For over a year, the Hillary Clinton campaign, other Democrats and liberal pundits have pummeled President Trump and his men with one main weapon: a dossier.
Written by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which received the money from the Clinton campaign, the 35 pages of memos became the Democrats’ vehicle to promote supposed Trump-Russia collusion in the presidential election.
The irony: Virtually all of Mr. Steele’s sources are Russian, meaning Democrats have been indirectly colluding with Moscow disinformation to bash the Trump team for purportedly doing the same thing.
Since the dossier’s first memo hit town in June 2016, none of its core collusion charges has been proved. There has been no confirmation by any public pronouncement or a leak from Congress’ two intelligence committees or from special counsel Robert Mueller.
That did not stop the Clinton campaign from attacking Mr. Trump. Neither has it stopped congressional Democrats, especially members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, from reading the dossier’s sensational charges into the Congressional Record and on the network news. Based on the dossier, they publicly accused people of felonies while knowing the document remained unverified.
It also did not matter that the Democrats’ targets — Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and the president, to name a few — all called the dossier fiction.
Or that investigative journalist Bob Woodward said it was “garbage.” Or that former CIA acting Director Michael Morell said the dossier’s gossip came from paid Kremlin creatures who would say anything for a buck. Or that three people accused of crimes in the dossier have filed libel lawsuits.
“As reasonable, intelligent people have understood for some time, the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ was nothing more than a political stunt designed to undermine the Trump campaign and damage the ‘deplorable’ members of the Trump movement who supported it,” Mr. Page, who has filed a lawsuit, told The Washington Times.
“Deplorables” is the label Mrs. Clinton gave to Trump supporters.
“If voters knew the truth in early November 2016, which they began to more fully understand this week regarding the actual interference in last year’s election, President Trump’s victory would have unquestionably exceeded 400 [votes] in the Electoral College,” said Mr. Page.
Mr. Steele’s accusations were particularly serious against Mr. Page, an energy investor who had worked in Moscow as a Merrill Lynch banker and was briefly a Trump campaign volunteer.
The dossier said Mr. Page met with two sanctioned Kremlin figures while on a well-publicized trip to Moscow in July 2016, that he cut a deal to end U.S. sanctions in exchange for a brokerage fee, and that he and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort orchestrated the hacking of Democratic Party computers in league with Russian intelligence.
Mr. Page said he never met the two men, had no brokerage agreement, had never met Mr. Manafort and didn’t know about the hacking until it became news in June 2016.
A source knowledgeable about the House intelligence committee probe told The Times that none of Mr. Steele’s collusion scenarios has been confirmed after months of interviewing witnesses.
Yet Democrats and the left-wing press have continued to vouch for the dossier, some to this day.
‘Doesn’t add up to me’
Brian Fallon, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign press secretary, said on Twitter that he wished he could have gone to Europe and helped Mr. Steele collude with the Kremlin to dig up Trump dirt.
“I regret I didn’t know about Christopher Steele’s hiring pre-election,” Mr. Fallon said Tuesday. “If I had, I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him.”
On Thursday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, continued to defend the dossier and Mr. Steele.
Of the effort by Republicans to find out who funded the dossier, the congressman told CNN: “So I think this is a bit of an effort to discredit Christopher Steele, discredit the dossier, ignore how much of it has been corroborated already, and ignore the fact that the intelligence community is operating from a broad array of sources as a way of basically calling this all a hoax. And it just doesn’t add up to me.”
Mr. Schiff has been praising Mr. Steele for a year. At a televised March hearing, he read copiously from the dossier.
Here is one of his citations: “According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, CEO of the Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s.”
Mr. Page said this never happened. He wrote a letter to the committee complaining about Mr. Schiff’s tactics.
The Clinton campaign used dossier misinformation to issue press statements in September 2016 that said Mr. Page stood as proof of Trump-Russia collusion.
At that time, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson and Mr. Steele were briefing reporters.
Yahoo News wrote about Mr. Page’s supposed crimes, using dossier misinformation but citing intelligence sources. HuffPost, ABC News and other press jumped on the story.
“Hillary for America Statement on Bombshell Report About Trump Aide’s Chilling Ties to Kremlin,” blared the Clinton campaign’s Sept. 23 press release.
Mr. Page told The Times in July that he believes some Clinton campaign workers possessed the dossier or its data.
“After the report by Yahoo News, the Clinton campaign put out an equally false press release just minutes after the article was released that afternoon,” Mr. Page said. “Of course, the [Clinton campaign representatives] were lying about it with the media nonstop for many months, and they’ve continued until this day. Both indirectly as they planted articles in the press and directly with many TV appearances.”
Meanwhile, then-Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid publicized a letter he wrote to the FBI calling for Mr. Page to be investigated.
Indeed, no forum has been a better pro-dossier fan club than the House intelligence committee and its Democrats.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas Democrat, said at the March hearing: “I want to take a moment to turn to the Christopher Steele dossier, which was first mentioned in the media just before the election and published in full by media outlets in January. My focus today is to explore how many claims within Steele’s dossier are looking more and more likely, as though they are accurate.
“This is not someone who doesn’t know how to run a source and not someone without contacts. The allegations it raises about President Trump’s campaign aides’ connections to Russians, when overlaid with known established facts and timelines from the 2016 campaign, are very revealing,” Mr. Castro said.
Rep. Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat, said, “There’s a lot in the dossier that is yet to be proven, but increasingly, as we’ll hear throughout the day, allegations are checking out.”
On MSNBC in March, Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, said she believed the dossier section on Mr. Trump and supposed sex acts with prostitutes in Moscow were true.
“Oh, I think it should be taken a look at,” she said. “I think they should really read it, understand it, analyze it and determine what’s fact, what may not be fact. We already know that the part about the coverage that they have on him with sex actions is supposed to be true. They have said that that’s absolutely true. Some other things they kind of allude to. Yes, I think he should go into that dossier and see what’s there.”
Besides Mr. Page, other people targeted by Mr. Steele have rebutted his charges.
Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, was said in the dossier to have traveled to Prague to orchestrate a cover-up of computer hacking with Russian agents.
Mr. Cohen has produced receipts that show he was in California at the time, and his passport shows he has never been to Prague.
The special counsel is investigating the financial dealings of Mr. Manafort, who has been told he will be indicted. But there has been no confirmation that Mr. Manafort was involved in Russian hacking, as reported in the dossier.
Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian-born technology entrepreneur, is suing Mr. Steele for libel in a London court. The dossier said he created a botnet to pummel Democratic Party computers with porn and spyware.
In a filing mostly ignored by the pro-dossier U.S. and British media, Mr. Steele acknowledged in a declaration that he never verified the information. He also said his work never should have been made public, as was done by the news website BuzzFeed, which posted the entire document in January.
The filing could lead one to believe that much of Mr. Steele’s paid opposition research to destroy the Trump candidacy was based on hearsay information that was never verified by him.
With a filing in U.S. District Court this week by a Democrat-hired law firm, the public now knows that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign financed the dossier, in part.
Republicans have pounced on the disclosure.
“The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid a firm that’s known for doing business with the Kremlin for an opposition research file on President Trump,” said Michael Ahrens, director of the Republican National Committee’s rapid response team. “The Obama administration took it seriously, many in the media took it seriously, and it’s served as a springboard for the Russia investigation we have today. Oh, and the Democrats have spent the last year lying about it.”