I’ve just read the 35-page opposition research dossier compiled during the U.S. presidential campaign by a former MI6 operative working initially for a GOP presidential candidate, then for a Democrat. It documents the comprehensive campaign by the Kremlin to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and bolster Trump’s. It further documents the full-throated support of the Trump campaign for the effort. Further, it shows that both Trump and the Russians jointly funded the extensive cyber hacking ring behind it.
The Russian side was led by Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. And the Trump side was coordinated by his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen even attended a secret meeting in Prague with a Duma legislator closely allied with Putin. Together they outlined their mutual funding responsibilities and discussed how to minimize potential fallout from the operation.
Today’s leak accompanies news that no less a figure than GOP Mandarin Sen. John McCain had personally handed over the document to FBI director James Comey last month and demanded he take action. This appears to be a marriage either of convenience or principle between both the outgoing Democratic administration and some outraged traditional Republican conservatives laying down a marker to the incoming Trump camp.
This is a document that will be hard to ignore. Further, if a freelance, albeit well-connected intelligence agent could dig this up, you can be almost certain that the NSA, GCHQ, and other western intelligence agencies have even more damaging data. What becomes of that data once Trump sweeps into power? It seems highly doubtful the Democrats leaving the White House and CIA will shut their office doors and leave all the damning evidence behind in nicely organized file folders. It’s far more likely that it will be copied and secretly archived in an Establishment version of the WikiLeaks Papers and disseminated in much the same excruciating way that Putin and Assange did to Clinton. It will be death by a thousand operations cuts. Each one deeper than the that preceded it..
Donald Trump hasn’t seen the last of this. The question is how specific and documented will the information be. Will it be enough to force a federal investigation? Or to mount impeachment proceedings? If true, this material rises well above the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. It may well be the most brazen act of political chicanery in the history of the Republic.
Of course a caveat is in order. Some of the material in the dossier has already been shown to be false. But that material is tangential and secondary to the major claims. Further, if an investigator talks to 50 people about an extremely sensitive subject and compiles a report, the chances are that some small amount of the material will turn out to have been wrong. At least one of the informants misheard something, exagerrated, was deliberately misled or perhaps even invented something. But that doesn’t discredit the other 49 sources by any means.
So if the veracity of the data is proven over time (and several intelligence agencies have vetted it and believe it to be credible) then we move to the next phase: will the American people and media let the scandal go? Will it rise to the level of impeachable offense in the eyes of the public? That remains to be seen. But at this early point, it seems very likely it could.
Paul Krugman has taken to calling the incoming presidency the “Trump-Putin administration.” That seems striking, but sadly apt.