Friday, February 16, 2018

'Toontime: It's a Long Time Comin'

credit: Kevin Siers
The UK Guardian gives us the backstory on the infamous Steele Dossier that is roiling the political swamp in Washington and may mean the premature end of Humpty Trumpty's dabble in national governance. Christopher Steele was recruited out of the University of Cambridge, Girton College by MI6. After three years with the agency, the up and coming spy was sent to Moscow as a staff member of the British Embassy. He spent the next twenty years plumbing that nation's depths and dealing in espionage. He became a respected Kremlin specialist. Steele's career survived the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his opinion, the regime changed, but the system had not. After his cover was blown by a published leaked list of British agents, he was moved to Paris in 1998. By 2002 after Putin came to power in Russia, Steele was working in London on the Russia desk. He was tapped to investigate the slow radioactive poisoning of Putin's enemy, Alexander Litvinenko. Steele soon concluded that Russian agents working at the behest of Putin were responsible for murdering Litvinenko.

After his wife died at a young age, Steele [photo credit: Guardian] left her majesty's service and set up his own private intelligence company. His services and sources cultivated over thirty years were employed by a variety of business and organizations seeking competitive advantages. He also developed a credible reputation in the business world; he was responsible for informing the FBI of extensive corruption at FIFA, the world soccer federation. The subsequent official investigation resulted in the indictment of 14 high level FIFA officials. It was through his private intelligence business that be met Glenn Simpson, a former star reporter at the Wall Street Journal who had his own private intelligence firm based in Washington DC, Fusion GPS. Simpson hired Steele as part of a Republicans effort to dig up dirt on the maverick billionaire running for president, Donald Trump. Steele began looking at Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager. Steele told Mother Jones, his investigation began as a general inquiry, and an obvious first question to him since Trump owned international hotels, was: did Trump have connections to his old bailiwick, Russia?

What Steele found through his extensive sources was mind-boggling. Trump's connections to high level Russians went back at least five years before his presidential campaign began. According to Steele's informants, whom he rates 70-90% credible, Russian intelligence began cultivating the businessman with an aim towards "encouraging divisions in the western alliance." Trump was cautious enough to turn down sweetheart deals the Russians offered him as means of compromising him. However according to Steele, "he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals". Unable to compromise  the tycoon with money (kompromat in the idiom of the trade) they preyed instead on another known Trump weakness: beautiful women.

During a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned, Trump lodged in the same room used by the Obamas on an official visit. Of course in true cold-war style, the FSB had the room completely wired for sound and video. Russian prostitutes were also provided. What happened in the Ritz-Carlton suite is straight out of a Bond novel. According to the dossier, "he knew the President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) [sic] had stayed [there] on one of their official trips to Russia...Trump had deliberately “defiled” the Obamas’ bed. A number of prostitutes “had performed a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him”. One more devastating tidbit offered by the Steele informants: Trump’s team had co-ordinated with Russia on the e-mail hacking operation against Hillary Clinton. And that the Americans had secretly co-paid for it. Steele's dossier made its way through diplomatic connections to Senator John McCain who considered the allegations serious enough to warrant an investigation. He called FBI Director Comey and arranged a meeting to discuss what to do with the political dynamite. Thus began the Russian Connection investigation.*

News is breaking that former Trump campaign advisor Robert Gates, is close to signing a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  Thirteen more indictments were handed down on Wednesday. Thirteen individuals and a handful of Russian companies are accused of running “interference operations targeting the United States,” with the intention of undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and helping promote Donald Trump. If Humpty Trumpty is going to fire Mueller, a la 'Tricky Dick' Nixon, he better do it before the train leaves the station.

*Believe it or not there is a second memo in circulation containing many of the same allegations as Steele's work.  It was authored by Cody Shearer, a former journalist and Clinton activist.  The memo came into Steele's possession through a contact in 2016.  He turned it over to the FBI.  The FBI is assessing the document, but Steele has not vouched for its accuracy.