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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Water, water everywhere: Analysis of the "pee-pee tape" claim

This is it: The day Irma makes landfall.

Some media sources say that the hurricane has been reduced to category 3 status, while others insist that the monster has regained its muscles. We'll know soon.

The wisest reaction is evacuation. The stupidest reaction is to fire indiscriminately into the storm, knowing full well that the winds might hurtle bullets back. This is just what some idiots propose to do, on the theory that the storm will "turn around" when proud Second Amendment People show that they mean business. They may have already started to fire.

(Added note: Snopes has confirmed that this idea began as a joke which some took seriously. Quoth the joke's originator: “I’ve learned that about 50 percent of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives. Carry on.” I learned the same lesson after my post of April 1, 2006.)

We now turn our attention to another story involving madness and moisture.

"The Steele dossier" has become the accepted nomenclature for a notorious document which I still prefer to call the Orbis dossier. (The text has multiple authors; Orbis is the name of Christopher Steele's private intelligence company.) A week ago, Paul Wood of the BBC claimed to have confirmed the "watersports" claim, which is the only part of the document that most people care about.
“There are, though, reports of witnesses in the hotel who corroborate Steele’s reporting. These include an American who’s said to have seen a row with the hotel security over whether the hookers would be allowed up to Trump’s suite. The dossier’s account of hookers in a Moscow hotel room was the subject of gossip among politicians and intelligence people for months before it was published.”
Now claims are circulating of more tapes showing more extreme behavior. Expect these allegations to emerge in due course,” Wood continued.
This post will explore the theory that the pee-pee claims have diverted us from other, more important allegations made in that dossier.

Steele's team claims that Trump made a deal with the Russians: He'd get a large cut of Rosneft oil production profits in exchange for (in essence) selling out the United States. Unfortunately, that remarkable claim has disappeared from our national conversation. Americans are very predictable: Since most of us don't understand the world of Big Money, we don't feel comfortable discussing high-level financial chicanery -- but weird sex will always grab our attention.

Wood reports that Putin has blackmail tapes of even more extreme sexual activity involving Donald Trump. As many forget, this claim was first sounded in the Steele dossier itself, which says that sexual kompromat was also obtained on Trump in St. Petersburg.

A couple of days ago, Mother Jones published a piece emphasizing a point which I've made in previous posts: Rightwingers pretend that all of Russiagate stems from the Steele Dossier -- and that even a partial disproof of Steele's work will exonerate Trump. That scenario simply is not true. If the dossier had never existed, we'd still have quite the scandal.
It may seem odd that Republicans believe going after the Steele memos, which included salacious allegations about Trump, is a way to help the president. But they appear to have two goals: to suggest the Steele memos were actually cooked up by the Russian government—and thus are proof that Moscow did not favor Trump in 2016—and to undercut the FBI’s Russia investigation by linking its origins to the Steele memos.

Nunes’ demands mirror prior requests from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to the Justice Department and FBI. Grassley’s letters demanded information while also implying misconduct by the FBI related to the Steele dossier, an effort that hit some political pay dirt. A hearing Grassley convened in July covered the previously reported fact that Fusion GPS, the firm that retained Steele to dig up information on Trump’s Russia ties, also worked for a law firm representing Prevezon Holdings, a company owned by the son of a senior Russian official that faced a federal lawsuit over fraud and money laundering.

The White House has seized on the Grassley-publicized connection between Fusion GPS and Prevezon to suggest that the Steele dossier was actually the result of a Russian operation—which would suggest Trump is not a Kremlin favorite but a victim. “The Democrat-linked firm Fusion GPS actually took money from the Russian government while it created the phony dossier that’s been the basis for all of the Russia scandal fake news,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said after Grassley’s hearing.

Trump, in a July 29 tweet, went further. Citing a breathless Fox News report on the committee hearing, the president asserted, contrary to the consensus of the US intelligence community, that “Russia was against Trump in the 2016 Election.”
Calling Fusion a "Democrat-linked" firm is both true and ridiculous: The company is a hired gun that does oppo research for both parties. The Steele dossier originated as an oppo effort by one of Trump's Republican rivals (probably Jeb Bush, son of the man after whom CIA headquarters was named).

Nevertheless, it is indeed the case that Fusion links up with Prevezon, Veselnitskaya, and the Russian government's efforts to undo the Magnitsky act. Fox News has gone to great lengths to emphasize this link and to imply all sorts of ominous possibilities. These Fox stories are little more than attempts to muddy the waters; all evidence indicates that Russia strongly favored Trump over Clinton. Nevertheless, I must concede that when Fusion took on Russian clients hoping to overturn Magnitsky, the firm became involved with a very dubious and devious enterprise.

It's time to ask a basic question: Who originated the "pee pee" allegation?

As we've seen in previous posts, the only figure who seems to fit the dossier's description of "Source E" is Boris Epshteyn, the Trump insider who planned the inauguration. (Previous posts have misspelled that name more than once, and in more than one way. Apologies). A former White House Press Officer turned analyst for the vile Sinclair Broadcast Group, Epshteyn is a familiar  presence on our television screens. I am told that he has denied being Source E. Perhaps this denial is accurate and perhaps it isn't; by this point, only a fool would trust the veracity of anyone on Team Trump.
Epshteyn never had a clearly defined role in the Donald Trump campaign, leading to the question of why he was really there. He was regularly used as a campaign surrogate on television, despite being so ill suited at it that other pundits would make fun of his ineptness to his face. He listed himself as a “Senior Adviser” to the Trump campaign on his own social media pages, despite seemingly not being in charge of anything.
This Washington Monthly piece claims that Epshteyn may have been Source D, not E. The same piece also tells us everything we can know at this point about the rest of the "pee pee" sourcing...
Steele went to some effort to corroborate this explosive story. The part I just related was provided by Source D who was described as “a close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow.” Quite a few people suspect that Source D was Boris Epshteyn who was just forced out of the White House for unspecified reasons and took a job as the “chief political analyst” for the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. That has not been confirmed.

Steele also had a Source E who told him that some Ritz Carlton staff were aware of the Trump/Golden Shower story at the time. Source E introduced a Russian intelligence operative to Source F, a female employee at the hotel. Source F also corroborated the story. Finally (as stated at the top) Source B, who was a former high level Russian intelligence office still active in the Kremlin’s inner circles, confirmed that the government had collected enough material on Trump during his visits that they could blackmail him. Specifically, Trump had engaged in questionable sexual activity that was “arranged/monitored” by the FSB.
I published an OCR transcript of the dossier here. Let's look again at the actual paragraphs which have created so much "yellow" journalism:
3. However, there were other aspects to TRUMP's engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable 'kompromat' [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP's (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a 'golden showers' (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

4. The Moscow Ritz Carlton episode involving TRUMP reported above was confirmed by Source E, [REDACTED] who said that s/he and several of the staff were aware of it at time and subsequently. S/he believed it had happened in 2013. Source provided an introduction for a company ethnic Russian operative to Source F, a female staffer at the hotel when TRUMP had stayed there, who also confirmed the story. Speaking separately in June 2016, Source B (the former top level Russian intelligence officer) asserted that unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.
Whenever I think about these paragraphs, one question haunts me: Why would these sources reveal such matters to Steele's private spooks?

It's fair to presume that Steele's operatives used false identities and "legends." People in their profession do not saunter into a Moscow hotel and say "Hi! We're former British intelligence agents and we'd like some information!" But what possible tactic or disguise could have caused those sources to become so blabby about such a shocking story?

As most of you know, Stephen Colbert visited the same hotel and even stayed in the same suite. The resultant comedy bit turned out to be more unnerving than amusing; Colbert told his audience that he was spied upon by the Russians and by the Americans. He also indicated that everyone working for that hotel seemed to be enveloped in a fog of paranoia.

While watching Colbert's segment for the first time, my mind flashed back to that female staffer, "Source F." Either the "fog of paranoia" was a lot less oppressive in 2013 (a distinct possibility) or one of the James Bonds working for Orbis found a way to ingratiate himself with that female staffer.

It's also possible that Steele found out about the "pee-pee" story because he was supposed to.

In previous posts, we've talked about what I call "the McAlpine Gambit," a ploy described by Margaret Thatcher's late friend, Lord Alistair McAlpine. In his words:
First, create a situation where you are wrongly accused. Then, at a convenient moment, arrange for the false accusation to be shown to be false beyond all doubt. Those who have made accusations against both the company and its management become discredited. Further accusations will then be treated with great suspicion.
(Toward the end of his life, McAlpine himself was on the receiving end of some rather brutal allegations involving illegal sex. Readers will have to come to their own conclusions about the credibility of those allegations.)

Perhaps the claim of a "pee pee" tape has always been a McAlpine Gambit -- that is, a red herring. (Or in this case, a yellow herring.) What would be the purpose of this diversion? What might those sources have hoped to divert us from?

From Wikipedia's entry on the dossier:
On December 26, 2016, Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB/FSB general, was found dead in his car in Moscow. Erovinkin was a key liaison between Igor Sechin, head of state-owned oil company Rosneft, and President Putin. Steele claimed much of the information came from a source close to Sechin. According to Christo Grozev, a journalist at Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria, the circumstances of Erovinkin's death were "mysterious". Grozev suspected Erovinkin helped Steele compile the dossier on Trump and suggests the hypothesis that the death may have been part of a cover-up by the Russian government.[42][43] Mark Galeotti, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, who specializes in Russian history and security, rejected Grozev's hypothesis.
I've been following Grozev's work, which continues to impress. Let us therefore pause to note the disparity of treatment accorded to these two claimed sources: Boris Epshteyn has prospered, while Oleg Erovinkin has not. Epshteyn seems to be in marvelous health, while Erovinkin has taken a turn for the worse.

Again: I've never claimed that Epshteyn definitely is one of Steele's sources; I've said merely that he fits the description. For the sake of argument, let us temporarily posit that he is, in fact, Source E. Is it not telling that he has never left Trump's good graces?

I'm reminded of the noir classic Kiss Me Deadly. Remember Mike Hammer's reaction when the mechanic finds a bomb in his car? "That's the one they wanted us to find!"

Speaking of Hollywood (and of piss):

Bannon the screenwriter. This piece offers a look at Steve Bannon's unproduced screenplay based on Coriolanus. I'll be honest: That's one work by Shakespeare which I've neither read nor seen produced. The original can't possibly be this awful...
Marcius, Marcius, you speak divinely cuz. Each word unweeds my heart, uproots our ancient envy. Shall I wrap my arms around you hotly, as I did in battle? Like with that bitch I married — (loading gun) when we first got it on. Now my heart’s dancing rapt, as when I lay bestride her threshold. Man, you are seducing me. We been down together many night — times in my dreams. And when I woke...
From what I've read of MI6, the way they get people to be blabby is either hot asian girls or sacks of cash. Assuming the person they want information from isn't an old school tie public school boy. They seem quite resentful of the CIA's greater budget for this very reason. They also seem highly dubious of their own sources for the same reason.
I'm working through the post, but I wanted to mention something right away. Take a close look at IC Expert Development. That's the Russian company that Trump partnered with on Trump Tower Moscow in late 2015. Trump and ICED signed a letter of intent.

My guess is that the letter of intent was a cover for a more nefarious relationship that had very little to do with towers.

There are Russian-language links that say ICED was involved in some way with a vicious pedophile ring in Russia that captured vertical power throughout the Russian state with use of kompromat.

Things get even more interesting at the site of a pencil factory where Trump signed a different letter of intent, in 2005 or 2006, also guided by Sater. The pencil factory was supposed to be knocked down for a Trump tower. One of the men involved with that property fled to Spain because he was said to have kompromat on Russian politicians.

There is an even stranger business connection between Trump and Russia, but it's not something I'm going to share.
Correction: IC Expert Investment, not Development.
Anon: I've been checking and no English language site speaks of a link between IC and kompromat and pedophilia. However, the idea makes some sense when we think of Sater's background with Mogilevich, who runs a ring of underaged "escorts." So...color me interested.

Can I trouble you for a link to any Russian-language articles -- or anything in any other language -- that would help me out here?

Here's your link on IC Expert Investment.

Please heed the following disclaimer: I haven't verified any of this information, and since the source is a self-publishing author on Medium, its credibility is automatically shot until proven otherwise.

The article says Alexander Khodyrev, the head of a Moscow region called Korolyov -- the cradle of the Russian space program and familiar to WWII buffs as Kaliningrad -- was (is?) a 25 percent owner of IC Expert Investment, and has a taste for young
women and girls, including beauty pageant contestants. You can see Khodyrev here reviewing a new science park for children with Prime Minister Medvedev, with Khodyrev to the left and behind Medvedev:

The article claims Khodyrev has an enormous fortune and manipulates power structures with kompromat from a pedophile ring. Quoting from a Google translation of the article:

"On the possible question: 'Why Khodyrev is still in his post', the answer is given in the same video by Derevsky - pedophile services turned out to be for higher leadership, and the patrons at Khodyrev along the whole vertical and its branches are huge.' "

Again, I have to emphasize how unsubstantiated all of this is. And if you choose to write about this, please credit Anon for the info.
(Anon being me.)
Source E sounds like an intelligence officer to me, probably FSB:

"(The episode was) confirmed by Source E, [REDACTED] who said that s/he and several of the staff were aware of it at time and subsequently. S/he believed it had happened in 2013. Source provided an introduction for a company ethnic Russian operative to Source F, a female staffer at the hotel."

This isn't a mere "agent". This is someone who knows, or has found out, what several staff were aware of at the time and subsequently, and who found an asset for Steele's organisation.

"E" could be Oleg Erovinkin.

Hotel security and hooker agency both run by the FSB would be my guess.

The British role in the affair is hard even to hypothesise about.

Might it be relevant that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was parachuted into the job with zero experience of either government at national level or foreign policy (which hasn't happened for more than 150 years), is a) a US citizen, and b) a man who for a short time was accused of being a Putin helper?

It seemed for a moment that Tony Blair was going to set up a British arm of the Trump operation, which may yet happen.

The manipulation of the Euro-Brexit story is highly controlled. And the tabloid-reading Brexiteer base is being conditioned to believe that large-scale war is coming. Those who don't keep up with the Daily Express and who don't read between the lines of what's put out by the BBC and the Sun may not be aware of that. The uses of xenophobia.

Another angle: it's unlikely that the roughly 10% of the British voter base who over time went from Labour to UKIP are going to be left untroubled where they now are, having returned to Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn in this year's election.
underaged "escorts." So...color me interested.

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