Trump compromised?

US intelligence agencies have briefed both President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump that the Russians may well have information that compromises Trump. They don’t have anything they know directly, but they have information from a credible intelligence source which says that the Russians have information about his finances and about himself personally which would compromise him if released.

This may be why they wanted Trump rather than Hillary Clinton. Perhaps they didn’t have anything really damaging on her. They wanted what they call a “useful idiot” to win.

The information:

    suggests that Moscow has assembled damaging information – known in espionage circles by the Russian term “kompromat” – that conceivably could be used to coerce the next occupant of the White House.

That’s how they work.

Those quotes were from a report in the AFR linked above which goes on:

    US officials said the claims about Russian possession of compromising material were based not on information through traditional intelligence channels but research done by an outside entity engaged in political consulting work and led by a former high-ranking British intelligence official. The material was first mentioned in a Mother Jones report in October.

    US officials said that while the FBI had so far not confirmed the accuracy of the claims, US officials had evaluated the sources relied upon by the private firm, considered them credible, and determined that it was plausible that they would have first-hand knowledge of Russia’s alleged dossier on Trump. (Emphasis added)

Trump and Obama were given a two-page summary of the report, a fact that was reported on by CNN. Then Buzzfeed blew the thing wide open by publishing the full 35-page document, with caveats that the information was unverified and contained some clear errors, albeit fairly trivial things like mis-spelling a Russian company.

Buzzfeed was then dumped on by The Washington Post, by by The Guardian and presumably by others who considered it unethical to publish unverified material. Apparently quite a few media organisations had the material and did not publish.

However, a point had been reached where the full document was known to be in the hands of senior congressional leaders, who were passing it around, and the existence of the two-page summary in the presidential briefings gave it credibility.

Will Oremus at Slate discusses why Buzzfeed published at this juncture. Given the knowledge of its existence and how it was being treated he suggests that it was fair enough, but in doing so Buzzfeed was operating in the tradition of a blogger rather that a mainstream media organisation, which it claims to be. However, when Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith says he published the document “so that Americans can make up their own minds” about the allegations, Oremus thinks he’s being disingenuous. How can Americans make up their minds when media organisations and intelligence agencies can’t?

The blog Lawfare has useful commentary, and ends up suggesting that people:

    slow down, and take a deep breath. We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a “fake news” episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts—a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit.

Trump asserts that it is just more fake news. We may never know, but we should be able to judge by Trump and Putin’s actions as to whether Putin has a grip on Trump’s short and curlies. I’m sure he would if he could.

Meanwhile, there is more interest in how Trump is going to act in relation to the intelligence agencies. Gideon Rachman writing for the Financial Times says that if there is a battle with the spooks, Trump will win.

Zygmunt Bauman, in the last piece he wrote before he sadly died recently said:

    Shortly before his death, the great Umberto Eco drew in his brilliant essay Making an Enemy the following sad conclusion from his numerous studies of the matter: “Having an enemy is important not only to define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values and, in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth”. In other words: we need an enemy to know who we are and who we are not; knowing this is indispensable for our self-approval and self-esteem. And he adds: “So when there is no enemy, we have to invent one”. A codicil: “Enemies are different from us and observe customs that are not our own. The epitome of difference is the foreigner”.

Problem is, foreigners are foreign, insufficiently known, not controllable and not here. A “decisionist” leader (basically an autocrat) like Trump needs an enemy within. Trump did say he was going to drain the swamp, so he has chosen the current establishment as his enemy, which Bauman describes as:

    un-packable as a foggy and (felicitously for their choosers and would-be foot soldiers) under-defined collection of have-beens who outlived their time and are grossly overdue to be relegated to history and recorded there in its annals as an aggregate of selfish hypocrites and inept failures. In a simplified rendition: establishment stands for the repulsive, off-putting and unprepossessing past, and the strong (wo)men, ready to send it to the rubbish tip where it belongs, stand for the guides to a new beginning, after which (s)he who has been naught shall be all.

Can’t wait, but if Putin really is the puppet-master, it should be fun – and very noticeable.

18 thoughts on “Trump compromised?”

  1. I finished this one last night and somehow forgot to press the “publish” button. There’s been a news conference since then.

  2. That’s a good article, thanks, Douglas. Trump may stuff over the intelligence community by appointing new leaders and reorganising them, but he won’t get anywhere near the best out of them unless he changes his tune.

    Also there will be more leaks at inconvenient times.

  3. Richard Wolffe in the Guardian – Trump’s trainwreck press conference ushers in a clueless presidency:

    It’s safe to say that the Trump administration is already in shambles – and it hasn’t even started yet

    I heard an Estonian person with relevant experience talking about the way the Russians operate. He said it was routine to collect dirt on persons of interest and to make stuff up if that was fit for purpose.

    He said that he thought nothing they had on Trump would damage his career. I’d agree – it has been shown that it is virtually impossible to defame Trump.

    However, the Russians like stirring up trouble to confuse and distract, at the very least.

  4. Regan used insanity power to unsettle the Russians and start the cold war endgame in the US favour.
    Need to sort out if Trump if is making clever use of insanity power or simply crazy.

  5. Word on the street is 4chan wrote ” the dossier ” as a joke and the Podesta eMails had a bit more to do with Seth Rich ( RIP ).

    The absence of any proof in all this makes me untrusting of anyone that states they know.

  6. John, the intel agencies are as politically compromised as any Govt organisation.
    And all they have provided to date is ” word on the street “, no proof at all.

  7. “Word on the street” is as politically compromised as any Govt organisation.
    We could evaluate it properly if we knew which street and whose word.

  8. Here’s some analysis plucked at random from the overflowing intertubes.
    To me it seems a fairly sober take on the situation from someone who probably leans towards the Republican side.

  9. “Word on the street” is the last thing you would take seriously.

    Zoot, that bloke’s bottom line is:

    My suspicion would be that the report is a composite of some fact, a lot of speculation, and even some fiction.

    But it’s a suspicion only. I’ll repeat the Lawfare conclusion:

    slow down, and take a deep breath. We shouldn’t assume either that this is simply a “fake news” episode directed at discrediting Trump or that the dam has now broken and the truth is coming out at last. We don’t know what the reality is here, and the better part of valor is not to get ahead ahead of the facts—a matter on which, incidentally, the press deserves a lot of credit. (Emphasis added)

  10. Jumpying to conclusions still I see!

    Here is a little digressionary anecdote. An Australian (with a farming background) business associate living in Chicago visited me yesterday. Being a young(er) and healthy Aussie guy he has had no need to use the US health system. At least until December when he developed a worrying pain in his side with all of the impression of appendicitice. Off to the doctor who referred him on to a specialist at the nearby hospital. Just 15 minutes with the specialist, “nothing to worry about, the pain will pass, here take this” and that was that,…until the day before he boarded a plane to come here for a few weeks when he got his excess bill from his medical insurer,..$2000.

    And that was after the insurer had paid the full hospital bill of $8000.

    “The next time I get sick I’ll just put up with the pain” he said.

    And Trump is determined to kill ObamaCare, I’m not seeing a Great America in that “policy”.

  11. Good coverage as usual, Brian. I particularly enjoyed the Zygmunt Bauman references. Below is a comment (which covers my thoughts so far on Trump) I put on the Social Europe website.

    “I think the one element left out of these discussions is the extremely rapid pace of population growth, rapid on the one hand yet static on the other. Since 1900 when the Earth’s population was just around 1 billion people and at a time when many of our social expectations and understandings were formed, the population has multiplied seven fold. That growth and its consequences, however, are masked by technological change.

    Towards the end in the famous “rat world” sociology experiment society breaks down from competition for scarce resources of all kinds. In the real human world all of the same factors are present, but humans have been able to overcome food shortages, health crises, accommodation limitations, and social disorder with technology and cheap energy.

    We live with in a world with a curious state of sameness and extreme change. The backdrop to our lives is one that changes very little. We can all find large parts of our near living environment that has not changed for as many as a hundred years, yet the accessories are vastly different. Clothes, hair, cars, art, graphics, interiors, appliances, all in consumptional abundance, are the personalising diversionary embelishments that occupy our day to day existence with in an apparent unchanged landscape. This is the mask that hides dramatic global transitions.

    Zygmunt refers to social transitions “from a society of producers to a society of consumers” along with the progressive marginalisation through transition of wealth that is the inevitable consequence of global inbalance. However by far the greatest change is that of global saturation of humans, the massive consequential environmental degradation, and now even Global Climate Change. We are all rushing towards the perfect global storm wrthy of any mass extinction event. And within our societies the cracks are starting to emerge.

    Democracy is suffering from the blasting noise of there being too many voices with too many options and the human inability to process large quantities of information, the classic failure of committee management. In that environment it is the loudest and most extreme voice that overides all others. Trump made himself heard by voicing a procession of popular prejudices while building on the standard revolutionary line ” I will make -enter country name here- Great again” without any serious qualification of how that would be achieved other than the use of another prejudice that building infrastructure employs, and creates prosperity.

    Broad prosperity is only achieved within a balanced, equitable and productive society. Henry Ford was the backbone of the great American Dream by demonstrating that mass production can support an increased standard of living. The litmus test for Trump will be if he does or does not follow Ford’s example and increase the US minimum wage to $12 per hour on his first day in office. Is Trump Keynesian or Libertarian? Zygmunt shows his Marxist leanings with his “morbid and murderess” reference, and I think he may be closer to reality, but not in the way he suggests. It has been some time now since there was one of those other great American traditions, a Presidential assasination. Trump has certainly stacked the deck and charged the atmosphere to the extent that anything is possible. I think Trump’s first month in office will determine how the 45th Presidency plays out.”

  12. BilB, excellent comment, thanks.

    Douglas, it’s a plausible take, but the truth is that we still don’t know.

    What we do know is that there are fractures between Trump and his intelligence community, which he is going to need.

  13. The normal Russian compromise is to get pictures of someone playing up. However, it is a bit hard to see Trump being damaged much by pictures of Trump playing up with some Russian woman.
    In addition, we live in an age when the technology is able to fake all sorts of things. Makes it easy for Trump to deny or simply say “so what?”
    It looks as though Trump is declaring economic war on Mexico with car companies suddenly deciding it makes more sense to build new plants in the US.

  14. What we do know is that there are fractures between Trump and his intelligence community, which he is going to need.

    Well not really the intel community, rather the Democrate appointed heads. He’ll correct that inside 3 months or sooner I recon.

Comments are closed.