For those whose memories were warped by the Trump years, consider this: Steele delivered the first of his 17 dossier reports in June 2016, meaning that his far-out claims have had five years to gather corroboration. They haven’t.
In his interview with Steele, Stephanopoulos drilled in on a couple of specific, headline-grabbing details in the Steele dossier — one of them being the allegation that Donald Trump, at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, had employed “a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him.” Reporters hustled to confirm that claim, but couldn’t.
That failure now appears quite logical. In December 2019, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported that the FBI found that “much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”
Which is to say, garbage.
The Horowitz report also noted that the FBI had investigated the “Primary Sub-Source” for the dossier — and that the source didn’t expect Steele to drop his “statements in reports or present them as facts.” The primary sub-source also said the material was like “conversation … with friends over beers.” More: That critical source — Igor Danchenko, whose identity emerged in 2020 — wasn’t a “deep cover” operative, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had speculated. He was a “researcher focused on analyzing business and political risks in Russia,” as the New York Times put it.
All those considerations notwithstanding, Steele told Stephanopoulos that the pee tape “probably” exists, though he’s not “100 percent” on that matter. Any good conspiracy theorist relies on that same logic.
Then comes the dossier claim that Michael Cohen, the former and estranged lawyer for Trump, traveled to Prague in 2016 to collude with “Kremlin representatives.” McClatchy latched onto this dossier claim with a pair of stories saying that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had evidence Cohen had visited Prague, and that Cohen’s cellphone pinged off cell towers in Prague. The FBI, according to the Horowitz report, concluded that the claims weren’t true; Cohen has emphatically denied them.
Pressed on the FBI’s conclusions, Steele told Stephanopoulos: “I don’t know to what extent they were able to look into it. I don’t know what evidence they gathered. I haven’t seen any, if you like, report on that aspect. So, from my point of view, I think it’s still an open question.”
On the one hand, we have Steele’s sources; on the other, we have the FBI.
“I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had and the professionalism which we applied to it,” said Steele in his ABC News interview. That unwillingness to admit fault and to correct the record was popular among some news outlets — McClatchy, MSNBC and CNN, to name some of the most prominent — that had hyped the dossier before it was exposed as a fraud. Perhaps they, too, are waiting for confirming details to emerge from the haze. We’ll check back at the dossier’s 10th anniversary.