After nearly a year of cogitating, no one in the media, usually a fairly leaky institution, has been able to figure out who exactly who provided the infamous “Trump Dossier” to BuzzFeed which was published on January 10, 2017 and promptly debunked within approximately 35 seconds.
As the Daily Caller points out today, less than a handful of people had access to the dossier before it made its way to BuzzFeed: John McCain, David Kramer (a former State Department official and an associate of McCain), then FBI Director James Comey and Fusion GPS (the creator of the document). Fusion GPS has since admitted under oath that they did not share the document with BuzzFeed which basically just leaves John McCain (and/or his associate) or James Comey.
Asked about the dossier recently, an irritable, and perhaps defensive, McCain lashed out at a Daily Caller reporter (seemingly a new trend for McCain of late) saying only “I don’t know why you’re digging this up now.”
In addition to McCain and Steele, opposition research firm Fusion GPS had the dossier, as did David J. Kramer, a former State Department official and an associate of McCdoain’s.
One person who was provided a copy of the salacious document, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, is Arizona Sen. John McCain. But McCain, who has already acknowledged providing an early version of the dossier to former FBI Director James Comey, denied this week that he also gave a version to BuzzFeed, which published it on Jan. 10.
“I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don’t know why you’re digging this up now,” McCain said during a testy exchange with The Daily Caller on Wednesday.
McCain was asked whether he was BuzzFeed’s source after the Republican’s office declined to answer direct questions on the matter.
As a reminder, here is a recap of the timeline leading up the dossier’s BuzzFeed debut.
McCain and Kramer, a former official at the McCain Institute, were first told about the dossier in November, during a conversation with Sir Andrew Wood, a former British spy and associate of Steele’s. McCain then dispatched Kramer to meet with Steele in London on Nov. 28.
Steele, who operates Orbis Business Intelligence in London, has revealed in the London lawsuit that he allowed Kramer to view the dossier but did not provide him a copy. He said that an “arrangement” was later made for Fusion to provide a copy of the dossier to McCain through Kramer.
McCain then provided a copy of the document to Comey during a Dec. 9 meeting.
Four days after McCain met with Comey, Steele would produce the final memo of the dossier, the one that was provided to BuzzFeed and which included the allegations against Gubarev.
Steele sent the final memo to Fusion with instructions to pass a hard-copy to Kramer and McCain. It is unclear how the dossier was disseminated after that. Fusion has not said whether it disseminated the final version of the dossier to anyone outside the company.
The denials by Steele, Fusion and McCain that they were BuzzFeed’s sources leaves just a few posibilities, including Kramer.
Kramer has not responded to multiple requests for comment about his handling of the dossier or whether he gave it to any news outlets. He has not talked on the record to any reporters since being identified in the controversy.
Of course, the identity of BuzzFeed’s source is significant for two reasons. First, because a Russian tech executive, Aleksej Gubarev, was accused in the document of hacking into DNC computers to dig up dirt on Hillary during the 2016 campaign. And second, but certainly not least, because it could shed light on whether someone in Trump’s own party or, and perhaps even more disturbing, within the FBI ordered a “political hit” on the newly elected – if wildly unpopular (at least on the DC circuit) – president.
It is a central question in a lawsuit filed against the media outlet by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive named in the dossier. Gubarev is identified by name in Steele’s Dec. 13 memo. In it, Steele alleges that Gubarev was recruited under duress by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, and that he used his companies to infiltrate the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee.
Gubarev’s attorneys have said they want to find out if BuzzFeed’s source provided any warnings or qualifications about the allegations made in the dossier. If so, the lawyers are likely to argue that BuzzFeed was negligent and careless in publishing the document.
BuzzFeed, which has apologized to Gubarev, has defended its decision to publish the dossier, noting that its article unveiling the Steele memos explicitly stated that the memos had not been corroborated. The website also said that the dossier was newsworthy because Comey had briefed President Trump on its allegations during a meeting on Jan. 6.
On top of its importance to the lawsuit, the identity of BuzzFeed’s source is of widespread interest because of the possibility that a government official disseminated the uncorroborated document to the media, possibly as a hit job on Trump.
And then, of course, there is the issue of who ordered the dossier in the first place…
Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2017