI agents of those interviews were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday afternoon.”

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