NEWS

Christopher Steele Sought Out In London By Republicans Over 'Watersports Gate' Dossier

This isn't going away.

08/08/2017 09:07 | Updated 08 August 2017

Two Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers travelled to London earlier this summer in a secret bid to contact the British spy who compiled the infamous ‘Watersports Dossier’ on Donald Trump, it has been reported.

The pair were tasked with locating former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, in what Democrats fear was a bid to discredit allegations of collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

The pair were dispatched by Intelligence Committee Chair, David Nunes, an ally of the President who stepped down from the Russia investigation over alleged bias and unethical conduct, but has since been accused of continuing to interfere. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who set-up Orbis Business Intelligence and compiled a dossier on Donald Trump.

The dossier in question, published in full by BuzzFeed News in January, contained lurid allegations (see below) against Trump who dismissed it at the time as “made-up junk”.

A recently as last month, the President said: “Now that was totally made-up stuff.... I know a lot about those guys, they’re phoney guys.

“They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing. Plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people.”

But it made headlines around the world mainly due to the allegation Trump had hired prostitutes “to perform golden showers (urination) show in front of him.”

These acts are alleged to have occurred in a suite and on a bed where the Obamas had previously stayed.

Steele, 53, went into hiding shortly after the dossier was made public but his lawyer is reported to have been in contact with the House Intelligence Committee since.

The Republican approaches to Steele have stoked tension between the simultaneous Russia probes being conducted by the House and Senate.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans did not inform Democrats on the panel, the Senate Intelligence Committee or Special Counsel Robert Mueller who behind the scenes is assembling an army of prosecutors and investigators.

Here’s a reminder of what Watersports Gate was all about.

First, the big one.

1) We don’t know if the allegations are true

The claims had been reported before, they aren’t independently verified, and even the man who originally broke the story warned readers to treat them cautiously, but they were taken seriously enough to warrant the US intelligence services’ attention.

We also haven’t seen how much of this information the intelligence community thought was worth mentioning or able to find some verification for in the two-page document that was reportedly presented to Barack Obama and Trump.

2) The Source

The dossier on Trump was compiled Steele as part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Trump, and later funded by Democrats, according to Mother Jones.

He later turned over the report to the FBI who in turn showed some of its contents to Obama and Trump.

The memos discuss videos covertly recorded by the FSB (Russian security services) in a Moscow hotel room in 2013 and cite ‘Source D’ as saying Trump’s conduct included hiring prostitutes “to perform a ‘golden showers” (urination) show in front of him.’ 

These acts are alleged to have occurred in a suite and on a bed where the Obamas had previously stayed.

3) Trump Was Told About The Allegations A Week Before They Went Public

A summary of the allegations was separate from a classified assessment of Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in the US presidential election. Trump and Obama were reportedly briefed on the intelligence community’s findings early in January.

It’s unclear why the intelligence officials decided to brief the then-President and Trump on the uncorroborated information at this time, but lawmakers and others have repeatedly noted that Russia collects intelligence on both Democrats and Republicans.

“The Russians also hacked systems associated with the Republicans. They just chose not to release that material yet,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said at the time.

“There’s nothing that prevents them from doing so at a time of their choosing in the future.”

4) The Reports Had Been Circulating For Months

 In October, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to the FBI asking the bureau to publicly disclose what it knew about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Reid was aware of the dossier before he wrote the letter, according to a person knowledgeable about the subject who spoke on condition of anonymity.

5) The Embarrassing Allegation That Went Viral

What piqued the interest of many were allegations Trump paid prostitutes to urinate in front of him on a bed previously slept on by the Obamas, colloquially known as a ‘Golden Shower’.

This is what spawned the hashtag #WaterSportsGate, leading to a smorgasbord of urine-related puns. 

6) Donald Trump Definitely Doesn’t Think It’s True

He was so mad he went FULL CAPS LOCK.

And he didn’t stop there...

 

Trump’s then-lawyer and adviser, Michael Cohen, also denied secretly meeting with Russian officials in Prague in August or September of last year to discuss Russian hacking of Democrats.

Although this too was lampooned as not providing any counter-evidence.

8) The Kremlin Denied It Was True

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin has denied allegations that the Kremlin has collected compromising information about Trump.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed news reports as a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense.” Peskov insisted that the Kremlin “does not engage in collecting compromising material.”

And if you can’t trust the Russians then who can you trust...

7) The Rest Of The World Didn’t Care If It’s True

When the dossier went public, #WaterSportsGate was top trend in the UK and #GoldenShowers 2nd in the worldwide charts.

For ages.

8) A Lot Of People Questioned If BuzzFeed Should Have Published The Entire Dossier

Despite the details of the claims being unsubstantiated, BuzzFeed chose to publish them, prompting a heated debate about journalistic ethics.

The information is unverified and from anonymous sources, much like a lot of the “fake news” publishers such as BuzzFeed itself has rallied against.

Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, held back on the specific allegations because they had not been substantiated.

David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones, said at the time:

When breaking the story, CNN also chose not to publish the details saying it “has not independently corroborated the specific allegations”.

BuzzFeed’s Editor-in-Chief tweeted a memo sent to his staff outlining his justification.

It read:

As you have probably seen, this evening we published a secret dossier making explosive and unverified allegations about Donald Trump and Russia I wanted to briefly explain to you how we made the decision to publish it We published the dossier, which Ken Bensinger obtained through his characteristically ferocious reporting; so that, as we wrote, “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government

Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers,” Mr. Smith wrote. “We have always erred on the side of publishing. In this case, the document was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media.

Publishing this document was not an easy or simple call, and people of good will may disagree with our choice,” Mr. Smith added. “But publishing this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.

9) It Was Comedy Fodder Gold

 

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