Jacob Heilbrunn

Christopher Steele comes up Trumps

Christopher Steele comes up Trumps
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Crikey! Did the Kremlin put the kibosh on Mitt Romney’s hopes to become Secretary of State in the Trump administration? This is one of the revelations contained in Jane Mayer’s report in the New Yorker today about Christopher Steele. It seems that Steele wrote in a November, 2016 memo that a senior Russian official had explained to him that the scuttlebutt in the Russian Foreign Ministry was that the Kremlin had intervened with Donald Trump to block Romney’s appointment. If so, it adds a new layer to Romney’s humiliating encounter with Trump, who took him to the three-star Jean-Georges restaurant in Trump Tower for dinner, where he sampled, among other things frog’s legs. It was all for naught. Trump appoint Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson Secretary of State at the behest, so it is implied, of Vladimir Putin.

Mayer’s lengthy report is being scrutinized for what it says about ties between Russia and Trump. But the British angle is quite fascinating as well. All sorts of British grandees pop up, ranging from Sir Richard Dearlove to Ambassador Kim Darroch. Was there anyone in the British establishment who was unaware of what was taking place in America? It seems not. In fact, it seems that British intelligence was one, if not more, steps ahead of its American counterparts.

This is why one thing that is becoming increasingly clear to me is that the dossier, which Trump has said is 'garbage' compiled by 'sick people,' may help to explain why Trump is loath to visit the United Kingdom. The public explanation is that he doesn’t want to encounter hostile crowds and insists that British authorities arrange a public reception for him. But the real, unspoken reason may be that he regards the British, not the American, deep state as the greatest threat to his presidency.

Think about it: Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent, starts snooping around Trump’s business affairs in Russia at the behest first of Paul Singer, an American multi-millionaire backer of neoconservative causes, including the Washington Free Beacon. Then Singer ditches Steele after his own primary candidate Senator Marco Rubio flames out. The contract is picked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign, which, if Mayer’s account is anything to go by, didn’t really know what to make of his apparent political ties to the Russian elite or his apparent sexual hanky-panky in Moscow. But Steele, who was convinced that Trump was a bad hombre, kept beavering on even after his election.

According to Mayer, he authorized a trusted mentor—Sir Andrew Wood, a former British Ambassador to Moscow—to inform Senator John McCain of the existence of his dossier. Wood, an unpaid informal adviser to Orbis, and Steele agreed that McCain, the hawkish chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should know what was going on. Wood told me, ‘It was simply a matter of duty.’ McCain subsequently informed the FBI about the document, only to learn that it already had a copy. Which raises the question of why the FBI didn’t publicize its enquiry into Trump, when it did its investigation into Hillary Clinton.

Since then, the Steele dossier has hovered over Trump who keeps issuing tweets blaming Obama for his predicament. But forget Obama. The real winner of the brouhaha turns out to be Steele himself. Mayer reports that he has secured several new clients as a result of all the publicity surrounding him. Can a Hollywood movie chronicling his exploits be far behind?