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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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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