1. There’s zero evidence the pee-pee tape exists.
2. If it does, surely someone would have released it by now.
3. The only information we have is from a dossier about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia that hasn’t been verified, and which many people are wisely skeptical about.
4. It could be disinformation, either from cagey Russian operatives who were onto Christopher Steele’s work (the former British intelligence officer who compiled the dossier), or from Steele himself.
5. It’s way too ridiculous and sounds like the kind of rumors we learned in high school. Those are almost always total bullshit.
6. Even if there’s a kernel of truth, it’s probably not literally a pee-pee tape.
7. Even if there is a pee-pee tape, we might not ever see it, and it’s probably the least scandalous part of the Trump-Russia connection anyway. So this article is a pointless and petty clickbait distraction from issues that are urgently and infinitely more important to the wellbeing of the American people.
8. Trump said it doesn’t exist.
Those are the strikes against the pee-pee tape.
First: of course I can’t prove I’m right. But I’m not trying to. All I can do is make a compelling argument that explains why, after being a total skeptic for months, I’ve slowly come to believe, strongly, that this hideous, ridiculous thing really is out there. And I’ve also come to believe the stupid thing is actually worth writing about, for two reasons: Russia might indeed have blackmail on our President; and if we can believe this accusation is true, we can also believe the more reasonable (and more damning) accusations are true, such as, say, Donald Trump committed treason and exploited his own voters to win an election.
The truth is, the pee-pee tape is fairly likely to be real, and it’s not (entirely) wishful thinking. I’ll show you why by refuting all but one of those arguments above.
Speaking of, there’s actually one more argument: you might think the reports I cite to support my claims—all reputable mainstream sources—are FAKE NEWS bullshit, and their sources are often anonymous anyway, so I’m just another moronic left-wing conspiracy stooge and whiny Hitlery Criminalinton sore loser crybaby. If that’s your sticking point, fair enough.
For the rest of us: on with the floor show!
Quickly: in 2013, Donald Trump, now the President of the United States, visited Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, where he hired out the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton, where President and First Lady Obama had recently stayed. The Steele dossier alleges the Russian government has audio and video of Trump ordering escorts to perform a “golden shower” (urination) show to desecrate the bed the Obamas had slept in. Hence the pee-pee tape. (From here out, “PPT.”)
Okay, let’s get argument number eight out of the way: Donald Trump says the PPT doesn’t exist.
Counterargument: Donald Trump says the PPT doesn’t exist.
Donald Trump is the most famous and most powerful liar in the world, and he himself brought up the PPT in a conversation with the FBI Director, unprompted, just so he could clear the air, I guess. In March. Yet no other government official will discuss it seriously:
Know what else happened March 30?
- The Senate Intelligence Committee held a public hearing about Trump-Russia in which Clint Watts brought the heat.
- Also, Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intel Committee, admitted he’d lied and had received top secret information about unmasking straight from the White House.
- Also, Vladimir Putin said he was willing to meet Trump. That is, if certain conditions are met: “We’re ready for discussions and talks but the other side should demonstrate and manifest their goodwill and readiness for constructive cooperation and work.”
- Also, in this same phone call with Comey, Trump went on to say that “if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out.”
- Later that day—what a coincidence!—Trump associate Michael Flynn offered to testify in front of the Senate in exchange for immunity. He was denied.
Someone had Russia on his mind.
Fair enough. There’s no evidence. Well, no hard evidence that’s been made public. I can’t prove anything. Now, I’ll get to my main argument about why we should accept the dossier as more likely to be true than false in a bit, but right off, there are indeed some indisputable facts that the dossier is right about. These aren’t my most compelling points, but we need the grounding.
First, It’s not impossible. Mr. Trump did in fact stay at the Moscow Ritz for the pageant, where he “worked all day, partied all night.” And while he was there he did film some pretty weird stuff, even for Mr. Trump: He played a role in a bizarre Russian rap video that was filmed at the Ritz and that you should probably watch ASAP. Also, that year’s Miss Hungary went on a Hungarian talk show to say that Mr. Trump propositioned her at the Moscow pageant, inviting her up to his room. At the Ritz.
And it’s pretty common knowledge that many, if not all, first-class Moscow hotels are bugged, a fact Mr. Trump himself acknowledged at the press conference where he dismissed the dossier:
“In those rooms, you have cameras in the strangest places, cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can’t see them and you won’t know. You’d better be careful or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television.
I tell this to people all the time. I was in Russia years ago with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well, Moscow, the Moscow area, did very, very well. And I told many people, be careful, because you don’t want to see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.”
Doubtful. The tape is worth much more private than it is public. Once it’s out, it’s worth nothing. If Putin does have the tape, he’ll drop it only if Trump crosses a red line. So far though, he’s had no reason to do this. Russia has plenty of time to work with Mr. Trump.
Also, if it exists, Russia knows Mr. Trump might talk tough in public, but he won’t actually do anything. There’s already evidence of him catering to Russia secretly. Take the missile strike in Syria. We knew Russian personnel were at the airbase where the chemical attacks were launched from; that’s why we gave the Russians a heads-up hours before we fired the missiles. It was only after the strikes that the Pentagon opened an investigation into whether Russia was involved in the chemical attack.
Ah. Now we’re to the core of the argument.
First, it’s wise to be skeptical of the dossier. But you don’t have a monopoly on skepticism.
First, some background on Christopher Steele: he’s, by (nearly) all accounts, highly respected in both the British and US intelligence communities. For instance, he was the U.K.’s case officer when a Russian spy was poisoned in London, an investigation that ended with the British government accusing Putin personally of murder. And the U.S. intelligence community brought Steele on to work the successful investigation into FIFA corruption. Here are a couple of sources on that.
So sure, Steele’s got some cred. More to the point, the FBI apparently found the dossier credible enough to open an investigation into an ongoing presidential campaign for committing treason against the United States of America. Christopher Steele, former head of the Moscow desk at British foreign intelligence service Mi6, passed his first Trump-Russia memos to the FBI in late June. And James Comey said in public testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI opened the investigation in July, a couple weeks after Steele sent them his first memos.
What’s more, CNN recently reported, citing multiple senior U.S. intel officials, that the FBI used the dossier as its road map for the investigation. Also, multiple intel officials said Comey used the dossier to convince the FISA court to issue a warrant on Carter Page. It was also reported that the FBI met with Steele at least twice more before the election, once in Italy and again in October to debrief him on the investigation and to offer to pay him to continue his work. The payments never happened because, according to The Washington Post article linked above, Steele cut off contact with the FBI when the leaked dossier began to circulate last autumn.
All of this to say: the FBI trusted this document enough to make it the groundwork for an unprecedented, highly explosive treason investigation into an ongoing presidential campaign. That investigation has required substantial government resources for nine months and counting. Also, a United States FISA court found the dossier compelling enough to issue warrants to surveil American citizens.
This means that the FBI, then a FISA court, then the rest of the intel community, then John McCain, and then both Congressional intelligence committees (Comey reportedly used the dossier to brief them) have all accepted the dossier’s general reliability, enough so to take some dramatic and high-profile actions that, for many of them, put their jobs and reputations on the line. Hell, Comey wound up losing his.
Further, why would Christopher Steele, a seasoned, respected analyst and expert on Russia, risk his entire reputation, not to mention his future livelihood as a paid consultant, to include that crazy piece of what we all dismissed immediately as hearsay and hand it to the fucking FBI, knowing how insane and untrustworthy it made him and his work look? Maybe he meant to make it look crazy to get their attention or to make other claims seem more believable!
Speaking of livelihoods, why the fuck would James Comey stake his credibility, job and legacy on a document with such a glaringly obvious and fundamental flaw? How could anyone take such a document, or such a person who would trust someone who handed him such a document, seriously? It clearly didn’t help his luck.
This brings us back to my remark about skepticism. Unless you work in intelligence you’re not a more skeptical and more cautious analyst than intelligence agents. Especially the agents they’d assign to an investigation at this level. And you’re not more careful than the fucking director of the FBI, who has not just his job, but the reputation of the entire bureau at stake. Also, you’re not a better judge of the credibility of information and sources than a judge, who, in a federal court, has the sole responsibility of assessing whether to issue highly controversial and marginally legal surveillance warrants on American citizens.
Look, I don’t trust our intel community or government blindly. But I certainly trust them a lot more than I trust myself, or you, on whether intelligence might be legit. They’ve thought of all the questions I have, and they have much more to go on, in terms of experience, access, and resources, than I do. Or you.
I note here, though, that intelligence agents, Steele included, might trust themselves too much. Maybe their sources aren’t perfect. Maybe their methods are off. Maybe they’re too willing to believe they’ve got a scoop. That’s a fair criticism, but in defense, I refer you to the primary evidence: the dossier itself. Throughout the dossier, Steele is surprisingly honest about qualifying his sketchy sources as sketchy. He never professes certainty about anything. But he doesn’t caveat the golden shower report. That report, the most unbelievable one, notably also has the most sources attached to it, all of them independent.
And the improbable fact is that, so far, nothing substantial in the dossier has been proven untrue, with the exceptions of some misspellings or a description that’s slightly off here and there. And in fact, the dossier is becoming increasingly corroborated.
If you’re not compelled at least a little bit by that argument, we will just have to wait and see. Because after all:
The PPT story could either have come from cagey Russian operatives who were onto Christopher Steele’s work (the former British intelligence officer who compiled the dossier), or from Steele himself.
First, the PPT story was in the very first memo, dated June 20. This was well before anyone heard of the work Steele was doing, and it was before he passed the information to the FBI. It’s highly, highly unlikely the Kremlin would, or could, have known about his work. And if Russia did know Steele was collecting this information, they would have known there were spies in the Kremlin, and, in particular, a spy very close to Putin. If Russia chose to leverage this and provide false information, the government would have had to gin up the whole story. A close Trump associate (who was a Russian national, according to Steele) would have been in on it too.
Basically, if this one item, in Steele’s earliest report, were Russian disinformation, the whole thing would have to be bullshit. The Russians would have been onto him from the beginning, and likely would have been alert to an FBI investigation too. They also would have been onto the spy who was one of Steele’s main sources, an ex-KGB chief and Putin confidant who was coincidentally found shot to death in the back of a Lexus last December.
Not to mention that Steele’s not some moron cut-and-paste monkey who spits out everything he hears. He’s a seasoned spy and Kremlin expert with decades of experience.
But he was being paid by anti-Trump folks to do opposition research, right? He has every incentive to make it up.
Okay, say you get an email fwd from a friend. It’s a link. “Holy shit, man!” he says. “Turns out there’s a secret tape out there of Donald Trump ordering hookers to do a golden shower scene! But, oh man! There’s no evidence! Trust me, though.”
What do you do?
You call total fucking bullshit, is what you do. It’s obviously FAKE NEWS. And you laugh at your friend, maybe secretly, but come on, who’s stupid enough to believe that? And who’s stupid enough to think you’d believe such a ridiculous, stupid story, evidence-free, for more than two seconds?
I hope you didn’t say senior Mi6 Moscow intelligence analyst Christopher fucking Steele.
But that’s one of the very first things the FBI saw, literally on the first page of the dossier: the Republican candidate for the President of the United States of America once paid Russian hookers to pee for his pleasure on a bed the Obamas slept in a few years before, because he hates them that much. And Putin has a tape of it.
What do you do?
You call total fucking bullshit, is what you do. But then, because it’s your job, and you’re good at it, and you know what you’re talking about, you look into it. Which brings us to:
The PPT sounds like the kind of rumors we learned in high school are almost always total bullshit. I mean, come on, the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America?
Fair enough. But let’s rewind a few years. Let’s say 2011. Donald Trump is just Donald Trump. You see him on The Apprentice. He’s a gauche, loud, and tacky real estate tycoon who likes flashy things and young women, is a misogynist and serial cheater who has had several wives, says weird sexual stuff on the radio about his own daughter, has promoted for months in a row a bizarre, embarrassing, racist and hateful conspiracy theory about Barack Obama, whom he attacks on Twitter on a near weekly basis, etc etc.
The only reason people don’t believe this story is because it sounds completely insane.
For a presidential candidate.
But if we were talking about that other Donald Trump, before he ran for President, this whole thing would seem more believable.
Guess what? We are talking about that Donald Trump.
It does sound like a stretch. But first I’ll point you back to the last bit, about the real Donald Trump (which is a convenient handle for his batshit personal thoughts, delivered unchecked by the dignity of the Presidency).
Second, and this actually goes for anyone who doubts the dossier because of the reporting they’ve read, please read the thing. This story is corroborated by more than one source, and there’s more than one report of Mr. Trump calling on escorts while in Russia. Beyond that, the details throughout the dossier are pretty convincing. Why? Because they’re weird details, and weirdly specific.
I have a masters degree in fiction writing. I couldn’t make up some of the weirdly specific stuff in this dossier.
And it’s not enough just to have plain old two-timing sex with a hooker? It’s got to be a golden shower on the Obama bed.
Maybe, like any good liar, he thought that weirder, more specific details make his report seem more credible. Well, I thought of that immediately, and I bet you did too. Probably didn’t occur to the FBI though, right?
As pointed out above, this didn’t cause the intelligence community, the FISA courts, the U.S. Congress, etc etc etc., to laugh Steele out of the picture altogether. In fact, the Senate has invited Steele to testify.
That Steele testimony would be riveting. As is this whole story: human drama on the highest level. Truly Shakespearean, if you step back. It’s got all the elements: power; intrigue; deceit; war; wealth; murder; family; greed; pride. Everything.
But this is where love comes in. Because the one core element of the human condition that’s missing is love. And sex. What kind of human story doesn’t have love or sex? Without it, this simply isn’t human, isn’t complete. We have a sexless, loveless marriage: an impotent doofus running the world and a beautiful abandoned woman hundreds of miles away, living alone, far above reality with his abandoned son, at the top of a gold tower he owns. That’s dramatic, but it’s not drama: it’s just a situation. It demands motivation and action.
In fact, screenwriters would tell you this story is actually less believable, perhaps even unbelievable, if there is no PPT. Again, “pee-pee tape” can be shorthand for “anything sexual.” But there must be love and sex somewhere in this story. It’s far too big and human for that to be missing. And the only other hint of sex we’ve had in this story is that Donald Trump thinks he can walk up to women and grab them by the pussy.
This thing is real. Aristotle told me so.
Okay. Good point.
I do have a reason for writing this. If we can believe there’s a fair chance that this most bizarre, most insane claim might actually be true, then we can believe the more realistic (and more important) accusations might be true too. Such as, say, the sitting President colluded with our most dangerous adversary to commit treason against the United States by undermining the democratic process and exploiting the hearts and minds of his own voters, digitally weaponizing their trust in him and turning it against their fellow Americans in order to cheat to win an election.
Of course, there’s healthcare, and there’s civil rights, and the wars, and trade, and jobs, and the ever-expanding wealth gap, and climate policy, and tax reform, and criminal justice, and the delegitimization of the press, and the delegitimization of the judiciary, and the delegitimization of facts, and the kleptocracy, and the nepotism, and the future of public education, and the funding for basic research, and environmental protection, and energy policy, and the re-normalization of racism, bigotry, and hate, and the cheapening of the office of President, and on and on and on.
Those things matter every day to everyday Americans. But we were cheated into all of it, and now we’re cheated in almost every respect, every day. The America we’ve got is stolen goods. And if you can believe the evidence that’s slowly revealing itself—which has been backed up by the constant lies, stunning coincidences, denials, and reverse denials from the Trump administration—it was stolen by a traitor. We should be angry. We should demand justice, because all those things you care about above are in the hands of a vile, vengeful, racist, prideful, misogynist buffoon who betrayed the country that he now leads. Who betrayed the very people who put him there. That’s why I wrote this: to piss you off.