The simple explanation could fit into a tweet, rather than a column: because it’s such a ridiculous story with zero independent corroboration that it just can’t be true. However, the raw intelligence document that was leaked by Buzzfeed has basically been used as a roadmap by the intelligence community. We know that it played a role in getting a FISA warrant approved on Carter Page. The dossier states that he went to Moscow at the same time that Page and the Trump campaign say he did. He allegedly met with the president of energy giant Rosneft—Igor Sechin (who has been called the second most powerful man in Russia)—whose right-hand man was found dead right after Trump’s election. So if we know that one significant chunk of this dossier contains enough truth to help obtain a FISA warrant (which is not the rubber stamp it’s portrayed to be—the FBI can withdraw their application at any time before a ruling—it’s like walking into your final with a failing grade, dropping the class, and getting an incomplete grade instead), and that the intelligence community has corroborated enough portions to legitimize it to a certain degree in their uncertain world, then why can’t the pee tape be real?
After all, per the sourcing within the document, it’s arguably the most verifiable excerpt. There are three sources who confirm that Donald Trump did in fact, hire prostitutes to pee all over a bed in a room that former President Obama had stayed in. If you’re going to argue that the dossier has significant segments that are true, it’s difficult to say that the pee tape isn’t at least a candidate for that elusive definition.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s fake, folks. And I have a theory* as to why.
*please note the word “theory” here, I don’t want to be lumped in with the rest of the Russian tweetstormers of certitude like Seth Abramson, Louise Mensch and Eric Garland.
Christopher Steele is a former MI6 agent who worked at the UK embassy in Moscow, and he headed the Russia desk at the agency from 2004 to 2009. His bona fides on this topic quite literally speak for themselves. He was initially employed by a Republican competitor to dig up dirt on Trump, and that work continued into the general election when the Democrats hired him too. After the election, Steele was so troubled by what he had discovered that he continued to work on his own, and the dossier wound up in the hands of John McCain, who then passed it to the FBI. It was around that same time that the entire posture of the Russia narrative shifted, as this document that pretty much everyone in the media and politics had seen in the past year was taken much more seriously by the intelligence community. So, what changed?
It had to be Steele. Once they knew the source behind this raw piece of information, its revelations were taken much more seriously. This is a guy who knows his way around Russian operations, and won’t just print every piece of bullshit that he’s told. The dossier isn’t anything that resembles a finalized report, but it was compiled by a veteran who knows people that match the profiles in the stories, and so the entire tenor of the investigation seemed to shift upon this man’s reputation. Which should give even more credence to the idea that one of the most well-sourced portions of the document must be real, or at least contain a nugget of truth.
But this is why I think that it’s disinformation. Steele wouldn’t print a salacious rumor like this unless enough sources gave him the confidence to think it was at least plausible. So, here’s my theory on how that happened.
1. At some point, Vladimir Putin learned of this dossier, as exemplified by dead Russian officials either tangentially connected to it, or directly connected to it—like Sechin’s top aide.
2. Putin is ex-KGB, so he understands that once the rabbit is out of the hat, there’s no going back.
3. Putin leveraged his end of the sources in the dossier to spread a rumor that would obscure the rest of the discoveries which are much more based in reality.
4. Putin dispenses the rumor to a few people that he knows Steele is talking to, they tell him, and then Steele has no choice but to include the pee story based solely on sourcing 101.
Not only would it be distracting to intelligence officers, as natural human curiosity would no-doubt lead them to investigate these incredible assertions, but if it ever saw the light of day, it would be all that people could talk about, and that’s exactly what happened. Now the focus is on Trump at peak-buffoon, and not on the fact that one of five foreign policy advisors he initially named to the campaign traveled to Moscow and allegedly was offered an 18% stake in Rosneft in return for lifting Russian sanctions.
So that’s my theory as to why the pee tape can’t be real. It’s nothing like the rest of the revelations contained within the dossier. Most of the document details how the Trump camp was aware of what the Russians were doing, in-fighting among the Russians as to whether to pull back on the operation or push forward, along with the occasional meeting or conversation between representatives of the two sides. There are a lot of items in there that look really bad for the Kremlin. For example, take it from the Chinese perspective: Russia has already made itself somewhat of a pariah on the European continent, its only foothold in the Middle East is in Syria and now it royally pissed the United States off. Russia needs China far more than China needs Russia. That means leverage. On everything. Russia would be wise to downplay news of their meddling to maintain some semblance of a normal relationship with key allies.
This is also right in line with classic Russian disinformation tactics. By inserting nuggets of bullshit into a wealth of truth, they can maintain more control over the narrative. For example, in the infamous Podesta e-mails released by Wikileaks—a clear front for Russian intelligence—this bizarre e-mail from former Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell was included in the dump.
Because the War in Space race is heating up, I felt you should be aware of several factors as you and I schedule our Skype talk.
Remember, our nonviolent ETI* from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth. They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.
*ETI = extraterrestrial intelligence.
As much as I’d love for that to be real, it most certainly isn’t, and it stands out in stark contrast to the boring inside-baseball that are most of the underwhelming Podesta e-mails. This one is likely there to further the Kremlin’s central goal of sowing doubt in the minds of the American public about the intentions of our government.
This tactic was exemplified during the high-profile rollup of a Russian spy network in 2010. One of the spies—Anna Chapman—had a very specific job if they were discovered: provide American media with a shiny diversion to focus on, instead of the global humiliation the Russians were enduring. Her photo shoot for Maxim provided an endless number of images for America’s horny old men populating our news centers to distract themselves with, all while the Russians did damage control away from the bright lights.
Look, I want the pee tape to be real. You want the pee tape to be real. Pretty much everybody but Donald Trump wants the pee tape to be real. But based on what we know about Russian disinformation techniques, and the fact that it stands out in the dossier not just for its lewd details, but for its unmatched level of sourcing—evidence points in the direction that it was intentionally placed there in order to distract its readers from other much more certain revelations contained within this dossier that has captivated the globe’s attention.
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.