As the days since Mueller’s latest indictment have passed, the failure of his investigation to make any claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has begun to sink in, even amongst some of Donald Trump’s most bitter enemies.
Even the Guardian – arguably the most fervid of Donald Trump’s British media critics, and the most vocal supporter of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – has grudgingly admitted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has “once again failed to nail Donald Trump”
There will be understandable disappointment in many quarters that the latest indictments delivered by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, once again failed to nail Donald Trump. Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious, they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.
The Times of London meanwhile has admitted that the latest indictment contains “no smoking gun”
The Department of Justice, however, offered no confirmation to those still smarting from the election in November 2016, who believe that, in the absence of Russian interference, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House today. Friday’s allegations offered no evidence that the outcome had been affected. Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, said yesterday that Donald Trump’s victories in the key swing states were his own.
There was further comfort for Mr Trump, which he was quick to celebrate with a tweet. The investigation uncovered no evidence “that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity”. That includes, so far, anybody involved in the Trump campaign. If there is a smoking gun it has yet to emerge, though Robert Mueller’s investigation will grind on. President Vladimir Putin is a malign and dangerous mischief maker. It has not been proved that he is an evil genius with the ability to swing a US election.
In fact the latest indictment when considered properly is a further huge nail in the coffin of the Russiagate conspiracy theory and in the already disintegrating credibility of the Trump Dossier, which is the foundation document for that theory.
Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the Russiagate conspiracy theory is laid out in its most classic form in the Trump Dossier, and it is the Trump Dossier which remains the primary and indeed so far the only ‘evidence’ for it
This theory holds that Donald Trump was compromised by the Russians in 2013 when he was filmed by Russian intelligence performing an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow, and he and his associates Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Cohen subsequently engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election from Hillary Clinton by having John Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails stolen by Russian intelligence and passed on by them for publication by Wikileaks.
Belief in this conspiracy dies hard, and an interesting article in the Financial Times by Edward Luce provides a fascinating example of the dogged determination of some people to believe in it. Writing about Mueller’s latest indictment Luce has this to say
……Mr Mueller’s report hints at more dramatic possibilities by corroborating contents of the “Steele dossier”, which was compiled in mid-2016 by the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele — long before the US intelligence agencies warned of Russian interference. Mr Steele, who is in hiding, alleged that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee. Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms that account.
……Likewise, Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms the Steele dossier’s claim that Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups. Among the entities run by the IRA were groups with names such as “Secured Borders”, “Blacktivists”, “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”.
What is fascinating about these words is that none of them are true.
Christopher Steele is not in hiding.
The actual Trump Dossier does not allege “that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee”.
Bernie Sanders is mentioned by the Trump Dossier only in passing. By the time the Trump Dossier’s first entries were written Bernie Sanders’s campaign was all but over and it was already clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency.
Jill Stein is mentioned – again in passing – only once, in a brief mention which refers to her now infamous visit to Russia where she attended the same dinner with President Putin as Michael Flynn.
Nor does the Trump Dossier anywhere claim that “Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups”.
On the contrary the Trump Dossier is focused – exclusively and obsessively – on documenting at fantastic length the alleged conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign of the supposedly compromised Donald Trump to get him elected US President.
Supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory need to start facing up to the hard truth about the Trump Dossier.
At the time the Trump Dossier was published in January 2017 little was known publicly about the contacts which actually took place between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and tranisiton teams and the Russians during and after the election.
Today – a full year later and after months of exhaustive investigation – we know far more about those contacts.
What Is striking about those contacts is how ignorant the supposedly high level Russian sources of the Trump Dossier were about them.
Thus the Trump Dossier never mentions Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, or the various conversations Michael Flynn is known to have had with Russian ambassador Kislyak, some of which apparently took place before Donald Trump won the election.
The Trump Dossier never mentions Jared Kushner’s four conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak, including the famous meeting between Kislyak and Kushner in Trump Tower on 1st December 2016 (which Michael Flynn also attended) over the course of which the setting up of a backchannel to discuss the crisis in Syria is supposed to have been discussed (Kushner denies that it was).
The last entry of the Trump Dossier is dated 13th December 2016 ie. twelve days after this meeting took place, and given its high level a genuinely well-informed Russian source familiar with the private ongoing discussions in the Kremlin might have been expected to know about it.
Nor does the Trump Dossier mention the now famous meeting in Trump Tower between the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior – which Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also attended – which took place on 9th June 2016.
This despite the fact that the Trump Dossier’s first entry is dated 20th June 2016 i.e. eleven days later, so that if this meeting really was intended to set the stage for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – as believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory insist – a well informed Russian source with access to information from the Kremlin would be expected to know about it.
Nor does the Trump Dossier have anything to say about George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who had the most extensive contacts with the Russians, and whose drunken bragging in a London bar is now claimed by the FBI to have been its reason for starting the Russiagate inquiry.
In fact George Papadopoulos is not mentioned in the Trump Dossier at all.
This despite the fact that members of Russia’s high powered Valdai Discussion Club were Papadopoulos’s main interlocutors in his discussions with the Russians, and Igor Ivanov – Russia’s former foreign minister, and a senior albeit retired official genuinely known to Putin – was informed about the discussions also, making it at least possible that high level people in the Russian Foreign Ministry and conceivably in the Russian government and in the Kremlin were kept informed about the discussions with Papadopoulos, so that a genuinely well-informed Russian source might be expected to know about them.
By contrast none of the secret meetings between Carter Page and Michael Cohen and the Russians discussed at such extraordinary length in the Trump Dossier have ever been proved to have taken place.
Now Special Counsel Mueller has provided further details in his latest indictment of actual albeit unknowing contacts between members of the Trump campaign and various Russian employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, LLC, apparently both in person and online.
The Trump Dossier has however nothing to say about these contacts either, just as it has nothing to say about the Internet Research Agency, LLC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, or the entire social media campaign set out in such painstaking detail by Special Counsel Mueller in his indictment.
The only conclusion possible is that if the Trump Dossier’s Russian sources actually exist (about which I am starting to have doubts) then they were extraordinarily ignorant of what was actually going on.
That of course is consistent with the fact – recently revealed in the heavily redacted memorandum sent to the Justice Department by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham – that many of the sources of the Trump Dossier were not actually Russian but were American.
John Helmer – the most experienced journalist covering Russia, and a person who has a genuine and profound knowledge of the country – made that very point – that many of the Trump Dossier’s sources were American rather than Russian – in an article he published on 18th January 2017, ie. just days after the Trump Dossier was published.
In that same article Helmer also made this very valid point about the Trump Dossier’s compiler Christopher Steele
Steele’s career in Russian intelligence at MI6 had hit the rocks in 2006, and never recovered. That was the year in which the Russian Security Service (FSB) publicly exposed an MI6 operation in Moscow. Russian informants recruited by the British were passed messages and money, and dropped their information in containers fabricated to look like fake rocks in a public park. Steele was on the MI6 desk in London when the operation was blown. Although the FSB announcement was denied in London at the time, the British prime ministry confirmed its veracity in 2012.Read more on Steele’s fake rock operation here, and the attempt by the Financial Times to cover it up by blaming Putin for fabricating the story.
Given that Steele was outed by Russian intelligence in 2006, with his intelligence operation in Russia dismantled by the FSB that year, it beggars belief that ten years later in 2016 he still had access to high level secrets in the Kremlin.
What we now know in fact proves that he did not.
I only remembered Helmer’s 18th January 2017 article about the Trump Dossier after I wrote my article about Senator Grassley’s and Senator Lindsey Graham’s memorandum to the Justice Department on 6th February 2018.
This is most unfortunate, not only because Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s memorandum resoundingly vindicates Helmer’s reporting, but because it shows that a genuine expert about Russia like Helmer was able to spot immediately the holes in the Trump Dossier, which only now – a whole year and months of exhaustive investigations later – are starting to be officially admitted.
For my part I owe Helmer an apology for not referencing his 18th January 2017 article in my article of 6th February 2018. I should have done so and I am very sorry that I didn’t.
I have spent some time discussing the Trump Dossier because despite denials it remains the lynchpin of the whole Russiagate scandal and of the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Heroic efforts to elevate Papadopoulos’s case and the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into ‘evidence’ of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which exists supposedly independently of the Trump Dossier fail because as I have discussed extensively elsewhere (see here and here) they in fact do no such thing.
Despite Edward Luce’s desperate efforts to argue otherwise, Mueller’s latest indictment far from corroborating the Trump Dossier, has done the opposite.
With the Trump Dossier – the lynchpin of the whole collusion case – not just unverified and discredited but proved repeatedly to have been completely uninformed about events which were actually going on, why do some people persist in pretending that there is still a collusion case to investigate?