Streetwise Professor

July 29, 2017

Could the Dossier Prove to Be the World’s Deadliest Boomerang?

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:58 pm

I’ve long considered Bill Browder to be a dubious, dodgy character. He has always posed as the white knight who tilted against Russian oligarchic dragons in the bad old days, and who paid for his temerity in crossing the powers that be. I take a somewhat more jaundiced view.

People who ventured into Russia during that era did so because it appeared that there were huge gains to be made because everything was up for grabs. But it was not for the faint of heart or the principled investor: it was for those with few scruples. Posing as the good Boy Scout who would make money in Russia by reforming the governance of companies like Gazprom was a good shtick to present to Western investors (who could thereby participate in Russia’s primitive capitalist accumulation while believing they had bought an indulgence), and a good way to keep Western regulators from prying too deeply. But Boy Scouts in Russia circa 2000 were road kill, with a half-life of about a nanosecond. Yes, Browder (as he will be glad to tell you) eventually got squashed, but he lasted there long enough during the baddest of the bad days to require an epic suspension of disbelief to take his story at face value.

But since he was booted from the country, and hounded in absentia by Russian authorities, Browder has succeeded in portraying himself as a stalwart fighter against Putin (whom he lavishly praised–back when Putin was going after other people). Browder has been the prime mover in the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which drives Putin and the Russian elite bonkers. As part of this campaign, Browder has been an adversary of Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has been hyperactive in attempting to undermine the Magnitsky Act–including meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner (a meeting apparently secured by dangling the promise of dirt on Hillary). Browder has long said that Veselnitskaya is a Kremlin operative.

Hence, the Democrats were salivating at the prospect of having Browder testify. He has longtime anti-Putin cred, and could provide testimony on the link between the Kremlin and Trump Jr./Kushner’s Russian interlocutor, thereby advancing the collusion narrative.

But in their eagerness, the Democrats  overlooked another connection–one that points directly at Democrats generally and Hillary in particular. That connection being Fusion GPS, the “opposition research” firm run by the biggest bottom feeder in The Swamp: Glenn Simpson.


Fusion GPS is the source of the infamous Trump dossier. It was retained first by Republican parties unknown, and then by Democratic parties unknown: the firm’s MO is to work through law firm and LLC cutouts to conceal its true, ultimate client. (Yeah. That screams integrity, don’t it? “Research laundering” would be one way to describe it.)

So Fusion GPS was really tight with someone whom Browder claims is a Kremlin operative. Fusion GPS was retained to do opposition research on Trump. The dossier it compiled (and supposedly it’s a leading contender for the next Man Booker Fiction Prize) was obviously created with support from figures in Russia. The dossier was plausibly intended to hurt Trump, and presumably to help Hillary (and post-election, it was used to help Democrats in their war on Trump).

In other words: the evidence of Russian-Hillary and Russian-Democratic collusion is much stronger and far more direct than any evidence of Russian-Trump collusion. Trump Jr. and Kushner bailed on the meeting with the alleged Russian agent within minutes: Democrats and Democratic operatives have been in bed with her for months and even years.

By bringing unwanted attention to Fusion GPS, Browder became very inconvenient for the Democrats. Their soaring eagle of a witness became an albatross.

For which they have only themselves to blame. The Fusion GPS-Veselnitskaya connection has been known for a long time. The firm has made the top of Browder’s enemies list precisely because it has long targeted him as part of its contract to trash the Magnitsky Act (which involves trashing Browder): in 2016 (!) he filed a complaint with the Justice Department accusing Simpson by name, and Fusion by name, with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The connection came up in coverage of the trial of a Russian company (Prevezon Holdings) which was accused of money laundering. The case settled in May, and from March through October 2016 generated a lot of publicity because Browder moved to have Prevezon’s lawyers, Baker Hostetler, removed because it had represented him in Magnitsky-related matters.

Meaning that Browder probably couldn’t care less about damaging Trump, but he sure as hell has it in for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS. So Browder’s testimony did a lot more damage to the Democrats than it did Trump.

The big bottom feeder has agreed to talk to Congress, but only on the condition that he not reveal who retained him. The response to that should be: “you have to be fucking kidding me!” He should be subpoenaed, and if he dummies up, jailed until he gets his mind right.

The dossier should be at the center of any investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in US politics post-election. It was definitely intended to be used by Trump’s political opponents to hurt him, and hurt him badly. It was definitely created with the help of some Russians.*

But we don’t know what Russians, and for what purpose. Paul Gregory suggests that it was an FSB operation. That is very possible, but I have no idea exactly who was behind it (and one cannot treat Russia, or even the FSB, as a single-minded entity), or how the operation was supposed to work. Was it supposed to damage Trump? Was it supposed to be so ludicrous that it would backfire on whatever US figures pushed it (which would include McCain certainly, the US intelligence community, and perhaps Hillary and the Democrats)? If so, they greatly underestimated the credulity of the American political class, especially when they want to believe. Was it just intended to sow chaos, with indifference as to who in US politics it hurt or helped? (If so–mission accomplished!)

But there is a direct line between Russia and the US presidential campaign. We know who is in the middle: Fusion GPS/Bottom Feeding Glenn. We don’t know exactly who is on the US end, but Occam’s razor says the DNC and/or the Clinton campaign, directly or by proxy (but we can guess their interest). We don’t have the slightest idea who is on the Russian side, and what’s more, we don’t have a clue about the game they were playing.

But what we do know is that this is a far more direct case of colluding with Russians to influence the US political system than anything that has been demonstrated–or even rumored–about Trump. Anyone who claims to have a genuine interest in protecting US politics should want to get to the bottom of the dossier.

And once upon a time–oh, like anytime since January but before last week–the Democrats and the Never Trump Republicans like the execrable John McCain–were treating the dossier like Revealed Truth. It was what was going to bring down Trump!

What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue now, folks?

It would be delicious irony indeed if the dossier proved to be the world’s biggest and most lethal boomerang. The very fact that it has reversed course is precisely why those who threw it now want to scurry from it.

That should not be allowed to happen. Right now only Charles Grassley appears to have an interest in pursuing it. (Grassley and the Russians–Fridman, Aven and Khan–who are suing Buzzfeed for defamation: we might learn more from that lawsuit than from the entire US journalistic and political establishments. The three Russians have every reason to embarrass anyone involved in it: the establishment, not so much.) All those harrumphing about Russian interference definitely don’t.

They don’t not just because discovering the full story threatens to undermine the anti-Trump movement. They don’t because it threatens to implicate the entire Swamp as colluders, or accessories in collusion before and/or after the fact. The Swamp wants it to go away, which is precisely why it must not.

*Well, I suppose Christopher Steele might have made up the entire thing.  But the more plausible story is that someone or someones in Russia were feeding him this stuff.

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  1. Boomerang indeed.
    The DNC schtick is that Trump is in Putin’s pocket. Like, an unpopular businessman with no political experience was ID’d years ago as the next POTUS.
    That would take the combined talents of Rasputin, Madame Blavitski, and the astrologer from the Hollywood Enquirer.
    Meanwhile Trump has done no favours for Putin. If you want to look for a Putin poodle look no further than Germany.

    Comment by james — July 29, 2017 @ 7:06 pm

  2. Can I assume that this chap Browder has heavily armed bodyguards whom he can trust? If not he might presumably become another on the list of dead bodies with previous connections to the Clintons.

    Come to that, is Ms Wassermann Schultz well protected? Will she be subject to “consequences”? Who else must be in fear of their lives? Will these crooked Pakistani IT guys end up murdered in an FBI interrogation like that Chechen fellow a few years ago? Will the CIA bump off people who have previously acted for it? Where does the corruption end? Can there ever be a court capable of judging these matters? Judge, jury: who will be brave enough?

    I laugh at the hysteria about the Russians: it’s Americans who constitute the major threat to what’s left of your republic. And meanwhile your media pretends to agonise about the jester Trump. I suppose THEY, the swampies, would prefer to impeach Trump rather than shoot him. But there is probably more than one THEY, and not all might feel the same way.

    Comment by dearieme — July 30, 2017 @ 5:56 am

  3. A dog can have both fleas and ticks. Having one doesn’t mean it cannot have the other.

    It is certainly possible that the Russians have been playing with both Democrats and Trump; evidence of their doing so with one doesn’t exclude the likelihood of doing so with the other.

    Comment by AP — July 30, 2017 @ 6:58 am

  4. @dearieme

    “But there is probably more than one THEY, and not all might feel the same way.”

    Indeed, it is highly unlikely Vlad will have the patience for those decadent, artificial western processes if he believes Trump has turned from an asset to a liability. Who says Kellyanne Conway is not a deadly sleeper agent, to be activated by a secret code-word? She surely sounds like she went to the same school as Lavrov.

    Comment by Ivan — July 30, 2017 @ 8:12 am

  5. Frequently, I think of the golden shower story as the attempted kill shot on Trump. All the rest was just fluff to deliver the scandal. Since the scandal didn’t work, the rest can be tossed away. Regardless, it is all ridiculous but has certainly sown chaos. Yes, I’d like to know who was behind it, but I suspect a large chunk of the political class on both sides will come out looking bad. Thus, the investigations will run out of steam and we’ll never know what happened. Frankly, once Russia is involved, you never really do anyway.

    BTW, Paul Gregory’s analysis sounds very sensible. Words like “elaborated” and the upper case last names are huge tells.

    Comment by Howard Roark — July 30, 2017 @ 9:27 am

  6. SWP,
    It’s wrong to hold later generations to account for the sins of their fathers & grandfathers …. but this may be relevant in the case of Bill Browder, whose Grandfather headed CPUSA & worked for the Kremlin both overtly & covertly. .

    Comment by Mudak — July 30, 2017 @ 11:37 am

  7. “Grandfather headed CPUSA & worked for the Kremlin both overtly & covertly” – so did Bill himself. It’s not like the Kremlin regime had ever behaved any differently, nor can I believe for a second Browder was too dim to understand what was happening. it’s just that it was okay until Browder himself was allowed to partake in the steal

    Comment by Ivan — July 30, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

  8. until=as long as

    Comment by Ivan — July 30, 2017 @ 12:08 pm

  9. Even speaking as somebody who reflexively prefers the Democrats (hey, it’s not my country – I can be intellectually lazy if I wish!), they do seem to have handled the whole Trump thing pretty badly. The Republicans don’t seem to be able to get their agenda enacted anyway, so as the Prof is fond of saying: Don’t interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.

    If Trump turns out to be a good president, you’ll get to fight him on civilised terms. If he doesn’t, the public will throw him out. By trying to fight dirty, they’re just playing right into his hands…

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — July 31, 2017 @ 8:31 am

  10. “By trying to fight dirty, they’re just playing right into his hands…”: his notoriously small hands.

    Comment by dearieme — August 1, 2017 @ 3:39 am

  11. The mortality rate from Trump Derangement Syndrome is high. It is suicide wrapped in virtue-signalling.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — August 2, 2017 @ 8:56 am

  12. There’s no evidence that Hillary hired GPS. There’s lots of evidence that it was Bush and his backers. This isn’t going to go well for you. Stop defending Trump, you KNOW he used the Russians. Everyone knows it.

    Comment by warisill — August 3, 2017 @ 5:30 am

  13. @warisill:

    I don’t think the Prof’s point is that Trump wouldn’t have engaged with the Russians if it suited his interests. I think his main points are:
    – Politicians on both sides are always looking for dirt on each other, and such dirt comes from, well… dirty places…
    – There isn’t actually any court-worthy evidence against Trump at this point.

    I have to agree: So what if the Russians wanted to help one side or the other to win? Russia is a geopolitical has-been who can’t pose a credible threat to core US interests. For sure, investigate if they are leveraging Trump or if he is doing them any favours, but unless something turns up, find something else to complain about. It’s not like Trump leaves one short of options on that front…

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — August 3, 2017 @ 7:49 am

  14. @Hiberno Frog – ah, but screeching and screaming about rasha rasha rasha is so much easier

    so much to investigate – so little time

    Mueller has his own DOJ which is growing fast – all “honorable, first-rate folks”

    as Goebbels said: “we are not striving for truth, but for effect”

    Comment by elmer — August 3, 2017 @ 8:25 am

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