By Martin Barillas
Oscar-winning movie director Oliver Stone reminded his followers on Twitter that Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona was among those in government who propagated the uncorroborated allegations against Donald Trump that have recently been put into question by startling revelations. Stone tweeted on Friday, “Those who prompted the corrupt dossier’s findings,” included not only McCain but also former CIA Director John Brennan and others.
Stone was referring a dossier allegedly paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele for the GPS Fusion opposition research firm and the behest of a law firm affiliated with the Democratic Party. Earlier media reports indicated that an initial report on Trump, to which the Steele report was eventually added, was paid for by a Republican. The Washington Free Beacon — a conservative media outlet associated with publisher William Kristol and billionaire Peter Singer — revealed to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday that it had contracted with the Fusion GPS opposition research firm to produce the original report. Both Kristol and Singer were initially opposed to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and have been dubbed Never-Trumpers.
However, the Washington Free Beacon stressed in a statement it released today that it had nothing to do with a scurrilous, uncorroborated report prepared by British intelligence agent Christopher Steele at the behest of Fusion GPS and which eventually came into the hands of the Obama administration and the FBI. Part of the Washington Free Beacon’s statement read:
“All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier. The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele. Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign.”
The outlet said it would not apologize for its methods.
Following Trump’s electoral victory, the Democrats were apparently no longer interested in the report. Steele continued to work on the dossier for Fusion GPS. His reports became one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, as reporters from The New York Times and elsewhere sought to confirm or deny the allegations.
It was on November 18, 2016 that former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Andrew Wood, conferred with McCain at a forum in Canada and told him about the materials relating to Trump, vouching for Steele’s professionalism. Then, McCain received a copy of the dossier, reportedly from David J. Kramer of Arizona State University — a former U.S. State Department official. However, McCain’s office has denied media requests for verification. McCain then turned over the dossier personally to FBI Director Comey in December.
On January 11, McCain told the media, “Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI. That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.” Last week, a reporter for Daily Caller asked McCain whether he had given the dossier to Buzz Feed. In what was described as a testy exchange, McCain retorted: “I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don’t know why you’re digging this up now.”
A former British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Andrew Wood, told BBC Radio in January that McCain consulted him shortly after the November election during a security conference in Canada. The former diplomat claimed that McCain had obtained the dossier from the senator’s own sources. “I told him I was aware of what was in the report but I had not read it myself, that it might be true, it might be untrue. I had no means of judging really,” Wood told BBC Radio 4.
Vanity Fair magazine raised questions in March about former State Department official Kramer and whether he obtained the dossier directly from Steele. This issue has been raised in a lawsuit filed against Steele by one of the people named in the dossier.
The wild and unverified claims about supposedly embarrassing information held by Russia about Trump and his associates have remained unsubstantiated. For example, former CIA director Brennan testified in May that the information he saw in the Obama administration’s probe into Trump supposed ties to Russia made him conclude that there was no collusion.
Some media outlets, including the BBC, contend that the dossier however served as a guide for the FBI probe in 2016 into the alleged ties between Russia and the Trump organization. In April of this year, CNN reported that the dossier was part of the justification the FBI under director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch used to seek approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct secret wiretaps of Carter Page, one of Trump’s associates.
Last month, former FBI director Comey repeatedly refused to answer questions from members of the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence about his agency’s ties to the dossier. He admitted, however, that he pushed resisted President Trump’s request to possibly investigate the origins of “salacious material” that the FBI had examined during the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Hollywood movie director Stone also tweeted on Friday, “Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the Steele Dossier. That it took 10+ months to find out who funded it speaks to mainstream media’s protection of Establishment.” The dossier and Democrats’ statements seeking to bring focus on the issue have been a constant for months. The reports this week tying the dossier to the Clinton and the Democrats has radically changed the narrative that has circulated heretofore.
Various Congressional Democrats, including ranking minority member Rep. Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, have continued to insist on bringing up the dossier. This week, for example, Schiff told MSNBC about the revelations about payments by the DNC and the Clinton campaign for the dossier: “It doesn’t add much value to learn who paid for it necessarily and I view this as the effort to discredit [primary author Christopher Steele] which really doesn’t advance the investigation.” He added, “You know, the plain fact is, sometimes what is uncovered in opposition research turns out to be true.” He said, “So the most important thing is, is it true? How much of it is true and how much outside of the dossier have we learned about the Russian involvement? And indeed, we keep on learning more and more.”