Perhaps the clearest sign that the Russiagate investigation has run into the sand are reports which circulated over the weekend that the FBI and Department of Justice have informed Congressional investigators that their attempts to verify the collusion allegations in the Trump Dossier have so far failed.
The clearest account of these reports has come from Byron York writing for the Washington Examiner on 19th November 2017
FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier….
An August 24, 2017 subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee to the FBI and Justice Department asked for information on the bureau’s efforts to validate the dossier. Specifically, the subpoena demanded “any documents, if they exist, that memorialize DOJ and/or FBI efforts to corroborate, validate, or evaluate information provided by Mr. Steele and/or sub-sources and/or contained in the ‘Trump Dossier.'”
According to sources familiar with the matter, neither the FBI nor the Justice Department has provided documents in response to that part of the committee’s subpoena. But in face-to-face briefings with congressional staff, according to those sources, FBI and DOJ officials have saidthey cannot verify the dossier’s charges of a conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
(bold italics added)
I have previously said that following the testimony Carter Page recently gave to the House Intelligence Committee it is now incontrovertible fact that the Trump Dossier has provided the frame narrative for the whole Russiagate inquiry.
In an earlier article for the Washington Examiner dated 12th November 2017 Byron York spelled this out in detail, showing the influence the Trump Dossier has had in shaping the Russiagate inquiry, and showing that there is a strong likelihood that it was the document which precipitated it
The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump-Russia affair shortly after receiving the first installment of an anti-Trump dossier from a former British spy working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. What congressional investigators want to know is whether that was a coincidence or not.
The first report in the dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele was dated June 20, 2016.
Steele told the left-leaning publication Mother Jones that he took the first part of his dossier to the FBI “near the start of July.”
James Comey, when he was FBI director, told members of the House Intelligence Committee the Trump-Russia investigation began “in late July.”
So the timeline is: The first dossier report was June 20, Steele approached the FBI near the start of July, and the FBI began its investigation in late July….
The FBI was very interested in Steele’s report, according to Mother Jones’ David Corn, who was personally briefed by Steele:
The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all the information in his possession, and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. At that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.
Corn’s report suggested the FBI was surprised by the dossier report’s contents, which in turn suggested the FBI wasn’t already on the case when Steele approached the bureau near the start of July…..
Now, with multiple investigations underway, some officials are trying to reconstruct the events of June through October 2016. Were the allegations in the dossier accurate in the first place? If they were, did involvement go to the highest levels of the Trump campaign? But if they weren’t, was it a situation in which the Clinton campaign, through its hired foreign agent Steele, fed the FBI bad information for the purpose of having it leaked to the press in time to hurt Trump before the election?
In fairness Byron York does also say that part of the initial spur for the investigationmay have been the FBI’s detection of the blundering activities of George Papadopoulos and his fictitious attempts to set up a summit meeting between Russian President Putin and then candidate Trump.
Still, there’s one more important factor to be considered in assessing the dossier’s role in the FBI investigation. According to papers released as part of his plea of guilty to lying to investigators, Trump volunteer advisor George Papadopoulos admitted having contacts with possible intermediaries to high-ranked Russians who are said to have offered assistance to the Trump campaign. That happened beginning in March, 2016 and continued for a few months. What is not known is whether the FBI knew about Papadopoulos’ activities as they happened, or whether the bureau found out about them later, and in any event whether or not the Papadopoulos matter was, along with the dossier, part of the FBI’s decision to start a counterintelligence investigation. It does seem clear that the Papadopoulos affair did not prompt the FBI to start a counterintelligence probe in March, or April, or May, or June of 2016.
If Papadopoulos’s activities did have a role in getting the Russiagate investigation started – which by the way I strongly doubt – then that leg of the Russiagate investigation has also collapsed, with the indictment against Papadopoulos making no reference to the collusion allegations and proving a damp squib.
That the FBI gave the Trump Dossier far too much credence, and is becoming increasingly embarrassed because of that fact, is incidentally also indicated by something else Byron York writes: that getting information out of Fusion-GPS and the FBI about the Trump Dossier is proving to be extremely difficult
…….Congress is trying to uncover the dossier story — what did the FBI do to try to verify it? Did agents use it as a basis for seeking wiretaps? — but getting information out of the FBI, as well as Fusion GPS, has been like pulling teeth, even after a House subpoena.
Ultimately more will become public. But if the past months have shown anything, it is that the FBI will not reveal its secrets, even to its legitimate congressional overseers, without a fight.
(bold italics added)
I would say in passing that this information completely vindicates the article the Creation of Russiagate by Joe Lauria which The Duran has published and which was also published in a slightly earlier form by Consortium News, but which the Huff Post disgracefully took down after it was up on its site for a few hours.
It also incidentally substantiates a claim I made in an article for The Duran on 24th June 2017, which was that the early entries of the Trump Dossier were almost certainly the ‘intelligence’ the CIA sent to President Obama in August 2016, which supposedly ‘conclusively confirmed’ that the Russians on President Putin’s orders were meddling in the US election.
The fact that – as Byron York shows – the early entries of the Trump Dossier were being circulated throughout the US intelligence community in August 2016 all but confirms that this was the ‘intelligence’ referred to.
I will here express my own bafflement. From the moment I first read the Trump Dossier I realised that it was essentially a fabrication. I have also pointed out that the whole picture of the Russian government’s decision making process which it gives is an absurd one.
A detailed fact-check of the Trump Dossier’s individual allegations made by the Russian Explainer has shown that those allegations which can be proved to be true were – with one explainable exception – previously reported by the Russian media, whilst those which cannot be proved to be true are more often than not simply too farfetched to be true.
That this strange document or collection of documents should ever have been taken seriously by the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the US intelligence community, the US Congress, the US media, and indeed the whole US governing class, is nothing short of astonishing.
That they did so shows how staggeringly ill-informed about Russia they have become, which makes one wonder what all the tens of billions of US taxpayers’ dollars which are being spent on the US intelligence services to get information about Russia are being used for?
That sixteen months after its first entries began to circulate the credibility of this strange document is finally collapsing is a relief. However it is also an appalling indictment of the state of the US’s intelligence agencies and of the remarkable faith so many people seem to have in them.
Meanwhile there are signs that those whose credibility is tied up with the Trump Dossier are becoming nervous.
As Byron York points out, Representative Adam Schiff – the Democrats’ point man in the Russiagate inquiry and their most aggressive advocate in the House Intelligence Committee – is starting to shift his position, and instead of saying that the specific allegations are true, is now saying that what it got was the “broad picture” right
The biggest thing that I think people need to realize about the dossier is that Christopher Steele discovered that the Russians were embarked on a broad effort to help the Trump campaign before our own intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion. In the broadest outline of what he investigated, he proved more than prescience — he proved accurate in terms of the Russian involvement and what their motivations were.
(bold italics added)
Needless to say a document which only provides a “broad outline” cannot be used to prove anything in legal proceedings. As evidence, it is worthless.
Even Christopher Steele – increasingly besieged by court cases brought by people who say he has libelled them – now admits that he thinks the Trump Dossier is only “70-90%” true.
To which one can only ask what in that case is the 10-30% of the Trump Dossier which Christopher Steele no longer thinks is true?
Does it include Donald Trump’s sex orgy in Moscow’s Ritz Carlton hotel, or Rosneft chief Sechin’s offer to Carter Page to make him a billionaire?
Both are central claims made by the Trump Dossier, but neither of them looks to be true.
The other big question is: what happens next? Ultimately the answer lies with the Justice Department and with Congress. Will they continue to insist on an investigation based on an obviously concocted document which is becoming discredited? Or will they finally face up to the truth – that the entire investigation is a nonsense – and finally act to close it down?
Saad Hariri has returned to Beirut where he has been greeting as the country’s Prime Minister. He has held a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun during which he was persuaded not to officially resign as Prime Minister. Aoun has never accepted the legitimacy of Hariri’s forced resignation from Saudi soil and while Hariri was prepared to formally resign in Beirut, he will now look to preserve the existing coalition made up of parties from the broadly pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance as well as members of the broadly pro-western/pro-Saudi March 14 alliance which is led by Hariri’s Future Movement. Due to Lebanon’s fractious history, the country’s Premier must be a Sunni Muslim, its President a Christian (usually a Maronite) while the Parliamentary speaker must be a Shi’a Muslim.
The fact that a political process has triumphed over clear attempts at blackmail from Riyadh, represents a pan-Lebanese victory over forces which have tried to leverage extreme wealth and a de-facto close relationship with the Israeli regime, in attempts to foment another major crisis in Lebanon, though exploiting Lebanon’s sectarian composition. This time it didn’t work as countries ranging from Iran to many EU powers, all called for the peaceful return of Saad Hariri.
While Hariri has lost some credibility due to being bamboozled by Saudi Arabia, while still not publicly confessing to the true nature of events in public, he has also became an accidental symbol of Lebanese resilience, insofar as politicians from parties who oppose Hariri’s policies rallied around the constitutional order which demanded the return of an effectively kidnapped head of government.
If Hariri continues to utter statements made from Saudi soil that he will not accept a coalition which includes Hezbollah, chances are he may eventually be replaced as Prime Minister. However, there remains an equal possibility that he may simply step back into his old role with the existing and stills table coalition. As his children remain on Saudi soil, it is not clear how freely he feels he is able to speak at this point.
Throughout the Hariri ordeal, the clear political winners have been President Michel Aoun of the Maronite Christian Future Movement, as well as Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of the Shi’a Amal Movement and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. All three men rallied around a united front during the crisis, vowing to continue the work of the coalition government.
For today, Hariri is sitting beside Aoun celebrating Lebanon’s Independence Day from France, a country which ironically appears to have secured Hariri’s own independence from his detention in Saudi Arabia.
Multi-party talks are expected to resume soon which will ultimately clarify whether Hariri still intends to continue as Prime Minister. In the immediate term though, Lebanon has pulled together at a time when Saudi Arabia and Israel sought to pull it apart. This says a great deal about the maturity of contemporary Lebanon and about the immaturity of its enemies.
The UK’s Guardian and the paper of record The New York Times, are painting a picture of a Saudi dictator who has waged war against Yemen and Syria, about to stir up conflict with Iran, and purged his country of competing royals, as some sort of rogue, visionary “reformer.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has the mainstream media wrapped around his finger…the same media that boasts about their “exceptional” values…support for human rights, gay rights and women’s rights.
More fake news, hypocrisy from a mainstream media that is bought and paid for with Saudi oil lobby money.
Two weeks ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman carried out a brutal crackdown on his political opponents, arresting dozens of high-ranking relatives, kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon, and seeing eight of his political rivals die in a convenient helicopter crash. The “consolidation of power” by the de facto Saudi ruler comes as his government ramps up its siege of Yemen and gets even closer to its US sponsor, thanks to a Trump’s dopey love affair with—and direct assistance of—the regime.
The cynical plan has been met, in some media quarters, with condemnation, but for many in the Western press, Mohammed’s self-serving power grab is the action of a bold “reformer,” a roguish bad boy doing the messy but essential work of “reforming” the kingdom—the “anti-corruption” pretext of the purge largely repeated without qualification. The most prominent sources for this spin were two major newspapers, the New York Times and Guardian:
Guardian (11/5/17): “Royal Purge Sends Shockwaves Through Saudi Arabia’s Elites: Move Consolidates Power of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as He Attempts to Reform Kingdom’s Economy and Society”
Guardian (11/5/17) : “Saudi Arrests Show Crown Prince Is a Risk-Taker With a Zeal for Reform: Mohammed Bin Salman Is Confronting Some of the Kingdom’s Richest and Most Powerful Men in His Anti-Corruption Drive—but Is He Taking on Too Much Too Fast?”
Guardian (11/6/17): “Oil Price Rises to Two-Year High After Saudi Arabia Purge: Markets Push Price Up to $62 a Barrel After Anti-Corruption Purge by Billionaire Crown Prince Who Backs Prolonging Oil Production Curbs”
Guardian (11/7/17): “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform: Consolidation of Power in Mohammed Bin Salman’s Hands Has Upended All Aspects of Society, Including Previously Untouchable Ultra-Elite”
New York Times (11/5/17): “Saudi Crown Prince’s Mass Purge Upends a Longstanding System”
New York Times (11/14/17): “The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Wind”
While the text of the Times articles was far more skeptical about Mohammed’s motives, the Guardian’s (11/5/17) initial coverage of the bloody purge—not just the headlines—was written in breathless press release tones:
Saudi Arabia’s leadership has pulled off its boldest move yet to consolidate power around its young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arresting 11 senior princes, one of the country’s richest men and scores of former ministers in what it billed as a corruption purge.
The move sidelined at least 20 senior figures, among them outspoken billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sending shockwaves through the ranks of the kingdom’s elites, who had long viewed senior royals as immune.
Lot of glowing prose to unpack here. Longtime Mideast correspondent Martin Chulov began by referring to “Saudi Arabia’s leadership,” which is a nice, sterile way of referencing the country’s unelected hereditary king and crown prince. Then he pivoted into marketing pablum about “bold moves” and “consolidating power,” before unironically framing the purge as an “anti-corruption” gesture designed to stick it to the “kingdom’s elites.” One could come away from reading this lead with the impression that the billionaire aristocrat was a populist folk hero in the vein of Robin Hood or John Dillinger. The thrilling profile continued:
Prince Mohammed will oversee the corruption commission, adding to his already formidable list of responsibilities, including his role as Defense minister and champion of the economic transformation, dubbed Vision 2030, that aims to revolutionize most aspects of Saudi life within 12 years.
Prince Mohammed told the Guardian last month that the kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years and pledged to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.
While the author had a “to be sure” paragraph, citing “others” calling it a “naked attempt to weed out dissent,” the overall thrust of the article was that a roguish billionaire Boy King was earnestly seeking “reform” and opposing “elites.”
A follow-up piece (11/7/17) took flattering coverage to new extremes. The dispatch, again by Chulov, cited nothing but anonymous Saudi court hanger-ons and a Gulf-funded talking head from the NATO-aligned Atlantic Council think tank. The article, “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform,” was populated with blind quotes from such adversarial voices as a “senior minister,” “a senior Saudi official,” a “senior figure,” a “senior Saudi businessman” and “veteran business leaders.” (Evidently no junior officials or rookie business leaders were available for comment.)
The article painted the “consolidation of power” by Mohammed as an inevitability with broad support—using the dubious “reform” narrative without irony. With Guardian editors again painting Mohammed as a populist hero by insisting he “upended” “previously untouchable ultra-elite,” one is left to wonder why they don’t consider the absolute-monarch-in-waiting—who just bought a $590 million yacht—part of the “ultra elite.” It’s a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.
This was a trope one could see emerging over the past few months. Similar “bold reformer” frames were used in New York Times editorials (“The Young and Brash Saudi Crown Prince,” 6/23/17) and straight reporting (“Saudi Arabia’s Grand Plan to Move Beyond Oil: Big Goals, Bigger Hurdles,” 10/24/17). Everything’s new and exciting. The brutal, routine functions of the Saudi state are seen as laws of nature—and those in charge of it are the reformers of the very oppression they initially authored.
A Guardian editorial on November 7 was critical of the government, calling it “regressive” and Mohammed “belligerent,” but ultimately rested on “both sides” framing of recent events. The only meaningfully critical coverage of Saudi Arabia coming from the Guardiansince the purge has been in two articles (11/12/17, 11/16/17), both in the context of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Neither mentioned bin Salman, and both stressed how the Saudis are responding in earnest to international pleas to stop their mass-murdering blockade of the Arab world’s poorest country.
Per usual, the Guardian reserves the label “regime” for Official Enemies like Syria and North Korea; Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a regime, it has “leadership.” Unlike adversary governments, often seen in need of “regime change,” the Saudi government merely requires “reform”—and a bold new “reformer,” of the sort championed by the likes of the Guardian and New York Times.