Here’s a riddle for you: What do most evangelicals and most Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists have in common? You’ll probably never guess so I’ll tell you: they have strong and sometimes even violent opinions about a book they have never actually read. In the case of the evangelicals the book is the Bible. In the case of the JFK assassination conspiracy theorists the book is the Warren Report. Having read much of both, it is my opinion that the former is overrated and the latter underrated.
So, as long as we’re in the neighborhood I may as well mention another well-unread bit of literature that I have read in full, this time it’s not a book but a 35 page dossier. I’m referring, of course, to the Steele Dossier, a document that has inspired quite a lot of controversy by people who haven’t read it over the years, ever since its existence first came to public attention. It is the topic of a book (that I have not yet read) called “Crime in Progress,” by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. What’s remarkable about this book, so the claim goes, is it comes equipped with mountains of evidence to suggest that the Steele dossier is based on mountains of well-documented fact.
If anyone is in a position to know, it’s Simpson and Fritsch, the two who first hired former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. It was they who founded the Washington-based private investigative firm Fusion GPS, which has mined muck on Donald Trump for years, having been commissioned by various political entities precisely for that purpose. Their book is about a lot of what’s in the Steele dossier, what he found out and why it’s all true after all. Much of my own skepticism is rooted in the words of Dr. Fiona Hill who termed the whole Steele dossier a “rabbit hole.” It has even divided the original investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein: Woodward against, Bernstein for. Even so, it might be of use for us to review again what’s in that much-touted and much-discredited opus of Trumpian shenanigans.
It’s interesting to note that the work that Fusion GPS did on Trump was originally commissioned by a rich Republican donor who hated Trump. The commission was offered before Trump became the Republican nominee for president. Simpson and Fritsch refuse to divulge the name of that client but they are consistent throughout in protecting their private clients’ names, which I respect. Once Trump became the candidate the commission evaporated, so Simpson and Fritsch went shopping for new buyers and found some at the DNC. All of which stands in refutation of the common Republican notion that the Steele dossier was a fiction cooked up by Hillary. Turns out that Hillary knew very little about it and Simpson and Fritsch have never met her.
Another bit of exculpatory evidence favoring the Steele dossier comes down to us in the recent Horowitz report. We now know that the FBI did not investigate Trump because of the dossier. In fact, Christopher Steele went to the FBI out of a sense of moral duty to show them the dossier, and it was then that he found out that the FBI was already investigating Trump. No one in the Hillary Clinton campaign knew anything of this. As one Clinton official put it, “If I’d known the FBI was investigating Trump, I would have been shouting it from the rooftops!” Given the amount of grief the Clinton campaign received because of the email red herring, that is not difficult to believe.
While much of the Steele dossier’s reputation depends on the existence of the so-called pee-pee tape, perhaps the most shocking part is that which covers Trump’s long and unsavoury relationship with the Russians. According to Steele, the Russians cultivated Trump for decades, dangling business ventures and accumulating blackmail material for potential future kompromat.
Of course, it’s the pee-pee tape that captures the headlines. In brief, it is ostensibly a recording showing prostitutes entertaining Trump by urinating on the same hotel bed where the the Obamas had previously slept at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton. Should the tape ever turn up one day, and if it exists it quite possibly will, it will shower the golden light of plausibility on the entire Steele dossier.
Whether one believes the Steele dossier or not – and I am 60% inclined to – one thing remains clear. If it’s true, the single thing that may keep Trump in Russia’s thrall is fear of exposure of the pee-pee tape. Trump really is that vain, and say what you might about the actual credibility of the Steele dossier, if it isn’t true it may as well be.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.