In an update to my post earlier this evening on CNN’s reporting that the classified US Intel Community (IC) report submitted and briefed to the President, the President-elect, and the Congressional Gang of Eight including an annex/appendix referencing Russian active measures and kompromat of the President-elect, I linked to Buzzfeed’s subsequent reporting. Buzzfeed’s report included a synopsis of the CNN report, as well as a summary of what is in the alleged oppo report compiled by a former MI6 officer. It also included a link to the pdf of that oppo report.
I’ve now had a chance, between dinner, responding to comments, reviewing what those I considered informed sources have written on this, and watching news coverage of it and the farewell address, to actually make my way through it. I’ve read it slowly and carefully. Here’s what I think is going on with it:
1. As DM correctly notes in comments to my earlier post,
No, I don’t think it’s a false flag. I am just suggesting that one be cautious about the details in the Buzzfeed document. We know the IC is worried that Trump is compromised, we just don’t know what they think the Russians have on him.
It’s not too hard to imagine someone hearing rumors about the ex-MI6 person’s report (which, after all, was circulated to Republican opposition research people (presumably last Spring?) and Democrats (last Fall?)). Someone might then elaborate on them, counting on the IC rumors to give their story some legs and credibility.
Of course, it’s also pretty easy to imagine the actual ex-MI6 person’s report getting widely enough circulated that Buzzfeed got a copy and has printed it (though, once again, we don’t know which details of this document the IC considers credible and corroborated).
I think this is a correct amount of skepticism. From what David Corn seems to be intimating, this is, indeed, the file he saw before his reporting on this back at the end of October 2016.
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer, and Naval Intelligence officer, Malcolm Nance, who’s book on Russian active measures to disrupt the 2016 election was published several months before the election, also supports Corn’s reporting and his confirmation that this is the information he saw and referenced for his October 2016 reporting.
Rick Wilson, who ran former CIA National Clandestine Service officer Evan McMullin’s Independent campaign for the presidency, and who was trying to work this oppo research into the media during the campaign, is also confirming this is, at least, some of that material. He also denies being Buzzfeed’s source.
Liz Mair, who was also working for a competing campaign during the GOP primaries has indicated that some the material in the oppo research report that Buzzfeed posted is material that she’s familiar with.
2. What I think we’re looking at here are two different, but related things. The first is the CNN reporting, which states clearly that a two page annex/appendix was including with the IC’s classified report and briefings to the President, President-elect, and Gang of 8. This is based on the oppo research report prepared by a former MI6 officer that indicates the Russians have kompromat on the President-elect. The second is the report Buzzfeed posted, which is alleged to be the actual oppo report.
In regard to the former, the IC would not have included this in their report or briefings if they didn’t have confidence in the source of the oppo research report – the former MI6 officer. This doesn’t mean that the IC has done a full vetting and has high confidence, rather it means they are comfortable enough with the reports author and his sources and are concerned enough with the possibility and probability that the President-elect could be compromised that they wanted the information in the report and briefing.
This is different than the report Buzzfeed posted. If, in fact, what Buzzfeed posted is the oppo research cited by the IC in the annex/appendix to their classified report and briefing, which has been intimated, but not completely confirmed, then the questions become: what can be verified and what can’t. Michael Cohen, the attorney for the Trump Organization referenced in the report, has already pushed back on the report’s allegation that he was a key go between. He claims to have been at USC visiting the campus with his son at the end of August 2016 and USC’s baseball program has confirmed this. John Schindler has pushed back on this, asserting that alias documents could have been used. The report that Buzzfeed posted makes this allegation about Cohen being the primary go between starting sometime in August a central component. A good deal of its credibility will rise or fall on the ability to verify this allegation.
3. So what does this leave us with? Two different things. The first is the CNN reporting about the two page annex/appendix to the IC’s classified report and briefings to the President, President-elect, and Gang of Eight. The second is the report that Buzzfeed posted. At this stage I think the former is solid reporting. CNN wouldn’t have run it without vetting that the annex/appendix was indeed part of the IC’s classified report. It confirms and then furthers David Corn’s reporting from the end of October 2016 and, to some extent, some of Kurt Eichenwald’s reporting from the beginning of November 2016.
The second is the report Buzzfeed posted. This is alleged to be the source document for the two page annex/appendix to the IC’s classified report on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. At this point there is not enough information to confirm or deny the veracity of the report that Buzzfeed posted or if it is, indeed, the basis for the annex/appendix to the IC’s report. Buzzfeed referred to the report this way, which I also directly quoted and attributed to them in the update to my earlier post this evening:
A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.
For the time being explosive, but unverified seems to be the way to approach this.