by Jack Anderson
Donald Trump has once again broken new ground in American politics. During his first few weeks he has continued to bite back against criticism and made his views on various issues be known through Twitter (for example, big car firms staying in America and his reaction to ‘fake’ news). These are both unusual as politicians are expected to absorb criticism be it just or unjust and keep many of their views to themselves presumably to help with negotiations (as is happening with Brexit). At his first press conference as President elect he did so again when he was asked questions about whether or not he could be blackmailed by Russia, new ground indeed.
This information has come from Christopher Steele who used to be an MI6 agent. His firm, which is based in London, was employed first by Republicans who did not want Trump to be President and then by Democrats. The report or series of memos that Steele wrote has been known of in Washington circles for a while, was rejected in various forms by many different outlets until it was fully published on Buzzfeed with both Obama and Trump being told about it in their intelligence briefings. The various outlets rejected it because it was full of hearsay and very few of the sources are in any way verifiable. Steele has subsequently gone into hiding (which I didn’t think could be done anymore) and his neighbours are looking after his three cats.
The report states that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years,” that Trump had declined various real estate deals but did take intelligence from the Kremlin, that Trump had engaged in perverted sexual acts whilst in Moscow which could lead to blackmail and that the Russian Intelligence Service had compromising information on Hillary Clinton (bugged calls whilst in Moscow and things like that, no perversions).
During the news conference Trump said the following;
- He stated in typically robust language that this story and the various claims were completely untrue.
He is a germophobe vaguely referencing the claims made about his visit to Moscow in 2013.
- He always took bodyguards with him and he told everyone to be careful as cameras can be hidden anywhere.
- During his career he could have easily made deals in Russia but has chosen not to.
- He had no debt there again seemingly referencing suspicions that Trump is indebted to Russian banks.
The media response to the publication of the report has been mixed. Some (like Margaret Sullivan, a senior columnist at the Washington Post) have said that rumour should never be published. In the New York Post John Podhoretz said, “In my experience, there is no source of whom you need to be more sceptical, and whose information you need to verify to the letter before you can even begin to think of publishing it, than an ‘intelligence’ source.” Buzzfeed say that the report was published for Americans to make up their own mind and this was backed by Glenn Greenwald who said Buzzfeed had ended speculation and shown everyone, “what a farcical document this actually was.”
This document was funded by people who did not want Trump to be elected so is not, and was never meant to be, a balanced report but most of the claims are seemingly based on little more than intelligence paid for by a few pints. Most people have paid attention to the perverted sexual acts section of the report because that is what the media has focused on and it is what people want to read about anyway but the other claims could be more worrying. Trump mentioned that he took Miss Universe to Moscow which made Trump millions and was paid for by a Putin ally which sounds bad. The fact that he has been ‘cultivated for years’ is also alarming, what gifts has he received and how could he pay them back?
On the other hand anyone with millions of pounds to spend who lives in Moscow is going to be a Putin ally if he wants to continue to live in Moscow with millions of pounds and even if Trump has been given gifts it does not mean he will be a pawn in Putin’s schemes.
It is a shame that a report of such dubious merit can be passed around Washington, can be talked about in Presidential intelligence briefings and can be the main talking point at Trumps first Presidential press conference. I am not a fan of Trump because he has had said some extremely terrible things and like everyone else I have no idea which of his policies he will enact but he will soon be President of the United States of America and has not received much respect from most of the media. He has, for example, said he will not need daily intelligence briefings and this morphed into him saying he would not need any briefings at all. He has been very disrespectful of immigrants and especially Muslims but does that mean that people who disagree with him should stoop to his level? The next few years are going to be extremely interesting and Trump will be at the centre of it, hopefully unsubstantiated rumour will not be.