David Corn, Washington bureau chief at Mother Jones magazine, is aghast at the omissions in the recently released ABC News documentary on former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who authored the famous dossier on Russia and Donald Trump. “Steele and his dossier have always been a sideshow to the main event: the Kremlin’s clandestine assault that helped Trump win,” writes Corn.

Titled “Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier,” the documentary presents the first major interview with Steele since he and his work were leaked in January 2017. Quite logically, then, it traces Steele’s history with British intelligence, sketches out his personality and narrates his engagement with research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump-Russia ties, a project funded by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

As this blog noted, Steele’s comments to ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos reflected an unwillingness to accept the various debunkings to which the dossier has been treated over the years. That included the FBI’s determination that the claims in the collection of reports were largely unconfirmed, inaccurate or already public. Steele refused to bail on major claims such as the much-discussed “pee tape” and Michael Cohen’s alleged trip to Prague to confer with Kremlin representatives. “I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had and the professionalism which we applied to it,” Steele told Stephanopoulos.

All this discussion of the dossier misplaces priorities, argues Corn. “Whenever the very real issue of Russia’s pro-Trump attack arose, Trump and his crew screamed bloody murder about Steele and the memos, often claiming falsely that these memos — befouled by salacious innuendo and gossip — had initiated and poisoned the Russia investigation,” writes Corn. Trump & Co. not only encouraged Russian incursions but also tried to “cover up Putin’s sinister intervention. Out of the Shadows unintentionally bolsters this deceptive spin.”

Corn refers extensively to the “Republican-approved” Senate Intelligence Committee report to highlight actual, substantiated Trump-Russia areas of concern that the ABC News documentary doesn’t address.

It’s not a bad critique. Yet it would be more persuasive from someone other than Corn. A central player in dossier history, in October 2016 Corn broke the news that a “former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” had provided memos to the FBI “contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump.” Though Corn didn’t spill all the contents of what would become known as the dossier, he did divulge key details, including:

The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

Corn also delivered a copy of the soon-to-be-labeled dossier to then-FBI General Counsel James Baker, a step that he explained as an effort to gain more information about the claims.

Once the flimsiness of those claims came to light, however, Corn focused on other matters — such as poking holes in all the conspiracy theories on the right. We asked him in early 2020 why he hadn’t written a penetrating story exposing the holes in the dossier, even though he’d broken it in the first place. “My priority has been to deal with the much larger topic of Russia’s undisputed attack and Trump’s undisputed collaboration with Moscow’s cover-up,” he responded, in part.

We asked Corn on Tuesday whether he or anyone else at Mother Jones has returned to the dossier, to tell the magazine’s readers what happened to that story. We haven’t heard back. (Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog’s wife, Stephanie Mencimer, works as a staff writer in the Mother Jones Washington bureau.)

All of which is to say that while Corn criticizes ABC News for one-sided coverage of Trump-Russia, he has done the same thing, just in the opposite direction. Maybe we could just combine the two?