The Associated Press has compiled a list of the information provided in the list of memos authored by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, and compared it with what has been revealed through court filings and public statements. And while the AP finds what they believe to be “snippets of fiction” in the pages, they also find that a great deal of what Steele produced is proving to have a basis in fact.
What has turned out to be true is the primary narrative thread that runs through all the memos: The Russian government set up an “elaborate operation” to damage Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election through social media, propaganda, and by stealing Democratic information and providing it to Trump. And the Russian government sought to aid Donald Trump, whose campaign responded eagerly to Russian offers of help.
The Kremlin set out to harm Clinton and help Trump. Trump jumped on the opportunity. That makes Trump a colluder, conspirator, and any other c-word that comes to mind.
Steele’s memos were also accurate in many details, such as laying out Carter Page’s meeting with Russian officials at a time when it wasn’t otherwise known, possibly even to the FBI who had been watching Page for years. But there’s another key area of the memos that often gets obscured by the focus on some of the more sensational … yellow elements.
One of the primary claims of the Steele memos is not just that Russia sought to help Trump, but that the flow of information went both ways. Part of the price for Putin’s help, according to Steele’s sources, was that Trump help Putin in ways that he could address even if he didn’t win—by providing the Kremlin with information on wealthy Russians in the United States. It’s not clear whether this information from Trump to Russia has been substantiated. Those portions of the investigations in the House and Senate that have been exposed to the public don’t even seem to have ventured into this territory,
The idea that Donald Trump was providing something to Vladimir Putin in exchange for his assistance months before the elections is certainly intriguing. Trump’s habit of selling property to Russians and other former Soviets would position him to provide this information if asked. So far there doesn’t seem to be anything to indicate that this part of the memos has been verified … but if it were, that would seem to put the final nail in any idea that Trump was not fully on board with efforts to cooperate with Russia.
The AP also notes that the memos have some critics who are not currently in the U.S. House of Representatives—a group of Russian “businessmen” who have sued Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS (which hired him to research Trump), and the news site BuzzFeed which first published some of Steele’s information. The Russians in question are owners of a Moscow holding company called Alfa Group, The four men involved are named in a pair of Steele’s memos that don’t seem to be very connected with other memos, and which are primarily focused on internal issues within Russia. Which brings up the possibility that one of Steele’s Russian sources was trying to use the opportunity to attack rivals.
However … the four men involved in these suits have definite Kremlin connections. And the comments made in the memos seem a lot less ludicrous now than when Steele first handed them over in 2016.
The Gubarev memo said his business “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data” in an operation against Democratic Party leaders.
It’s clear that Russian operatives in 2016 (and today) did use botnets. It’s clear they did use malware to gain entry into Democratic systems and steal data. The only question would be whether or not Steele’s sources fingered the right company when they pointed to Alfa Group.
And if that’s all that Steele got wrong … Donald Trump should be extremely worried about the possibility of other memos being confirmed. For all the attempts Republicans in the House have made to discredit Steele’s work and to suggest that the whole Russia investigation was tainted by association with these memos, Steele seems to have been far more right than he was wrong.