👉 This post has been rewritten for clarity and new updates. Read the original version here.
At this point it’s basically common knowledge that Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian and Vladimir Putin. We were talking about the shady Trump/Russia connections back in July. Probably before that, too.
We know Russia hacked John Podesta and the DNC under Putin’s orders. We know they released their findings through Wikileaks. We know Russia hacked at least some of the RNC’s older domains, and elected not to release any of that. And we know that a lot of people working for the Trump campaign had at least somewhat less than savory connections with Russia.
This afternoon, four senior officials of America’s intelligence agencies, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers, and FBI Director James Comey, testified before congress about the Russian hacking allegations.
The big, earth shattering news that came out of this hearing was that intelligence agents had presented to President Obama and President-elect Trump a report that said, basically, that Russia was balls deep in Trump and owned him like a small purse dog.
This news came from an unverified intelligence report compiled by an employee of a private intelligence agency. This particular employee is known to the American intelligence communities, is former MI6, and has provided solid intelligence before. Also, apparently we know some of his sources, and they seem to be legit, too. This guy compiled his report as opposition research and became so alarmed with what he found, the story goes, that he ended up turning his information over to the FBI.
This unverified report isn’t news. Rumors of it were floating around Twitter and Reddit back in – I want to say late June or early July, but my memory might be off. Mother Jones did a story on the report in October. At the time, the report was considered something serious enough to be worth taking a deeper look at, but also outlandish enough that no one really wanted to touch it. The report was apparently shopped around to quite a number of reporters and news organizations, according to various folks on Twitter this afternoon.
CNN reported on the thing today, and that was shortly followed by Buzzfeed News dumping the whole leaked, unverified report in their story.
The Internet blew. up. y’all. This report is spicy. It’s got everything. Donald Trump having weird, petty, golden shower-based sex with prostitutes in Russian hotels, active collusion with Russian espionage agents, sex tapes, all kinds of shady policy deals and financial shenanigans – just everything. If even a quarter of what’s in this report is true, it’s a frickin’ firestorm.
The problem is, y’know. The report is completely unverified.
Here’s where things get a little sticky. On one hand, there are some really outlandish claims in this report. I mean, the golden shower story is wild and exactly the kind of thing I’d generally dismiss out of hand because it hits too many caution triggers. It seems custom-built to be the sort of story angry liberals take off with and build happy little conspiracy theories out of.
On the other hand, there are a lot of credible-sounding claims in here that people in the know are taking seriously. Lawfare, Wired and Josh Marshall have some smart things to say about that. Their articles basically boil down to: “Keep a salt shaker handy, but there’s a lot of stuff in this report that needs looking into.”
And that’s not even mentioning the Guardian’s article, “FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts,” which goes into some of the less fanciful revelations in the report and tosses in the fact that the FBI sought warrants from the FISA court to surveil Trump campaign people over Russia connections.
So where does that leave us? Well, it doesn’t look good, folks. I mean, from over here it looks a lot like we’re about to inaugurate a Russian intelligence asset president, but that’s just me. If you only take one thing away from this mess it should be that we desperately, and quickly, need a thorough and independent investigation into Russian interference in the election and Russian ties to Donald Trump.
There’s a rumor flying around conservative Twitter, parts of Reddit and other “alt-right” Internet circles that the leaked intelligence report that kicked off this whole mess was a fake story fed to reporters and eventually the CIA by trolls on 4Chan. Depending on where you read the story, either the whole report, vast swaths of the report, or just the “golden showers” portion of the report is made up and part of the 4Chan troll story.
This is – well, to put it bluntly, it’s bullshit. Feel free to disregard it. I’ve been hearing rumors of this leaked report since mid-summer and the post on 4Chan that’s being considered “proof” was written in November. Also, the golden showers story, while vastly amusing to some of us, is hardly the important part of this news. It’s the ties to Russia, coordination with Russia during the campaign and financial entanglements with Russia that are the meat of this story.
(Photo credit: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C., by Gage Skidmore. [Source & Licenses.])