How to Make Sense of the Massive Trump/Russia Mess
Chances are, over the last day or so you’ve heard that shit is currently hitting the fan regarding President-Elect Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia.
It all has to do with an unconfirmed (read: maybe not true) report from a former spy that BuzzFeed News published yesterday.
The report says Russia has enough dirt on Trump to blackmail him, which would mean Russia can manipulate Trump’s actions by threatening to release information that makes him look bad. But again, none of it has been confirmed.
And some of that information includes the existence of an alleged sex tape of Trump getting real weird at the Ritz-Carlton in Russia. Again: alleged. None of this has been confirmed and so far, it seems unlikely this part is true.
It’s a complicated story, and the juiciest deets aren’t verified. There are also hella pee jokes. So here’s what’s happening, in chronological order. We’ll update this story as more info comes out.
Story continues below…
1. Oct. 30, 2016: Harry Reid’s letter
Back on Oct. 30, 2016, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote a letter to FBI Director James Comey. Comey is the one who brought Hillary Clinton’s emails back into focus just two weeks before the election.
Reid thought Comey had violated the Hatch Act, a law that prevents the FBI from influencing elections. So in the letter, he asked Comey WTF he was thinking — especially since Comey allegedly had dirt on Trump, too.
“It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government,” Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”
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Now, everyone’s pretty sure Reid was referring to the info made public yesterday. Even back on Oct. 31, Mother Jones reported that a veteran spy from a western country besides the U.S. confirmed he’d handed over to the FBI proof that Russia had been grooming and influencing Trump “for years.”
This matches up with the info that was released yesterday, which came from a former British spy.
So why did the FBI tell the public they were investigating Hillary, without mentioning the crazy deets they had on Trump? No one knows. Probably because the details on Trump were and still are unverifiable, while Hillary’s emails were sitting in plain sight for the FBI.
Comey and the FBI did clear Hillary of any wrongdoing re: her emails the day before the election. Still, that might have been too late.
2. December 2016: McCain gives the memos to Comey
The FBI apparently knew about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia as early as October, or even August of last year.
And just to make sure they were aware, in early December, Republican Senator John McCain handed memos from a former spy — likely, again, the same stuff that was released yesterday — to Comey.
This is a huge deal, because McCain was basically going against his party to turn in this damning info about Trump. And don’t forget: McCain and Trump have had beef since Trump ridiculed McCain, a war hero, for being captured and imprisoned while at war in Vietnam. This was unthinkably petty of cowardly draft-dodger Trump.
Now, Republicans are ridiculing McCain and calling him a traitor. The FBI probably already had the info, but McCain deserves major props for coming forward with it anyway in a move that could and will turn many Republicans against him.
Keep in mind, at this point, the public still had no clue what the allegations were, but many journalists and government officials had seen the memos. They also weren’t verified, and still aren’t — they’re just accusations.
3. Jan. 6, 2017: Trump and Obama are briefed on the allegations
Last Friday, the FBI finally sat down with Trump and Obama — separately, of course — to detail the allegations against Trump.
All the public knew was that Trump and Obama were being briefed on an investigation into allegations that Russia hacked American computers to influence the election. And after the briefing, Trump tweeted that there was no evidence that Russian hacking affected the election.
Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
“Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!”
Now, this is separate from the dossier — or the 35 pages of memos and documents — published on BuzzFeed yesterday. But it’s still troubling, because Trump is leaving out important details. The intelligence community actually confirmed that Russia hacked the U.S. in an effort to influence the election:
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
So no, the voting machines weren’t “touched,” but it’s inaccurate to say there’s no evidence the hacking affected election results.
Anyway, back to the dossier that was released yesterday. Details about it were reportedly included in two pages of the briefing with Trump and Obama received last week, but CNN couldn’t confirm whether they actually talked about it on Jan. 6.
Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, is denying that intelligence officials told Trump about it.
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4. Jan. 10, 2017: BuzzFeed publishes the dossier
Now, here’s where shit really hits the fan.
Last night, BuzzFeed decided to publish the 35-page dossier that’s been causing such a stir behind closed doors in full.
It started with a report about the dossier on CNN. CNN alluded to it, but didn’t say what was actually in the dossier.
BuzzFeed decided to take things a step further and publish the dossier.
The writers admit at the beginning of the BuzzFeed post that the information in the dossier hasn’t been confirmed. That means we literally don’t know if a single word of it is true. In fact, experts are saying it was pretty irresponsible for BuzzFeed to publish what amounts to 35 pages of rumors, even if they came from a normally trustworthy former British spy.
Journalists are supposed to confirm facts before they publish them, especially when it comes to politics. This isn’t speculation on a celeb romance, it’s info that could affect our lives on a global scale. So some people are pretty unhappy with BuzzFeed.
BuzzFeed is justifying its publication of the dossier by saying they just wanted to be transparent, because so many in the government and the media already knew about the allegations. But the fact remains that the report is basically meaningless since no one has confirmed it.
So what’s in the report? Alleged evidence that Russia has enough dirt on Trump to blackmail him into doing whatever they want.
This idea that anyone could blackmail Trump is questionable to begin with. He has no shame and his supporters would walk through fire for him. Like, think about it. His pussy-grabbing comments didn’t put a meaningful dent in his popularity, so what could Russia possibly have on him that would affect his actions?
Well, they allegedly have a sex tape — although this, again, has not been verified and is just a rumor. A journalist from Politico cast serious doubt on it.
We chased Ritz-Carlton story in Sept. But we were skeptical about the golden showers bit, which seemed too icky for a germophobe like Trump.
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) January 10, 2017
We’re not going to re-print the rumor here because, like everything else in the dossier, it’s completely unconfirmed. Still, it’s important to know a rumor involving Trump, Russia’s Ritz-Carlton, and golden showers exists, because social media is now dominated by chatter about it. If you see a joke about golden showers today, this dossier is why.
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Media outlets are still referring to the information at hand as “memos,” a “dossier,” and “unsubstantiated and salacious allegations.”
But on Twitter, things are a bit more literal.
5. Hella pee jokes
The silver (golden?) lining in all this: Twitter’s got jokes.
Paying prostitutes to pee on him might be the most presidential thing he’s done
— may wilkerson (@shutupmay) January 11, 2017
I don’t believe that Trump pays prostitutes to pee on him but I’m sure he pays someone to sprinkle talcum powder in his diaper.
— Lindsay Goldwert (@lindsaygoldwert) January 11, 2017
Wrote this in July. Though didn’t expect it to be so literal. https://t.co/6LtrhiAkqH pic.twitter.com/fAtHuXjHbj
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) January 10, 2017
Trump & Russia sitting in a tree,
P-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love then comes power then comes a scandal in a golden shower. #watersportsgate
— Suhail Mohammed (@shadowwraiths) January 11, 2017
Me on 1/1: Think I’m gonna take a little mental health break from Twitter
Me on 1/10: PISS SCANDAL IS THE ONLY GOD I ANSWER TO, SEND
— Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella) January 11, 2017
Question, do #GoldenShowers bring May flowers?
— Heather Matarazzo (@HeatherMatarazz) January 11, 2017
Keep ’em coming, babes.
6. Jan. 11, 2017: Trump tweets about it
This morning, Trump started responding to the allegations on Twitter. Where else, right?
First he used everyone’s favorite 2016 election buzzword to decry the report.
FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
He also blamed the intelligence community, which is weird since the dossier hasn’t been confirmed by any intelligence agencies. Also, it doesn’t seem that intelligence agencies were responsible for its spread.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
And he decried the story as fake news again.
I win an election easily, a great “movement” is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Now, Trump’s use of the term “fake news” to wreck the credibility of CNN and BuzzFeed is inaccurate and sinister.
When people started talking about fake news after the 2016 election, they were referring to complete and utter fabrications written by people who had never been journalists. These stories were taken as fact, when the writers knew full well they were making shit up.
As much as people might question BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the dossier, BuzzFeed itself admitted none of the claims inside were verifiable. BuzzFeed never once said the information within the dossier was true. Instead, they wanted the public to know what was in this dossier that so many in government and media already knew about.
Their coverage, while ethically questionable, was factually accurate. They said flat-out that nothing in the dossier was confirmed. It might not have been responsible to release the dossier, but this is simply not “fake news.” For Trump to call it that is misleading.
Also this morning, Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, tweeted a photo of the front cover of his passport to prove he’d never been to Prague since that’s mentioned in the memos. It was weird.
And for what it’s worth, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin has also denied the whole thing, but that’s not surprising. If Russia really was trying to blackmail Trump, of course they wouldn’t admit it.
7. Jan. 11, 2017: Trump denies everything at a press conference
Trump then held a press conference, which had already been scheduled before and was meant to focus on his finances.
Of course, the dossier was the first thing Trump talked about. He continued to deny the whole thing, which is his right.
But he also ripped apart the media, calling BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage,” and CNN “disgraceful.”
Then, CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question after Trump insulted and ripped apart CNN. Trump yelled over him, at one point saying, “You are fake news,” which makes absolutely no sense and is also deeply troubling.
As previously mentioned, CNN did not publish the details of the dossier. All CNN did was publish a story saying a dossier with explosive information about Trump’s ties to Russia existed and was making the rounds. All of that is unequivocally true. CNN did not publish fake news, but now Trump supporters have an excuse to distrust CNN, a legitimate media outlet that does important work.
And you should definitely read CNN’s coverage of this, because Donald Trump clearly doesn’t want you to see it.
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Anyway, his exchange with the CNN reporter was ugly. They shouted over each other and Trump denied his request to answer a question. You can watch it below.
Here’s the exchange where CNN’s Jim @Acosta tries to ask Trump a question and the President-elect refuses pic.twitter.com/LlwmhPj5w3
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 11, 2017
He also mentioned he’s a germaphobe by way of denying the golden shower rumor, which Twitter had fun with.
Trump is so much of a germaphobe that he has, in fact, never had sex. Our very own virgin queen
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) January 11, 2017
“I hate germs except for when I stick my uninvited hand into a stranger’s hot meat pocket.”
— Meredith Haggerty (@manymanywords) January 11, 2017
Oh, and he also admitted that Russia did hack the DNC. More details on that here.
Trump did also praise the many media outlets that declined to publish the details of the dossier, and said he had a new respect for the media. But this is also bull shit. Trump shouldn’t only respect the media when his interests and the media’s interests align. It is the media’s job to verify stories and hold Trump accountable, and it’s troubling to watch Trump deliberately try to confuse the public about the actual purpose of the media.
Oh, and Trump ended the press conference with a “you’re fired” joke, which was deeply tragic to all in attendance. We will update this story as more information becomes available.