Dossier pondered by Weisberg and Pesca!


Ruminations on oppo research:
We're sometimes puzzled by the things we hear major journalists say.

Early this morning, we were puzzled by a conversation between Mike Pesca and Jacob Weisberg, both of Slate. You can listen to their conversation in this new episode of The Gist. The relevant discussion starts around minute 10.

The gents can be heard discussing the fact that the Clinton campaign helped pay for the Steele dossier. Soon, they're comparing what Candidate Clinton did in that instance to what Donald Trump Jr. did at his now-famous secret meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Along the way, the gentlemen say that opposition research is sleazy, dirty and disappointing. We don't see why they think that, but eventually Pesca takes us where the rubber meets the road.

At its heart, this presentation involves a very good question:
PESCA (10/25/17): So here's what Trump's going to say...He's going to say something like, "What is so different between one of the candidates in a presidential election hiring a foreigner to put together damaging information on the other candidate, versus what my son Don Jr. is being accused of, which is meeting with a foreigner who offered to supply damaging information to the other candidate?"
In Pesca's slightly puzzing formulation, Clinton hired a foreigner (Steele) to gather negative information about Trump. Somewhat similarly, Trump Junior was willing to let a foreigner (the Russian lawyer) give him negative information about Clinton.

"What's the difference?" Pesca asks, saying that Trump will say this. Although his formulation seems a bit strange, we think that's an excellent question.

Let's start with Clinton. In principle, there's nothing wrong with hiring someone to develop damaging information on your opponent. You can always gather such information by nefarious or illegal means. But in principle, there's nothing wrong with gathering negative information.

Having said that about Candidate Clinton, we remain inclined to say the same thing about Trump Junior. In principle, we still don't see what would have been wrong with accepting negative information about Candidate Clinton, whoever he got it from.

It isn't clear that Trump Junior ever received any such information from the now-famous Russian lawyer. But if the Russian lawyer had some actual information about Clinton, we don't see what would be wrong with accepting that info if you're the Trump campaign.

Speaking through Trump's imagined voice, Pesca was asking a very good question. Around the 12-minute mark, he put it to Weisberg again, and he got Weisberg's reply:
PESCA: So again, I'll go back to the question. When Donald Trump makes that point, "What's the huge difference?" what's the answer?

WEISBERG: Conspiring with an enemy power. Russia's an enemy power...You shouldn't be doing business with them, at all, about anything, around an American election.
Weisberg goes on, at some length, about how wrong this would be. Basically, though, his answer is this:

"Just because."

We still have no idea why Weisberg says what he says. Let's go back in time and do a bit of imagining:

Suppose some official of this enemy power knew something bad about Trump and wanted to share it. Let's even suppose that we're talking about Putin himself.

We're supposing that Putin's claim about Trump is true, and that it could be proven. Putin knows something bad about Trump, and he wants to pass it on.

Weisberg is saying that the Clinton campaign, in this case, shouldn't listen to Putin, or to some Russian lawyer. Now let's suppose something else:

Let's suppose that Putin decides to give a public speech in which he reveals the provable, unflattering information about Clinton or Trump. Weisberg makes it sound like we should put our hands over our ears and say "La la la la la la" so that we won't be able to hear what Putin says.

Go ahead! Listen to what Weisberg says, and tell us this doesn't follow.

Our point is simple:

Information is information, no matter who supplies it. It's information if a Brit named Christopher Steele presents it in a dossier as part of a paid research mission. It's information if it comes from a Russian lawyer, or even from a Russkie named Putin, whether he's making a public speech or speaking to you on the phone.

An accurate fact remains a fact no matter who reveals it! There's nothing wrong with receiving true facts from an "oppo research" project. But also, we can't see why there would be something wrong with receiving actual info, some accurate fact, from a Russian lawyer.

Information is information, no matter where it comes from! As we walk through this vale of tears, we sometimes wonder if major journalists retain a clear idea of what information is!

We recommend the discussion at Slate. We also find it puzzling.

These journalists today: In best eye-catching fashion, the dossier is described in Slate's headline as "the pee tape."

We understand the reference to pee all too well. The pee tape? You tell us!


  1. "Information is information, no matter who supplies it."
    Hillary's emails were stolen, Mr. Somerby. That's called a "crime", and aiding and abetting a crime is ...also a crime.
    "Putin knows something bad about Trump, and he wants to pass it on."
    "Wanting to pass on information": That's not Putin's alleged motivation for collecting dirt on Trump. He actually wants to hold onto it as a bargaining chip. That's sometimes known as blackmail.
    Once more:
    "Information is information, no matter who supplies it."
    The theft and receiving of state secrets ("information", after all) is considered treason. I urge Somerby not to talk with Russians or Brits or anyone else about sensitive info; we wouldn't want him to land in jail.

    1. Podesta's emails were stolen, not Hillary's.

    2. The existence of these documents, and the fact that they said one thing and the people were led to believe something else, is a reason we have a credibility gap today, the reason people don't believe the government. This is the same thing that's been going on over the last two-and-a-half years of this administration. There is a difference between what the President says and what the government actually does, and I have confidence that they are going to make the right decision, if they have all the facts

    3. @Anon 4:00 pm:
      "This is the same thing that's been going on over the last two-and-a-half years of this administration."
      I know it seems longer, but Trump has only been in office 9 months.

  2. Fabricating a slanderous 'dossier' is exactly the same as talking to a woman named Natasha.

    Except that every woman named Natasha is an Enemy of the People, and therefore talking to Natasha is much worse... nay - it's utterly evil.

    Get it. You liberal zombies crack me up.

    1. Kulak hunting over there bore you, Mischa, so you come over here to bore us?

      Got it.

    2. The only things that 'Mao' has defended in all his postings are Russia and Putin. Unsurprising, since one would want to defend one's paycheck.

    3. In this case, the woman was named Natalia (not Natasha).

    4. Natasha is the standard nickname for Natalia. Don't believe me? Ask Mao.

  3. Er, Somerby -- DT Jr lied about the information he was getting until the same journalists you rant about said they had his email.

    1. The Clinton campaign lied about the source of the dossier until it was going to be disclosed. They violated the law because money was exchanged, so they are facing consequences.

  4. How can there be nothing wrong with Don Jr. getting opposition research from Russians? The news people screamed about it for months!

    1. While the "fake" news people at Fox News explained it all away.

  5. Bob, you need to get your facts straight.

    The trump campaign was colluding with a foreign government actively committing crimes - theft of emails - in order to damage his political opponent in our election.

    The Steel dossier was in reaction to a former top MI6 British agent who learned of the collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

    As an example of the information compiled by Christopher Steele:

    Claims: Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government had sought to “cultivate” Trump for a period of five years (that is, beginning in 2011). Report suggests that Trump was offered and declined real-estate deals and that the Russians have compromising information on both Trump and Clinton.

    Analysis: Trump’s relationship with Russian interests extends back decades, during which time he may have been contacted by Russian agents. In 2011, Trump was flirting with running for president, including by attacking President Barack Obama’s nativity. By 2013, he’d partnered with a businessman named Aras Agalarov to host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. It was Agalarov and his son Emin who were later the vehicle for orchestrating a meeting between a Kremlin-backed lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016.

    There’s no evidence at hand that this cultivation took place, however. The dossier claims a carrot-and-stick approach to keeping Trump in line, with the carrot being those real estate deals and the stick being the “salacious” event. Subsequent reporting, though, indicates that Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen (whose name will come up again) emailed Putin aide Dmitry Peskov (whose name also will come up again) in January 2016 to ask for help in advancing a project in the capital. The deal collapsed — undercutting the idea that six months later Russia would have claimed to be trying to bolster Trump’s efforts in the city.

    This British MI6 agent was sufficiently alarmed by all this that he felt honor bound out of a sense of patriotic duty to compile the information and pass it on the our intelligence agencies who have now since then verified much of what he compiled.

    So cut the false equivalence bullshit.

    1. And, Somerby will continue to make the same false equivalence in dozens more posts. He is so blinded by his anger at the liberal media that he assumes that their reporting is automatically false. His cavalier disregard for the facts leads him to this simpleminded "can't we all get along" bullcrap.

    2. mm, there must be some new info I'm not aware of. What emails were thieved by the Russians?


    3. Re: stolen Podesta emails:
      Cybersecurity researchers as well as the United States government attributed responsibility for the breach, which was accomplished via a spear-phishingattack, to the hacking group Fancy Bear, allegedly affiliated with Russian intelligence services

    4. Democrats will believe anything and twist themselves into deluded knots to see their fantasies as reality. It's why they try to convince everyone gender is a construct and killers are gentle giants. Face the reality that Trump is clean on Russia but Hillary's campaign is up to its neck in collusion.

    5. 6:43 PM,
      America's white supremacy fetish won Trump the election. The MSM is just chasing Russia because it's the only other excuse left.

    6. @6:50pm: "America's white supremacy fetish won Trump the election."
      TDH wouldn't like you saying that. Somerby says that kind of statement is why They hate Us.

    7. @Leroy:
      Some or all of the Podesta emails were subsequently obtained by WikiLeaks, which published over 20,000 pages of emails, allegedly from Podesta, in October and November 2016.

    8. @6:41, at least you use the term "allegedly." I assume that's the term used in your source (whatever it is) for the allegations that Russia "hacked" Podesta's emails.

      Anyhoo, I think this claim of hacking needs to be distinguished from Steele’s report. But it was mm that brought it up in conjunction the first place. I honestly want to know if there’s any new information on the emails that I’m not aware of.

      This article is pretty recent, I haven’t seen a debunking as of yet…



    9. Go talk to the CIA, Leroy.

      On 9 December 2016, the CIA told U.S. legislators the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded the Russian government was behind the hack and gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from John Podesta.[14][15][16]

    10. @Leroy:
      "Anyhoo, I think this claim of hacking needs to be distinguished from Steele’s report."
      Somerby is the one trying to posit some sort of benign equivalence between Clinton's use of oppo research and Trump's. He blithely says "information is information no matter who supplies it", and he consistently downplays the Trump Jr meeting with the Russians. A dossier? A meeting? Meh (says Somerby); why not use it? Why not use hacked emails? Why not collude with Russians to release those emails? (To be clear, at this point this is 'alleged', but would be criminal if proven).

    11. 7:03,
      I know. It's difficult for a lot of people, not just Somerby, to face. Look at the voter suppression, which ties right into it, and notice the complacency about it by the majority of Americans.
      Somerby should stop repeating right-wing excuses for their behavior, and instead should use this blog to spotlight how the media keeps changing the subject instead of addressing the white-supremacy fetish.

    12. mm, your links don't work.

      @8:22, Bob is right. Information is information. Opposition research in politics is sometimes a nasty business. Is it illegal to get info from the Russians?

      Anyway, I wandered, I usually try to at least give a nod to Bob’s post, and I didn’t this time. Won’t happen again.

      That being said, Hillary lost because of the Electoral College. Full effin stop. It didn’t perform one of the duties envisioned by Madison, to keep a madman out of the Whitehouse.

      Having said that, I can’t discount the dirty tricks of the Republicans re gerrymandering and voter suppression in the outcome.

      The Russians didn’t throw this election to Trump, our own corrupt political system did.

      If I’m wrong, I’ll admit to it. But you’ll have to have mountains of evidence to convince me.



  6. The difference is that the oppo offered to Trump Jr. was in exchange for lifting sanctions in the event Trump was elected. Clinton was paying for the oppo. That's OK. Trump was receiving a gift from a foreign agent. That's against the law.

    1. An important distinction. B.S. is being obtuse.

    2. 'Being obtuse' is Somerby's MO these days, his persona, the "Bob Somerby" figure.

    3. We Disagree

    4. Trump wasn't receiving a gift. He was offering a quid pro quo to a foreign government in the form of favors that were against American interests. That is treason.

  7. "The pee tape?"
    Re: golden showers ordered by Trump at the Moscow Ritz Carlton to defile the room where the Obamas had stayed (from dossier):

    The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

    1. Trump wanted people to know what he did to the bed where Obama had slept. What is the point of an act like that if no one knows about it?

  8. You say information is information, but Russia is not an ally. Perhaps if this were an isolated Russia situation.....but it's part of a larger pattern of Russian meddling.

  9. "Information is information, no matter who supplies it."
    Even prosecutors aren't able to use information that was illegally obtained by the police (without a search warrant, for example). So, no, it actually does matter.

  10. Dossier pondered by Weisberg and Pesca!

    You know who else has been pondering the Steele dossier. People like James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence.

    CNN) — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Friday night that the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race "cast doubt" on the legitimacy of President Donald Trump's victory.

    "Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election," Clapper said on CNN's "Erin Burnett Out Front."

    Clapper said he disclosed the information to the President during a briefing on the assessment in January, and that particular aspect seemed to concern Trump the most.

    James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, describes the hacking operation as "the most aggressive and the most direct" the Russians ever mounted -- a new frontier, the narration notes, which allowed Putin to "strike at the heart of American democracy."

    The long-term severity of that wound remains to be seen. But "Putin's Revenge" makes clear that it worked beyond even its mastermind's wildest dreams

    And Robert Mueller
    CNN has learned that the FBI and the US intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged. James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, said in a January 2017 statement that the intelligence community had "not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable."

    The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele's research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.

  11. Bob put on his Bis Boy Cap before he penned this post.

  12. The seriousness of these revelations is exemplified by the vigor with which Fox News and the right is working to discredit Mueller and derail his investigation. Trump is dirty, he is going down, he knows it and so does everyone else. It is only a matter of when and the speculation is that it will happen before Thanksgiving.

  13. Three big differences

    1. Hillary and the Dems actually paid for info from the Russians. Trump, Jr. didn't.

    2. Hillary, et. al. didn't actually pay for info. They paid for a smear full of falsehoods.

    3. Hillary and other leading Democrats have been lying to the public for a year, falsely denying their role in producing this smear.

    Another probable difference is that this dossier was probably used to help justify a large number of unmaskings. That is, where a Russian was wire-tapped and the American he was speaking to was identified. Unmasking is illegal except in very special circumstances.

    1. The biggest difference: The Clintons did it, so in this case their is something nefarious about it. Accusing the Clintons of crimes for doing things every other politician does, is a pillar of modern Conservativism.

      Colin Powell using a private server = meh.
      Hillary Clinton using a private server = the crime of the 21st Century.
      Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (among others) using a private server = meh.

    2. Example 2: The reaction to Bill Clinton's consensual relationship with an adult vs. Donald Trump's admitted sexual predation.
      One will get you impeached, the other will get you elected.

    3. @David in Cal:
      1) The Trump campaign is alleged to have colluded with Russians to release emails stolen from Podesta, and to have offered Russia a quid pro quo in exchange for this release, as well as Russian interference in the election. On the other hand, paying for oppo research isn't illegal. And, the contents of this dossier were not made public prior to the election.
      2) You assume the info in the dossier is false; that remains to be proven.
      3) Fusion GPS research was initially funded by Republicans, then, apparently, by Democrats. But what difference does it make? Not revealing that you paid for research is hardly a "lie." And speaking of lies, the Trump campaign lied about meeting with Russians until confronted with evidence to the contrary.

      You use the word "apparent" and "probable" a lot in making unproven assertions. But you will tie yourself in knots to exonerate Trump. Besides, didn't Bob Somerby say oppo research is ok: "Information is information, no matter who supplies it."

    4. You just have to laugh at Comrade David anymore.

      If you watch FOX NOOZ all day you would hear people like Sebastian Gorka calling Hillary Clinton to be tried for treason and executed.

      What is going on now is a coordinated attack on Mueller from CrazyTowne Wingnut Land to discredit his impending findings.

      Comrade DinC is just doing his part.

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