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News :: International
Steele puff piece prompts more Russiagate hysteria (5 March 2018)
06 Mar 2018
Here comes a new twist of Russiagate. Donald Trump allegedly actually wanted Mitt Romney, who once called him "a fraud," to be his secretary of state. But then the most powerful man on earth heard a definite "nyet" from Moscow.
Apparently, there is nothing beyond the sinister power of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He first managed to make an explosive reality show host with no background in politics beat a woman with decades of experience in Washington, DC, then told his protégé who he should and should not appoint as the top US diplomat.
Mitt Romney, who famously called Russia a "number one geopolitical foe" during the 2012 presidential campaign, was absolutely out of question, so Trump picked Rex Tillerson, a recipient of Russia's highest merit for foreigners.
At least that's the narrative suggested by the veteran New Yorker author Jane Mayer in her long fawning article about Christopher Steele, a former UK intelligence agent and author of the infamous dossier that depicted Trump as a Kremlin creature, groomed for years. Mayer retells the saga of how a little-known Briton became a star of American politics - Game of Thrones-style.
According to the New Yorker article, Steele wrote another memo in late November 2016, which has not been made public. The memo was based on a single source, who was described as a "senior Russian official," allegedly relaying rumors from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The rumors said that "the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump's initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney."
In November 2016, virtually all the US mainstream media were certain Romney was headed to Foggy Bottom, even though the failed 2012 presidential candidate had not retracted any of his vitriolic denunciations of Trump. Romney later pointed the finger at Hillary Clinton, saying she encouraged him to take Trump's job offer.
Steele is now is saying that the Kremlin used "unspecified channels" to ask Trump to "appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions" and cooperate on security matters such as the conflict in Syria, according to the New Yorker.
On Monday, when Meyer's article became available online, the New York Times ran a lament about the Global Engagement Center, the State Department propaganda shop set up under former President Barack Obama, which had reportedly been allocated $120 million in 2016 to fight "Russian meddling" but has not spent a dime so far. The Russiagate Twitter was quick to interpret this as proof positive Tillerson was ‒ what else? ‒ appointed by the Kremlin.
Yet Mayer's hagiography of Steele contains claims and revelations that are at best inconvenient for the Russiagate crowd. For example, she claims that his original dossier, which was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, "helped trigger the current federal investigation," even though Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) bent over backwards in his response memo to argue otherwise.
The New Yorker story also confirms that Steele's work was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign, which was first reported by the Washington Post in October 2017, citing anonymous sources. Mayer actually claims Steele was being "jointly subsidized" by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, to the tune of $168,000 overall. As DNC chair Donna Brazile revealed in her book, however, the party had run out of money and was essentially being given an allowance by the Hillary For America campaign.
As to how well-informed Steele was, Mayer tells us he only found out who was paying his client, opposition research firm Fusion GPS, "several months" after signing the contract.
Last, but not least, Mayer reveals she attended one of the meetings Fusion set up between Steele and reporters in the late summer of 2016, which were "surely sanctioned in some way" by the Clinton campaign.
"He did not distribute his dossier, provided no documentary evidence, and was so careful about guarding his sources that there was virtually no way to follow up," Mayer said, leading most outlets to pass on the story.
Eventually, Fusion GPS principal Glenn Simpson arranged a private meeting between Steele and Yahoo News reporter Michael Isikoff, which resulted in a September 23, 2016 article about Trump campaign adviser Carter Page's alleged Russian ties. The following month, the FBI would cite Isikoff's article as independently corroborating Steele's claims in a FISA application to spy on Page, according to the damning memo published by the House Intelligence Committee Republicans last month.
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