An Updated Look at the Steele Dossier

How has the infamous Steele dossier panned out so far? There’s still no evidence of the pee tape or Michael Cohen’s trip to Prague.¹ Sorry. But there was always way more to it than that, so Cheryl Rofer has taken a fresh look at the full set of 45 claims in the dossier and evaluated them based on what we know now. I was curious to get a higher altitude look, so I grouped them into categories based on their current status.

Here’s what I came up with. Note that these are my interpretations of Rofer’s summaries. She isn’t responsible for them in any way.

Aside from three oddball claims that I couldn’t really classify (6, 7, and 19 if you’re counting), it looks to me like the dossier includes 15 claims that are now fully or partially supported and 27 claims for which we have no evidence so far. These 27 claims include a fair amount of insider Kremlin gossip.

What I found most interesting is this: although there’s no public evidence one way or the other for these 27 claims,² there doesn’t appear to be a single claim that we know with certainty is false. There are claims that have been denied by the American participants, but none that we have documentary proof of being mistaken. Partly this is because it’s hard to prove a negative, but it’s still surprising that not a single claim in the report has been conclusively debunked. It’s especially surprising since the dossier is a patchwork of raw intelligence, and even if it was well done by competent professionals you’d still expect it to include at least a few claims that, two years later, we could say were categorically wrong.

All things considered, then, the dossier has held up pretty well. There are a couple of sensational claims (Prague, pee tape) that are unproven and, at this point, seem unlikely to be true, but the fact that they got lots of media coverage doesn’t mean they were critical to the overall integrity of the dossier. Taken as a whole, it looks like a pretty solid report that’s probably provided lots of good leads to follow up.

¹There’s a single McClatchy story from April claiming that Robert Mueller has evidence for the Prague trip, but since then no other reporting has confirmed this. It might still be true, but at this point I’d be pretty skeptical.

²Just to repeat, there’s no public evidence one way or the other for these 27 claims. We have no idea what the intelligence community knows that has remained unleaked.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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