The Trump Dossier Is Fake And Here Are The Reasons Why
Paul R Gregory, Forbes, Jan 13 2017
A former British intelligence officer who is now a director of a London private security-and-investigations firm has been identified as the author of the dossier of unverified allegations about Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia, according to the WSJ. A Christopher Steele, a director of London-based private intelligence company Orbis, purportedly prepared the dossier under contract to both Republican and Democratic adversaries of then-candidate Trump. The poor grammar and shaky spelling plus the author’s use of KGB-style intelligence reporting, however, do not fit the image of a high-end London security company run by highly connected former British intelligence figures. The PDF file of the 30-page typewritten report alleges that high Kremlin officials colluded with Trump, offered him multi-billion dollar bribes, and accumulated compromising evidence of Trump’s sexual escapades in Russia. That the dossier comes from former British intelligence officers appears at first glance to give it weight, especially with Orbis’ claim of a “global network.” The Pindo intelligence community purportedly has examined the allegations but have not confirmed any of them. We can wait till hell freezes over. The material is not verifiable. Trump has dismissed the dossier’s contents as false as has the Kremlin. Trump is right: The Orbis dossier is fake news. I have studied Russia and the Soviet Union professionally since the mid-1960s. I have visited Russia as a scholar, as the head of a multi-year petroleum legislation project, and as a business consultant close to one hundred times. My first visit was in 1965, shortly after Nikita Khrushchev’s removal. I have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Russia, and I follow the Russian press regularly. I personally witnessed the creation in the early 90s of Russia’s giant energy concerns in the offices of the oil minister. I met with St Petersburg officials in the early 90s but do not remember meeting then-deputy mayor Putin. I have written and co-authored reports for the State Dept, Congress, and the intelligence community, so I sort of know how these things work.
With the brief exception of the early to late 1990s, Russia has had a non-transparent system of rule that deliberately reveals little about itself. Both insiders and outsiders must look for subtle signs and signals. Russians and Russian experts are gossip junkies. They recite their tales of who is up and who is down to those foolish enough to listen. Outside researchers must grasp for flimsy straws to write their scholarly articles and books. Despite the greater openness of contemporary Russia, we are back to Kremlinology to learn how Putin’s kleptocracy works. The Orbis report makes as if it knows all the ins-and-outs and comings-and-goings within Putin’s impenetrable Kremlin. It reports information from anonymous “trusted compatriots,” “knowledgeable sources,” “former intelligence officers,” and “ministry of foreign affairs officials.” The report gives a fly-on-the-wall account of just about every conceivable event associated with Donald Trump’s Russian connections. It claims to know more than is knowable as it recounts sordid tales of prostitutes, “golden showers,” bribes, squabbles in Putin’s inner circle, and who controls the dossiers of kompromat . There are two possible explanations for the fly-on-the-wall claims of the Orbis report: Either its author (who is not Mr Steele) decided to write fiction, or collected enough gossip to fill a 30-page report, or a combination of the two. The author of the Orbis report has one more advantage: He knew that what he was writing was unverifiable. He advertises himself as the only Kremlin outsider with enough “reliable” contacts to explain what is really going within Putin’s office.
As someone who has worked for more than a decade with the microfilm collection of Soviet documents in the Hoover Institution Archives, I can say that the dossier itself was compiled by a Russian whose command of English is far from perfect and who follows the KGB (now FSB) practice of writing intelligence reports, in particular the practice of capitalizing all names for easy reference (this practice is normal to all beat police in London, so it ain’t exact a russian one alone – RB). The report includes Putin’s inner circle: Peskov, Ivanov, Sechin, Lavrov. The anonymous author claims to have “trusted compatriots” who knew the roles that each Kremlin insider, including Putin himself, played in the Trump election saga and were prepared to tell him. The Orbis report spins the tale of Putin insiders, spurred on by Putin himself, engaging in a five-year courtship of Donald Trump in which they offer him lucrative real estate deals that he rejects but leaves himself open to blackmail as a result of sexual escapades with prostitutes in St Petersburg and Moscow (the famous “golden shower” incident). Despite his reluctance to enter into lucrative business deals, Trump “and his inner circle have accepted regular intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals,” according to the Orbis report. This story makes no sense. In 2011, when the courtship purportedly begins, Trump was a TV personality and beauty pageant impresario. Neither in Pindostan nor in Russia would anyone of authority anticipate that Trump would one day become the presidential candidate of a major political party, making him the target of Russian intelligence. The Orbis report claims, that as the election neared (Jul 2016), Igor Sechin, Putin’s right-hand man and CEO of Rosneft (Russia’s national oil company) offered Trump a deal that defies belief. I quote:
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid-Oct 2015, a close associate of Rosneft President and PUTIN ally Igor SECHIN elaborated on the reported secret meeting between the latter and Carter PAGE, of Pindo Republican presidential candidate’s foreign policy team, in Moscow in Jul 2016. The secret had been confirmed to him/her by a senior member of staff, in addition to the Rosneft President himself … Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate Western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE associates the brokerage of up to a 19% (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
This story is utter nonsense, not worthy of a wacky conspiracy theory of an alien invasion. To offer Trump either the entirety of, or a brokerage commission on, the market value of 19.5% of Rosneft shares, even a 6% commission on $12b worth of Rosneft shares, would amount to an astonishing $720m, which would deplete the cash that Putin desperately needed for military spending and budget deficits, all in return for a promise to lift sanctions if Trump were elected. What a big “if”! Rosneft as a public company would have to conceal that the Pindosi president was a party to this major transaction. This remarkable secret-of-secrets seems to be bandied about to an Orbis “trusted compatriot,” a senior member of Sechin’s staff, and disclosed by Sechin himself. I guess there are a lot of loose lips in Rosneft offices. The story of the purported bribe was picked up by the Russian liberal press directly from the Orbis report without comment but with a big question marks in the title:
A €10.5b bribe? Putin and Sechin gifted Trump 19.5% of Rosneft shares?
This story has given Putin’s weak opposition the chance to accuse him of wasting national treasure on a stupid bribe. The huge bribe for (perhaps) lifting the sanctions makes Nikita Khrushchev’s hare-brained schemes for which he was fired look eminently reasonable. One of the few verifiable facts in the Orbis report is the key role played by Trump’s “personal lawyer,” Michael Cohen, who purportedly took over the negotiation of the Sechin dea. When the Kremlin got cold feet over its hacking campaign, it turned to Cohen to cover up the operation, meet with the Kremlin’s Presidential Administration, and make illicit payments to shut up and move the hackers to Bulgaria. A key meeting was held in Prague in Aug 2016 with Cohen accompanied by three colleagues. The meetings took place in the offices of a Russian quasi-state organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. Cohen has denied any such meetings with the Kremlin Presidential administration and claims never to have visited Prague. According to the Orbis report, Cohen engaged in potential criminal activities, such as illicit payoffs to hackers and the buying of their silence. I doubt that he will let such accusations pass. Another noteworthy claim of the Orbis report is that Vladimir Putin personally directed Russia’s intervention in the 2016 campaign:
The TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Putin. Its aim was to sow discord both within Pindostan itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance.
The Orbis report claims that Putin personally controlled the dossier compiled on Hillary Clinton and held by his spox Peskov. He ordered that any disposition of the Clinton file would be decided by him personally. I have picked out just a few excerpts from the Orbis report. In my opinion, it was noy written by a British ex-intelligence officer but by a Russian trained in the KGB tradition. It is full of names, dates, meetings, quarrels, and events that are hearsay (one an overheard conversation). It is a collection of “this important person” said this to “another important person.” There is no record. No informant is identified by name or by more than a generic title. The report appears to fail the veracity test in the one instance of a purported meeting in which names, dates, and location are provided. Some of the stories are so bizarre (the Rosneft $12b bribe) that they fail the laugh test. Yet there appears to be a desire on the part of some media and Trump opponents on both sides of the aisle to picture the Orbis report as genuine but unverifiable. After reading the Orbis report I got the queasy feeling that it may have influenced intelligence community’s unclassified report. Leaks of classified bits by NBC News and the WaPo suggest the findings were in part based on British intelligence and spies. I wonder if the reference is to Putin’s role, which the intelligence report characterized as direct. This is a matter the new administration must look into. We have reached a sad state of affairs where an anonymous report full of bizarre statements captures the attention of the world media because it casts a shadow over the legitimacy of a President-elect who has not even taken the oath of office. For example, the Trump dossier is tonight’s lead item on German state television and on BBC. False news has become America’s international export to the world media.
The dodgy Donald Trump dossier reminds me of the row over Saddam Hussein and his fictitious WMDs
Patrick Cockburn, Independent, Jan 12 2017
I read the text of the dossier on Donald Trump’s alleged dirty dealings with a scepticism that soon turned into complete disbelief. The memo has all the hallmarks of such fabrications, which is too much detail, and that detail largely uncheckable, and too many names of important people placed there to impress the reader with the sheer quantity and quality of information. I was correspondent in Moscow in the 1980s and again during the first years in power of Putin. Every so often, people would tell me intriguing facts about the dark doings of the Kremlin and its complicity in various crimes, such as the infamous apartment block bombings in 1999. But my heart used to sink when the informant claimed to know too much and did not see that what they were saying contained a fatal contradiction: Putin and his people were pictured as unscrupulous and violent people, but at the same time they were childishly incapable of keeping a secret damaging to themselves. The conclusions reached in the Trump dossier similarly claim to be based on multiple sources of information where, in the nature of things, they are unlikely to exist. The dossier cites at least seven of them.
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in Jun 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry and a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting Pindo Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP, for at least five years.
I obviously failed as a correspondent when I was in Russia, because it turns out that Moscow is choc-a-bloc with fellows in senior positions willing to blow the gaff on the Kremlin’s deep-laid plans. A and B, despite achieving high rank, apparently remain touchingly naive and more than willing to make revelations that, if known, would get them imprisoned or shot in short order. Reading the papers on Trump brought back memories of talking to Iraqi defectors in the 1990s who claimed to have plenty of information about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs and gossip about his family affairs. It did not take long to work out that they were making it up when they produced convincing but uncheckable details about the doings of some of the more dangerous and suspicious people in the world, with whom the defectors claimed have had frank and revealing conversations. In its determination to damage Trump, the Pindo press corps has been happy to suspend disbelief in this dubious document. Former member of MI6 Christopher Steele reportedly has a high reputation in espionage circles and was stationed in Moscow 20 years ago. The NYT is unworried by his consequent inability to travel to Moscow “to study Mr Trump’s connections there.” This is where the famed MI6 tradecraft proved so useful. Steele is said to have “hired native Russian speakers to call informants inside Russia and made surreptitious contact with his own connections in the country as well.” The word “contact” is a useful word for journalists, because it could mean a highly-placed friend or alternatively it might refer to some lowly freelancer who is being paid to supply information. Having Russian speakers call up Russians in Russia is an astute move, though it presupposes that FSB does not monitor foreign phone calls to people with sensitive information. I suspect that those Iraqi defectors who used to tell me tall tales about WMD and the home life of Saddam Hussein would have dreamed up a more convincing story than this.