********THE STEELE REPORT******** WON’T PROBE? ARE YOU KIDDING? — — “No, I just don’t care about right or wrong as long as the president is a Republican.”
At least that’s the sub-text of yesterday’s story in Politico.
Richard Burr, Chair Senate Intelligence Committee, has stated that under his direction that committee will not investigate in any way alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian state. He has dismissed the Steele Report, where intelligence on that matter is contained, as “rumor.”
First, regarding the leak of this report — of course it was proper and important for the report to get out. Whoever leaked (i.e., unofficially released) it did the country a service; only it should have been done sooner. And the fact that it hasn’t been released until now is a true embarrassment for US Intel. They sat on intelligence that would have had a material bearing on the election.
Because of the credentials of the report’s source, the American people had a right to know about the report before the election as well as after. (Here the history of the report is not clear; it had been circulating for some months in one form or another; it was not until McCain in November handed a copy retrieved from England to the FBI that it became an official object.)
It’s not a matter of the average person deciding the truth or falsehood of the report. They can’t. No one can at this date. That’s what committees and commissions — with the help of intelligence experts — are for. What is extremely relevant to all Americans is that the report is from a highly credible source, former senior British Intelligence official, Christopher Steele — at one point second in command at MI6. Therefore, the report necessarily raises realistic (not fantastical) doubts about Trump — i.e., there is a significant degree of probability that the report is true. And that degree of probability — and any degree — must be appropriately examined when it comes to choosing and when it comes to confirming a president — and I should say especially in the case of Donald Trump, whose record inspires much suspicion as to his integrity, and whose behavior (his pro-Russian leanings) on the surface seems to confirm aspects of the Steele Report. In retrospect, it is as though US Intel did not want the American people to have doubts about Trump. Why else conceal it?
Is the probability of the Steele Report’s truth of a high degree or a low degree — or somewhere in between? Impossible to say at this stage, but the point is there is some degree of probability that it’s true. Given that, there must then be some doubt about Trump, and it is precisely this doubt that must be resolved through appropriate official channels. It must be done, even as a matter of routine, and the only people who can do it are government, but with the Politico story we are now informed that government — at least one important element of it and perhaps the most appropriate — refuses to even consider an investigation. Simply denying the contents of the report prima facie is not appropriate official procedure. Burr above dismisses out of hand what is in fact well-sourced intelligence.
How important is this report and what is its evidentiary status? The answer: There is virtually no difference between Steele’s report and the report of a top CIA operative. Congress or the DOJ would act on a CIA report. It follows then that Steele’s report is sufficient to start proceedings.
The Steele Report changes everything. : : : : : : : : : : Who honestly can say that they are now sure of Trump? The issue comes down to a simple question that everyone must ask: Do we believe someone who has consistently uttered false statements or do we believe someone whose integrity has been approved at the highest levels of international intelligence over a span of 20 years (The Guardian)? I must add that that nearly qualifies as a false dilemma; Christopher Steele is most likely an honest party in this; however, he is not a direct witness to any of the primary facts claimed. But this degree of removal simply means we must get closer to the source of the report’s claims — something the US Intelligence Community (possibly the UK’s too) may in fact be doing but certainly not with the approval of the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Burr.
Naturally, there is great fear and liability around this report. It contains information that almost certainly would have guaranteed Clinton’s win, for the simple reason that it raised a reasonable doubt as to Trump’s integrity — and not, as some self-delusionally argue, an unreasonable one. It is also an open question as to Who knew what and when? Did Republican leadership continue to endorse Trump despite knowledge of elements within the report (Mitch McConnell, Richard Burr, and Paul Ryan)? Did they make any attempts to conceal the report from the public? Or was that decision solely the province of US Intel? Extremely explosive questions — which officials should be asking in formal ways, and ones that may lead to allegations of a cover-up not unlike Watergate.
But why are the Report-based doubts reasonable? : : : : : : : : : : We must consider the source again: Christopher Steele, a former high-level and seasoned British intelligence agent, and whose record appears unimpeachable and whose colleagues as well as governmental connections give him the highest recommendation (The Guardian). Further, US Intel itself regards him as a highly credible operative, which means he is on a par with their own operatives. In short, his credentials appear impeccable. This all means that he is as credible and as trustworthy as it gets when it comes to intelligence. Another way of saying this is that he is the equivalent of the best operatives of the CIA. However, none of this means the report is true. It only — “only”? — increases its truth probability. But that says a lot. It means there must be an investigation now; and it means this investigation should already have begun; and it means the American people should have known about this report at the earliest instance.
So now many politicians (i.e., almost every Republican) behave as though it’s too late, as though this ship has sailed and we must passively watch it disappear over the horizon. But there is no reasoning to that. Clearly, the report is still very live and very toxic and it will stay that way until deeper investigation probes the degree of its veracity.
The sooner we probe the claims made in that report, the sooner the American people can be certain about the quality of their president.