The Steele Dossier Has Been Discredited—Is the IC Report Next?

The three-year orchestrated campaign to discredit Donald Trump and destroy his presidency is littered with sketchy reports authored by partisan characters motivated by power and revenge.

From the Steele dossier and the personal memos of former FBI Director James Comey to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, a trove of dubious documents is burnished as compelling evidence to show the president is an illegitimate occupant of the Oval Office, a Kremlin stooge, or worse, a criminal in plain sight trying to subvert the rule of law and torch our democracy.

What truly should alarm Americans—and, one hopes, interest future historians far removed from this debacle—is how these clearly questionable materials earned the imprimatur of the world’s most powerful law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The Trump-hating media, once filled with skepticism about how intelligence-gathering violated individual rights in service of wanton political pursuits, regurgitate every outlandish accusation as undeniable fact.

One example is the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), which claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin directly interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. Two weeks before Trump was inaugurated the 45th president of the United States, Barack Obama’s top security chiefs—acting on a directive from the departing president—issued an official report to suggest that Trump’s victory was tainted.

According to Obama’s FBI, CIA, and NSA, Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

But that conclusion reportedly is under scrutiny by Attorney General William Barr as part of his wide-reaching investigation into the corrupt origins of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax.

A special prosecutor appointed by Barr to oversee the probe is supposed to interview senior CIA officials who helped produce the report. According to a June 12 New York Times story disclosing the inquiry, the impending inquiry “has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the CIA.”

It should.

The ICA is an embarrassment to U.S. intelligence services, an obvious piece of government-sanctioned propaganda that would make Putin green with envy. Two of Obama’s henchmen—Comey and former CIA director John Brennan—signed off on the report then briefed both the former and the incoming president on its contents in early January 2017. (In his briefing with Trump, Comey also added a two-page summary of the Steele dossier, including the ludicrous claims about Trump’s alleged dalliances with prostitutes in Moscow.)

Reeling from Trump’s shocking win and desperate to place blame, Obama in early December 2016 ordered a full review of Russia’s election meddling. Twenty days later, the review was completed—hardly sufficient time for an adequate investigation of how a global adversary infiltrated a U.S. presidential election that cost more than $2 billion and involved 130 million American voters.

Nonetheless, in less than three weeks, the agencies claimed to have collected and verified reports from “multiple sources” to affirm their findings.

“To my mind the assessment is very peculiar,” former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy told the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month. “Ordinarily the kind of assessment that you’re talking about there would be something that would take well over a year to do, certainly many months to do . . . seems to me, in this instance, there was a rush to get that out within a matter of days.”

The hastily prepared report is akin to a last-minute term paper, carefully formatted with plenty of white space and graphics. Odd anecdotes are stitched together in a hodgepodge manner. It’s filled with repetition and hearsay. One vague passage insists that Putin “holds a grudge for comments [by Clinton] he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Another factoid is that a Putin pal said Russia would “drink champagne” if Trump won. Not exactly the kind of conjecture that would pass muster in a court of law.

The document was released in declassified form; readers repeatedly are assured that highly-classified information supports the Intelligence Community’s conclusions but that “the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.” (Where have we heard that before?) It strained to make a connection between the Kremlin, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

More than half of the report’s substance detailed how RT America, the Kremlin’s English-speaking news channel, sought to undermine the U.S. presidential election—in 2012. A seven-page “annex” to the report offered a completely irrelevant analysis of RT’s news coverage before Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama on November 6, 2012. Outdated references to Occupy Wall Street, fracking, and the Georgia-Russia conflict are cited. Weird memes and pictures fill a big chunk of four pages.

One entire page included graphs to measure the social media footprint of certain news outlets including RT, CNN and BBC in 2012, figures that would not reflect the same activity for 2016.

Portions of the ICA appear to be lifted from a June 2016 analysis on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee furnished by Crowdstrike, a private cyber-security firm. Crowdstrike concluded that hackers allegedly tied to Russia had infiltrated the DNCs server. (Perkins Coie, the law firm that contracted with Fusion GPS to produce the dossier, also retained Crowdstrike on behalf of the DNC.)

It is important to remember that neither the FBI nor any U.S. agency inspected the DNC server because they were denied access by Democratic Party officials.

In his June 2017 Senate testimony, Comey admitted his agency did not conduct a forensic review of the device, but instead relied on the work of a “highly-respected private company.” This would explain, although not justify, why the FBI poached part of the Crowdstrike analysis for the ICA report.

The ICA claimed that the alleged Russian hackers first gained access to the DNC network in July 2015 and then “probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the . . . operations resulted in the compromise of the personal email accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures.”

The Crowdstrike report claimed that Russian involvement “has been identified going back to the summer of 2015, while [the Russian hacker] separately breached the network in April 2016.”

Crowdstrike stated that one Russian-affiliated hacker targeted the “U.S. government” as well as “organizations across Defense, Energy, Financial, Insurance, Legal . . . [and] Think Tanks.” Similarly, the ICA alleged that after the election “Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields.”

Further, we now know the ICA was commissioned by two of Trump’s most virulent and dishonest foes: Comey and Brennan. Both men have made outrageous accusations against the president over the past two years; their credibility is shot and their actions before they left the government are under investigation.

When the Intelligence Community’s report was issued, top lawmakers insisted that America had been attacked by the Russians. “It fits the definition of an act of war,” the late Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters the day the ICA came out. “The fact [the Russians] were able to do what they did is a threat to national security.”

Americans again are being warned that another “attack” on the 2020 election is imminent. If the ICA is the sum of the evidence for such threats, the veracity of the report must be re-examined. All back-up material must be declassified. Brennan testified under oath that the Steele dossier wasn’t included in the ICA; his testimony is now in doubt.

Chances are, we may soon discover that the flimsy report providing the early underpinning for Russian election interference claims was yet another false flag used in the attempted coup against President Trump.

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Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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