What did the Steele Dossier hoax cost America?

A Wall Street Journal investigative report this week highlights how frivolous the claims in the Steele dossier were, and how much of the attempt by Christopher Steele, the vaunted ex-British spy, to verify or even control them was non-existent.

The sources for many of Steele’s allegations consisted of three people “gathered around a small corporate advertising contract,” none of whom had extensive knowledge of Kremlin politics or the Trump campaign: the traveling researcher Washington-based, Russian-born Igor Danchenko; a childhood friend, Olga Galina, who was employed by a Cyprus-based internet company; and Charles Dolan, an American public relations official whom the Cypriot society sought independent advice from.

As Ms. Galina and Mr. Dolan would later tell investigators, they were shocked to learn that Mr. Danchenko had recorded their pointless chatter and speculation about the upcoming 2016 election and passed it on as “intelligence.” One must underscore with extreme prejudice Mr. Steele’s studious incuriosity as to the origin of the garbage he passed on to the Clinton campaign, the only interesting question being how aware the Clinton campaign was or she didn’t care either.

Because unless you’re a coward like 90% of the media and 100% of the foreign policy class in Washington, you realize now that the fury that consumed the country for three years didn’t come from Donald Trump or even Russia, but from a hoax sponsored by Clinton.

To the extent that it has sullied our politics, damaged the reputation and foreign relations of the United States, or influenced the calculations and miscalculations of Vladimir Putin, the blame lies in one place. Regardless of the Kremlin’s six-figure investment in Facebook and Twitter memes or even its stolen Democratic email traffic, nothing in Vladimir Putin’s bag of tricks has inflicted one-millionth the damage to American life. that Steele’s fabrications have caused.

As can also now be seen with perfect clarity, Mr. Trump’s own contributions to the legend of collusion, which are still held up by some morons in the press as evidence, have only been given the flimsy valence they once had. than in association with Steele’s false narrative. Mr. Trump’s joke about Russia releasing Hillary’s emails was just that, an inappropriate joke. And so on, until his ill-fated performance at the Helsinki summit and his misguided landing on Ukrainian politics for half a second. An inexperienced (and blustering) politician was facing an unprecedented onslaught of fabricated treason allegations and a press determined to portray his election as illegitimate.

Mr. Trump may be a distillation of human vices, but he will always be the president who has withstood the most insidious and organized insults in modern memory. His enemies did it for him, including a largely goofy media that showed their true colors, which turned out to have nothing to do with fearless, truth-seeking concern.

It should be noted, in light of recent events, that there is also the coterie of “experts”, inside and outside of government, on whom we rely to shape attitudes and policy towards places such as Russia and Ukraine. Since America will likely have a GOP President and Congress again, we may need a whole new foreign policy elite, uncontaminated and uncorrupted by their participation in the collusion lie or their cowardice of not oppose it.

An enigma in this regard is Fiona Hill, who worked in the Trump White House as a Russia expert and who also, surprisingly, was the link to introduce Mr. Steele to Mr. Danchenko, and Mr. Danchenko to Mr. Dolan. If anyone was in a position to expose Steele’s hoax, it was Mrs. Hill. Be that as it may, for more than three years, all interests and actions involved in US-Russian politics have been subordinated to the circus of collusion, and it is difficult to say that the consequences have been good.

Five years have passed since a column here on the Steele Dossier titled “Anatomy of a Witch Hunt”, which began by quoting Timur Kuran and Cass Sunstein’s invaluable 1999 law review article on “stunts of availability”, while some irresponsible media frenzies have become known.

It is worth mentioning in the same breath the late Bob McClory of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, a former Catholic priest who thought deeply about the difference between the verbs ‘believe’ and ‘know’ – and why the discipline of information is limited to the last. From day one, if the reporters had focused on the one thing they knew unmistakably to be true after talking to Mr. Steele, they would have discovered the real story: a paid foreign agent was circulating slanderous stories that he did not vouch for. not the veracity, of which sources he would not reveal, without any documentation, in the bet that a Washington reporter could be tricked into reporting them.

Potomac Watch (12/12/19): Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham tears up the “Clinton” or “Steele” dossier, following the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report. Image: Reuters/Erin Scott

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