6. Faulty Evidence
In a move that demonstrates the lengths that the FBI was prepared to go to in order to produce evidence of impropriety from Trump, the federal law enforcement organization was prepared to pay former British spy Christopher Steele $50,000 to uncover anything that would compromise the president. Coincidentally, Steele was also working for Fusion GPS at the time, an opposition research firm with close ties to the Clinton campaign.
Among the assertions in Steele’s leaked dossier, which BuzzFeed later published, were claims that Trump engaged in “perverted sexual acts” in a Moscow hotel room previously occupied by the Obama family. This established the compromising information that Trump’s opponents so very badly needed to suggest that the Russians could blackmail him.
The ultimately debunked dossier went on to claim that Russian tech giant Aleksej Gubarev was involved in an illegal hacking campaign against the Democratic Party during the 2016 election. Gubarev is currently suing BuzzFeed for alleged character assassination.
5. Unconvincing Report
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats betrayed the intelligence community’s own obsession with Russia when he admitted that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was looking for “every opportunity to hold Russia accountable.” This may have contributed to the drafting of a 25-page declassified report that was strangely absent of even the most rudimentary technical details on Russia’s alleged hacking campaign. Instead, it read like a New York Times editorial.
Cybersecurity experts and independent intelligence analysts expressed doubts over the report and were not persuaded by the collective conclusions of the intelligence community. Naturally, critics of the Trump administration insist that the true dirt on Russiagate may be found in the classified, unrevealed sections of the same report. But the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) set the bar so low with his assessment that few skeptics are convinced of the report’s legitimacy.
According to former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson, there is no direct, incriminating evidence in the ODNI report. He explains its dubious nature:
These are “or and how” intelligence estimates as opposed to an intelligence analysis based on fact. There’s no fact underlying this. There are analytical assumptions. You can tell that because whenever they use the language like “we assess that” or “we believe that” or “it’s likely that,” that means they don’t know, because if you knew, you could say . . . in public “according to multiple sources we know that.” You state facts.
Despite these troubling deficiencies, opposition groups and journalists continue to parade the report around Washington. In an attempt to add authority to the DNI’s claims of Russian-sponsored hacking, Trump’s opponents are suggesting that all 17 agencies that comprise the US intelligence community independently confirmed the findings of the report.
In fact, the report only included assessments from the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA. Lawmakers, such as former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, are troubled by the ODNI report’s exclusion of dissenting opinions from important organizations like the Department of Homeland Security or the Defense Intelligence Agency. Hoekstra added that the move was likely an attempt to provide Obama with a “supposedly objective intelligence report” on Russian hacking that could later be used to “undermine” the incoming administration.