Ever since BuzzFeed published it 10 days before Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, the notorious Steele dossier has never been out of the news. The 35-pager was always of dubious intelligence value, so why anybody is still discussing that controversial document is a question that needs to be answered.
It’s not difficult to determine why the dossier, compiled in the second half of 2016 by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, created a sensation, given its lurid allegations of sexual shenanigans by our 45th president, accusations of clandestine meetings between Trump emissaries and Russian spies, and a general portrayal of Trump as a highly unsavory character. This was tabloid-worthy stuff, coming from a one-time senior British spy.
From the outset, however, there were solid reasons to question the accuracy of much of its contents. While its portrayals of Kremlin atmospherics mostly rang true, many of the dossier’s specific allegations of shady activities involving Trump and the Kremlin were not just unproven but well-nigh unprovable. To take a classic example, see the late summer 2016 meeting in Prague between Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney and Russian officials, alleged by the dossier, which may—or may not—have happened: we simply don’t know.
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