“The Dossier,” as everyone calls it, is talked about either as the key to what really happened in the 2016 presidential election, as likely ordered by Vladimir Putin; or it’s an artful but largely invented tapestry of libels and innuendo meant to discredit Donald Trump’s presidency. Most likely there is something in it of both. And in the shadowland of espionage it is even possible that parts of it were planted by Russian operatives to distract and discredit investigators trying to get to the bottom of the Kremlin’s skullduggery.
Every few weeks passages from The Dossier resurface like Delphic prophecies, full of promise, menace, and ambiguity. Most recently, federal investigators indicted twelve officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, for hacking U.S. computers associated with the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, stealing documents and disseminating them with the intent of trying to sway the election. We’ve also heard former FBI director James Comey say it is “possible” Donald Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on the bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz Carlton, although Comey said he really didn’t know. And we heard from McClatchy that Trump’s consigliere, Michael Cohen, really did travel to the Czech Republic in 2016, despite his continued denials — but we don’t know whom he met there.
Meanwhile, what purports to be the full text of The Dossier is rarely scrutinized in its entirety, and even more rarely understood for what it is: a collection of raw and sometimes unreliable notes about intelligence gathered from secondary and tertiary sources and thrown together into one folder over the course of six months in 2016. The most commonly available version, published by Buzzfeed in January 2017, does not even present the memos in the order in which they were written. [Continue reading…]