Christopher Steele could make even the wackiest conspiracy theorist look good.
The former British intelligence agent who has taken on an unlikely importance for critics of President Donald Trump admitted during a deposition last year that he was uncertain of the factual basis for some of the elements he included in his now-infamous “Trump dossier.”
In fact, he admitted he didn’t really know the source of some of his “sources” at all.
Steele’s admission came during a deposition in July 2018 for a lawsuit filed against him and the website BuzzFeed in U.S. federal court by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian technology firm executive whose companies were mentioned in the Steele report, according to Fox News.
The lawsuit was dismissed in December on First Amendment grounds, according to The New York Times, though Gubarev’s attorneys said they would appeal.
Even though the lawsuit has been dismissed, transcripts from the case shed light on how much effort – or lack thereof – went into backing up the explosive allegations in the now thoroughly debunked Trump dossier.
According to transcripts published by The Daily Caller, specific deposition questions dealt with how Steele compiled information about the Gubarev-owned companies XBT and Webzilla.
Steel had just finished describing how he conducted an “open source” search for information on the internet when he was asked how he went about verifying anything that he found.
“Did you find anything of relevance concerning Webzilla?” Steele was asked.
“We did,” he responded. “It is an article I have got here, which is – was posted on 28 July, 2009, on something called CNN iReport, which is – I can circulate it if you like.”
The transcript doesn’t describe the contents of the article Steele was referring to at that point, but the more important point is its source, what Steele referred to as “something called CNN iReport.”
As the Washington Examiner pointed out, the CNN iReport was not exactly an authoritative source – and didn’t even pretend to be.
According to CNN itself, CNN iReport, which is no longer operative, was not part of CNN’s editorial operations proper (biased and flawed though they may be) but was instead “a separate citizen journalism initiative from CNN’s editorial news service that allowed users to contribute stories, photos or videos.”
Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy behind the Trump-Russia dossier, says he used unverified information to support details about a web company mentioned in the dossier https://t.co/A1WgZAfYgh pic.twitter.com/vi5W1ysMGT
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 16, 2019
In fact, a page from a web archive of the site states this explicitly:
“iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”
In other words, it was like Twitter, Facebook or any other platform for the ramblings of any random individual who knew how to upload information – or misinformation, or disinformation, or outright lies.
Bathroom wall scribblings have more credibility.
Yet this was a “source” of information for a man who wrote a report relied on by the FBI when it was seeking warrants to place members of the Trump campaign under surveillance.
This was a “source” of information about that report which, to this day, is still being kicked around the more fevered parts of the internet, with wild stories of Trump and Russian prostitutes and a supposed softness in the White House for Russia.
If a conservative — or group of conservatives — had relied on the 21st century equivalent of water cooler gossip and latrine scuttlebutt like this to try to make a case against a liberal White House, the mainstream media would be roasting alive everyone involved.
But because he worked against the Trump campaign and his work is being used against the Trump presidency, Steele gets the kind of pass that would never be afforded a group like Judicial Watch when it was battling the Obama presidency.
Still, Steele’s work was fundamentally flawed, and only gets more so with every revelation that comes out about it.
He makes conspiracy theorists look good.
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