What the Steele Dossier Got Right

Given that the Steele dossier is back in the news and everyone from the president to right-wing commentators are claiming that it is “fake,” I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick look at the portions of the document that have been corroborated. We have no way of knowing if Robert Mueller’s team has additional information, so this will simply be based on what is already public knowledge.

Before getting into further specifics, I will simply note that, because of their salacious nature, much of the talk about the dossier has been focused on what has come to be known as the “golden showers” incident. That hasn’t been corroborated and probably never will be. But it is perhaps the least important item in the dossier. No one doubts that Trump hates the Obamas, and has a history of making incendiary comments about his own sexual proclivities. The idea that this particular incident was available for the Russians to use in order to blackmail Trump is specious, given that during the campaign, the American people had already heard him boast about committing sexual assault.

Beyond the “golden showers” claim, here are the most significant claims from the Steele dossier that have been at least partially corroborated.

1. The Kremlin had been recruiting Trump for 5-8 years.

That puts the timeline somewhere between 2008 and 2011. From Jane Mayer’s expose on the Mercer family, we know that this happened in 2011:

In 2011, David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United, introduced Trump to Bannon; at the time, Trump was thinking about running against Obama. Bannon and Trump met at Trump Tower and discussed a possible campaign. Trump decided against the idea, but the two kept in touch, and Bannon gave Trump admiring coverage.

We also know that Trump engaged in activities like his speech in February 2011 to CPAC, that looked a lot like someone who was considering a run for president. His birther attacks against Obama began in March 2011.

2. Putin’s interest in Trump was fueled by his desire to sow discord both in the U.S. and within the Transatlantic alliance.

The entire period of Trump’s presidency demonstrates that either Putin made a good bet in supporting the real estate mogul, or that Trump is carrying out Putin’s bidding.

3. Source D in the dossier, who is described as a close associate of Trump, reported in June 2016 that Russian intelligence about Hillary Clinton that had been shared with the campaign was “very helpful.”

The meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives occurred in June 2016 and emails show that it had been arranged in order to share Russian intelligence with the campaign.

4. The conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign was managed by Paul Manafort and Carter Page.

Both men were involved with the campaign and resigned immediately after their Russian ties were exposed.

5. Russia’s hacking of emails from DNC and John Podesta was done with the “full knowledge and support of the Trump campaign.” In return, they agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and question US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe as a distraction.

U.S. intelligence services and several private interests have confirmed that it was the Russians who coordinated the hacking of emails from the DNC and John Podesta. It is interesting to note that the dossier doesn’t claim that the Trump campaign was involved in those efforts—only that they knew and supported them.

We also know that in early July, Paul Manafort (who was then Trump’s campaign manager) worked to gut the GOP’s anti-Russian stand on Ukraine in the party’s platform. During the campaign, Trump suggested that he might, as president, recognize Crimea as a Russian territory and refused to state that he would defend the Baltic states from a Russian invasion (as per our NATO commitments).

6. The dossier suggests that payments to cyber operators in the U.S. working on these efforts were made using the Russian emigre pension fund via diplomatic staff. Specifically mentioned is Mikhail Kulagin (whose name was misspelled). It also stated that Kulagin was withdrawn from Washington on short notice as a prophylactic measure due to his “heavy involvement in the U.S. presidential operation, including the so-called veteran’s pension ruse.”

In February, McClatchy reported that:

A Russian diplomat who worked in the Washington embassy left the country last August while federal investigators examined whether he played a key covert role in the alleged Kremlin-directed plot to influence last fall’s U.S. elections.

Two people with knowledge of a multi-agency investigation into the Kremlin’s meddling have told McClatchy that Mikhail Kalugin was under scrutiny when he departed.

7. Carter Page met with Igor Sechin in July 2016 while he was in Moscow. They discussed the possible brokerage of up to 19 percent in Rosneft in exchange for lifting the sanctions against the company.

Michael Isikoff reported on the meeting and what was discussed in September 2016, which led to Page resigning from the Trump campaign.

Given that many of the reports in the Steele dossier were dated prior to news reports that confirmed the activities described, most of the significant events contained in the dossier have been corroborated—this is hardly a document that has been discredited. There is a reason why it became central to the investigation of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 election.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.