News About Steele Dossier Isn’t New

The Steele Dossier is in the news again. Last week we learned that Igor Danchenko, described as “the dossier’s primary intelligence collector” by Erik Wemple, has been indicted for lying to the FBI. This has set off many accusations of wrongdoing by mainstream media. For example, Sarah Fischer writes at Axios:

A reckoning is hitting news organizations for years-old coverage of the 2017 Steele dossier, after the document’s primary source was charged with lying to the FBI.

Why it matters: It’s one of the most egregious journalistic errors in modern history, and the media’s response to its own mistakes has so far been tepid.

Outsized coverage of the unvetted document drove a media frenzy at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency that helped drive a narrative of collusion between former President Trump and Russia.

It also helped drive an even bigger wedge between former President Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency.

As far as egregious journalistic errors of modern history go, seems to me it pales in comparision to the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails and George W. Bush’s alleged National Guard service. I’m sure some of you can think of more egregious journalistic errors of modern history.

And as I remember, there were plenty of other factors driving a wedge between Trump and the press at the very beginning of his presidency. That well had already been poisoned before Sean Spicer trotted out and lied about the crowds at Trump’s inauguration. See, for example, Partisan Crowds at Trump Rallies Menace and Frighten News Media, New York Times, October 14, 2016. I doubt the dossier made any difference.

But here is why I am confused.

First, I thought it was understood back in 2017 that the dossier consisted of raw and unvetted information that may or may not be true. That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Further, there’s been a lot of reporting since 2017 that pretty much discredited the dossier.  For example, Wemple wrote in August 2020,

The Mueller report, released in April 2019, failed to corroborate key dossier contentions. The report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, released in December 2019, destroyed it with venomous bureaucratese. The Intelligence Committee report relies extensively on Horowitz’s conclusions and lands in essentially the same neighborhood: The FBI, concludes the report, gave Steele’s reporting “unjustified credence” and failed to “adjust its approach to Steele’s reporting once one of Steele’s subsources provided information that raised serious concerns about the source descriptions in the Steele Dossier. The Committee further found that Steele’s reporting lacked rigor and transparency about the quality of the sourcing.” The FBI erred in relying on the dossier in seeking FISA surveillance authorization for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign operative.

I hadn’t noticed anyone taking the dossier seriously, or even talking about it much, for quite a while. I don’t believe Danchenko’s indictment is showing us anything new.

Second, allegedly the dossier was important because it was the chief reason Trump was being investigated for possible collusion with Russia. But I don’t believe that’s true, either. Right-wing media kept making that claim, but I was reading in other sources that the warrants obtained by investigators were based on other information, and that the dossier was just incidental. I wrote in 2018,

The Senate Judiciary Committee behaves as if the Steele Dossier is the lynchpin against all the anti-Trump allegations, and if it were discredited all would be resolved in Trump’s favor. But it seems to me the Steele Dossier is nearly irrelevant at this point. It wasn’t even the first clue of possible collusion that caught the FBI’s interest, as was once believed. We now know the first clue was Trump foreign policy adviser/coffee boy George Papadopoulos’s drunken bragging to an Australian ambassador that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. … Seems to me that if the Steele Dossier had never been written, we’d still be in about the same place regarding the several investigations.

So, if the Steele Dossier evaporates, that doesn’t exonerate Trump and doesn’t prove that the entire investigation was just a political stunt. It doesn’t change anything, really. Although if I were given to conspiracy theories, I might wonder if Igor Danchenko — under indictment, but not yet convicted — wasn’t working for the Trump campaign all along.

See also At last, Beltway introspection! by Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice. A hoot.

And if you’re still reading this, I do hope you check out my fundraiser to keep Mahablog online. I really do need some help.

Igor Danchenko

13 thoughts on “News About Steele Dossier Isn’t New

  1. The reich-wing likes to scream outrage and the corporately owned media generally parrots that outrage. 

    Your recollections about the Steele Dossier are consistent with mine.  It was never an 'intelligence document';  it was always a raw collection of gossip and rumors collected by Steele and he never said otherwise. The other always forgotten part of the Steele Dossier is that its genesis was within republican circles.

    Without manufactured outrage, lies, fear, and culture wars, what does the rePuknican Party have left?

  2. They cannot be clearer that they want Trump back in the White House and are actively working to make it so.

    I agree wholeheartedly that THEY deserve to live in a country where he's president. But WE don't.

  3. So Igor Danchenko  is indicted for lying to the F.B.I..  Daniel Steele's report included his information, which added credibility to Danchenko's  misinformation.  Steel's report did add a level of evidence that Russia was quite involved in collaboration with Trump to get him elected.  Much subsequent evidence has supported an untoward relationship between Russia and Trump that, in all probability, continues to this day.  

    The Republican party was able to hide Nixon's prolongation of the Vietnam war for his political gain until recently.  I have heard no apology from the Republican Party to the American Soldiers who died from this action by Nixon.  It is like he gets a pardon for that, as Trump is getting cover and a pardon for being a Putin puppet.  At least Danchenko is getting some prosecution.  


  4. What is going on between Trump and Putin? The GOP would have you believe that if everything in the Steele dossier isn’t proven then everything about Tromp and Russia is disproven.

    There are legitimate questions about the server in Trump Tower communicating with a Russian bank. There are legitimate questions about Manifort’s ties to Russia and his pardon.

    The NRA may have funneled Russian money tu Trump’s campaign. Flynn has money ties to Russia. 

    A major source to a minor document has been charged. The questions remain. Does Putin have Trump by the balls?

    • Putin doesn't need to have anything on Trump. Trump is held captive to Putin by penis envy. Sorta like the lyrics in the song, Wind beneath My Wings. "You're every thing I wish I could be."

      • There's something weird happened in Helsinki. IMO. Trump took the US interpreter's notes – that's a signal of something that was said that was an explicit reminder by Putin that he has the power to publicly destroy Trump.

        When Trump went into the meeting he was four inches taller than Putin. When he came out, Trump was, in body language, four inches shorter. 

        That's an opinion but Trump groveled publicly before Putin.n after Putin put Trump in his place.

        • I think Putin has/had the ability to greatly embarrass Trump, but that's about it. Trump kissed his butt faithfully because Putin is everything he himself wants to be.

          I believe the "Putin's got the goods on Trump" has always been wishful thinking. And I continue to be  amazed at how many people fell for the "pee tape" story.  

  5. Here's the "'Egrigiousiestiest' journalist error I can think of:" "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!"  From the Chicago Daily Tribune.


    Oh, and yeah:  I also never thought Steele's dossier was the gospel truth (which I hold no differently from a heretic's truth! 😉 ).

    I always took what I read about what was supposed to be in it, and told me own self, "Hey Self.  Take everything with at least a medium grain of salt."

    Which I did. 

    Which didn't help my blood-pressure.

  6. I can't understand why it takes an intelligence committee to assess that Trump was up to no good. Forget Putin! There was flashing red lights all over the place to indicate what a low down lying and thieving bag of shit Trump was even before he hit the campaign trail. He was a well known cheat and scam artist long before the Steele dossier ever came into existence.

     So why wouldn't anybody with even the smallest amount intellectual integrity believe that at best whatever Steele had to say contained a significant portion of truthfulness. Every third word out of Trump's mouth was either a lie, a conceit, defamation, or a distortion of such magnitude that it became apparent that Trump is and was a scoundrel capable any of the items listed in the Steele dossier.

    On top of all that, we know that the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of the timing of the release of Hilary Clinton's hacked emails by WikiLeaks. There was absolutely no doubt that Trump's camp and Putin's camp were in bed together in that respect, so why should there be any reluctance to doubt they were not fully engaged in all aspects?

    And another thing. The suggestion of Trump being involved in some episode of golden showers is highly plausible when you consider the fact that sickos like Trump who find pleasure in abusing women often build a tolerance level to their abusive behavior that doesn't fully satisfy them, so they have to raise the bar by engaging in behaviors that are more degrading  and dehumanizing to their victims.

    • I knew, sooner or later, any mention of the Steele dossier would elicit some mention of golden showers.  You don't have to be a reincarnation of Nostradamus to get a predictive hit on that one. 


    • I don't think it was plausible at all. You're talking about a kind of sex addict. I don't think Trump even likes sex all that much. It's all about the conquest.  

      • That's my point. And conquest is too mild a word to describe Trump's appetites. Conquest would involve charm, wit, and civil behaviors. With Trump I would suspect that he's so gnarled up with narcissism and a host of other emotional maladies that he can only get his cookies by utter domination and subjection to his will by his victims. Like a rapist, it has more to do destroying his victims sense of self than it does with sex.

         Take for example his little quip ( supposedly in jest?) to Lindsey Graham.  "On your Knees!" And Lindsey laid down like a good boy. Your wish is my command, sire?

  7. Correct me if my recollection is wrong.  At the time, the right was complaining that the Steele dossier was the driving force behind the US intelligence community getting approval for their FISA application re. Carter Page.  "The FBI was politicized and out to get Trump from the get-go!!!!"

    My recollection is that this FISA application was approved before the Steele Dossier was provided to the US.  That makes the whole argument on the right ridiculous.

    A couple of other points:
    The relationship between Trump and the press was poisoned by Trump himself long before the 2016 election, by virtue of the fact that he called the legitimate news operations in the US "fake news" over and over while supporting the true fake news outlets (Faux, Breitbart, etc.). 
    I long ago gave up on worrying about whether we could prove that Trump is a GRU asset.  He is. You don't have to be paid by a foreign power to be an asset that takes direction.  Nobody needs to produce evidence that Putin told him to do stuff.  Nobody needs to produce evidence that Russian-sourced money was being funneled to him both to his business and his political organizations. All that matters is that he acted every day as a GRU asset. In the spy business, there are many ways to cultivate an asset. It can even be done with totally legal and totally public actions.



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