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How a Brit Ex-Spy is a Better US Patriot than GOP Senators

February 7, 2018

 

Steele timeline

The Washington Post, 2/6/2018

 

How is it possible that an Australian diplomat and a former British intelligence officer have been far more concerned about Russian influence on US elections and the current US president than the entire Republican congressional delegation?

Today’s Washington Post ran a fascinating and detailed story about contacts between Christopher Steele, author of the now-famous “dossier”, and the FBI, the US State Department, and others in the US government including Senator John McCain. The article deserves careful reading and attention. You can read it in full here.

The Post article contains details about repeated contacts during which Steele presented information to the FBI that he had uncovered during his research for Fusion GPS–the company initially hired by a conservative Republican publication and subsequently by the DNC Clinton campaign to dig up information on Trump and his business associations.

Some of this is broadly familiar by now, if you’ve been paying attention, but there are some quite surprising new tidbits, particularly about how alarmed Steele was at what he had uncovered and how he vetted his findings with MI6 (the UK intelligence branch) and sought out various contacts within the US government to alert them to the information.

It is important to remember (from what has been reported in the press) that the FBI had been tipped off by an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, about a May 2016 conversation in London with an inebriated George Papadopoulos, in which Papadopoulos (then designated by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers) reportedly spilled the beans about a large trove of stolen Clinton emails the Russians were going to release to the world. After the emails started appearing online, the Australian alerted the FBI about the conversation, which now appears to have been one (and perhaps the first) of the factors that made the FBI initiate its investigation of Russian interference.

Among the most intriguing elements of the Post story is how John McCain got briefed about the Steele information. According to this report, Steele confided his report to Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador in Moscow, who in November briefed McCain at a meeting in Canada and in early December arranged to have the full Steele report delivered to him. Wood described McCain as “visibly shocked” after the Canada briefing, and (as has been previously reported) McCain handed over the “dossier”–which the FBI had had for months–to James Comey on December 9, 2016.

Then there is this tantalizing bit in the Post article:  Steele sought advice on how to handle this explosive material from his former boss at MI6, who said that the “situation reminded him of a predicament he had faced years earlier, when he was chief of station for British intelligence in Washington and alerted U.S. authorities to British information that a vice presidential hopeful had once been in communication with the Kremlin.” Huh, what?!! Wouldn’t we like to know who that might have been!

The takeaway from this story is that Steele seems very far from the biased pro-Clinton political operative that Devin Nunes and others in the GOP are trying to portray him. In fact, he is a respected intelligence professional with continuing links to both UK and US diplomatic and intelligence services who used his extensive contacts in Russia that revealed information that might otherwise not have seen the light of day. It is worth reiterating here that nothing in the Steele reports has yet been proven to be false, and more and more of it has indeed been corroborated by other reporting.

What is most deeply disturbing is that here we have an Australian diplomat and a British intelligence officer delivering information of the most alarming possible nature about a existential threat to American democracy at the same time that the entire Republican party remains determined not merely to look the other way, but to punish the messenger! Even the sainted John McCain has been closed-mouth about it. A month ago senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham actually made a criminal referral to the Justice Department to bring charges against Steele! Devin Nunes has become Trump’s Haldeman and Ehrlichman, attempting to spin the whole sordid affair as somehow being Hillary Clinton’s fault. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell just mumbles nonsense into his chins, and Paul Ryan just opens his blue eyes really wide and utters five impossible things before breakfast everyday.

They just don’t fucking care.

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