The media has told us for years that Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent turned opposition researcher for Hillary Clinton, possessed impeccable credentials and unique powers of research and insight. Reporters spoke about the “Steele Dossier” in hushed and reverential tones. But now it is a source of enormous embarrassment to the media, FBI, and anyone else who took it seriously. As the Wall Street Journal reported this week, Steele’s supposedly damning file on Trump–Russia collusion turns out to be nothing more than outlandish gossip traded among Hillary’s supporters.
In retrospect, it is clear why the media went berserk over Buzzfeed’s publication of the dossier. Before that moment, reporters could make ominous references to Steele’s alleged findings. But the moment they were published, the shoddiness of them became evident for all to see and reporters could no longer use Steele’s dossier as a weapon against Trump.
The Steele dossier deserves a special place in the annals of farcical political scams. Were Hollywood not so biased to the Left, it would probably turn the story into a dark goofball comedy. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “many of the dossier’s key details originated with a few people gossiping after they had been brought together over a minor corporate publicity contract.” Remember those Kremlin insiders Steele ostensibly quoted? They were just Democrats who wanted to see Trump lose.
Steele didn’t even bother to cobble these lies together himself. He found a “researcher” in Washington, D.C., Igor Danchenko, to collect them for him. Danchenko has already admitted that some of his alleged information came from “conversation that he had with friends over beers” in Washington. According to the Wall Street Journal, the most salacious story in the dossier — that the Russians had “kompromat” on Trump about him hiring prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed Barack Obama once slept on — appears to come from Charles Dolan, a Democratic public relations executive in Washington.
Whatever account Dolan gave Danchenko has completely fallen apart. “Mr. Danchenko told the FBI he had gotten the prostitute story from a friend,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “He said that he heard it told in jest and that he described it to Mr. Steele as rumor and speculation.” In 2016, Dolan went on a hotel tour of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, where he supposedly picked up the story, but even one of his colleagues who accompanied him on the tour told the FBI that the hotel staff never said anything about Trump and prostitutes. So the “rumor and speculation” didn’t even come from anybody in Russia.
The hackishness of Steele cannot be overstated. He not only cast Democratic gossips as Kremlin insiders but also occasionally quoted them as Trump insiders. In his section on Paul Manafort, Steele describes Charles Dolan as an “American political figure associated with Trump” who revealed that several “senior players close to Trump had wanted Manafort out, primarily to loosen his control on strategy and policy formulation.” Dolan has told the FBI that this great scoop came from “public news sources,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Where are the apologies from the media and the FBI for treating all of this nonsense so gravely? In their most solemn style, anchormen repeatedly cited the specter of Russia’s compromising information on Trump. Endless panel discussions ensued on the subject. It was all just an echo chamber of Democratic lies.
It is staggering that Steele’s pitiful collection of smears — which consisted largely of Democrats just quoting each other — could upend the American political system, and do so with the full cooperation of the FBI. James Comey comes off in all of this not only as a sanctimonious fraud but also an astonishing imbecile. His slavish regard for Steele, his oh-so-momentous meeting with Trump over Russia’s “kompromat,” and his use of Steele’s dossier to secure FISA warrants — this is all beyond the most perverse parody.
Richard Nixon used to joke that the CIA is just a bunch of guys sitting around reading newspapers. What would he have said about Comey’s FBI? It didn’t even do the most rudimentary vetting of Democratic gossip. Its fact-checking prowess is on par with CNN’s.
Out of bar gossip among Trump haters came an investigation that hobbled his campaign and derailed his presidency. Even Trump’s most hyperbolic tweets about this harassment now look understated. And should he run again in 2024, the media will resume its hair-on-fire hysterics about him. Most of the figures in the Russia farce still appear on TV or the lecture circuit as “trusted” experts on threats to America. They have paid no price for their grotesque interference in our democracy.
The Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow,” Trump once tweeted about the havoc the Steele Dossier caused. No doubt the Russians are still laughing. The more the dossier is dissected, the more of a sick joke it all seems. Putin’s interference in American affairs has always been designed to make America look like a dysfunctional paper tiger. But he needn’t bother. As the Steele Dossier episode illustrates, America’s ruling class is perfectly capable of displaying that on its own.