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I’ve been expecting some version of Tuesday’s “Golden-Gate” story for weeks.
For those new to this explosive story, the U.S. intelligence community provided a briefing to Barack Obama and Donald Trump on Russian hacking and Wikileaks. Appended to that briefing is a report by a third party firm that alleges potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, and the gathering of "kompromat," or compromising blackmail material, on Trump.
The story goes that apparently, while in Russia, Trump booked a room previously used by Obama and the First Lady, then hired prostitutes to pee on the bed. Hence the endless plays on "golden showers."
But the thing to understand is that this gold nugget is a decoy — a sparkly lure, a ball thrown for puppies. Puppies being us, the general public, who can barely read more than three paragraphs in a story anymore unless there’s sex in it.
But this story is a message, and it’s not about the sex. The intended recipient isn’t the public. We're just the vectors to make this story blow up around the world, pulverizing Trump's legitimacy in every capital but Moscow.
The endgame approaches
In his final press conference, Barack Obama had this to say about the Russian hacks: "We reserve the right to retaliate at a place and time of our choosing.”
In the dying hours of his administration, the endgame approaches.
What’s most significant about this report is not the truth or falsity of its contents, but that the intelligence community itself placed it before both Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Much is made of the fact that journalists have been unable to substantiate or verify the report, which alleges treasonous fraud, bribery and corruption within the Trump camp. Many of its claims are demonstrably untrue, others are unknown or publicly unverified. The deep moral challenge for media lies in reporting the contents of a document with such inherent uncertainty. We have no way of ascertaining what level of confidence attends each allegation.
Yet consider this.
This document was initially compiled by a private intelligence official and former MI6 agent, commissioned by Trump's Republican and Democratic opponents. Given such compromised origins, it would be grossly negligent for America's intelligence agencies to accept such a report at face value, much less append it to a presidential report of historic importance without investigation.
Further, the FBI received the initial report in August, and got a post-election update from John McCain — a veteran Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The real test for Congress
Unless all these agencies were incompetent or engaging in malicious disinformation against an innocent man, they must have independently corroborated much of its findings through their own channels. As we don't have the full intelligence community report given to senior government officials, we can't tell to what extent this has already been addressed.
Indeed, the BBC today reports that they are informed by U.S. intelligence sources that there is compromising audio and video of Trump in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, but of course no media has had access to any of it.
The only real test is for Congress to strike a bipartisan, or perhaps wholly independent investigation. Spurring a GOP dominated Congress into such a response may well be the purpose of the leak in the first place. It may also be a signal and warning of Russia's threat to America's NATO allies, including Baltic states which were formerly in the Soviet Union, and especially Germany and France, which go to the polls this year.
Did anyone notice over the last month how quiet Obama has been? And Clinton, and the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate? Anyone with a lick of sense could see, just from the known facts, that Trump's campaign was seriously compromised.
And where did Rudy Giuliani, formerly the next U.S. Secretary of State, go? And what ever happened to Chris Christie, also in line for a cabinet post? Have they been questioned in some further on-going investigation?
After all, it was just in December that Russian media started claiming that U.S. intelligence would launch a coup against Trump. Former CIA director James Woolsey, who had joined the Trump administration as a national security and intelligence advisor, abruptly left the team on Jan. 5, the day before Trump received the intelligence report containing these explosive allegations.
Mere hours ago, just after Trump's press conference, the transition team cancelled the Congressional appearance of Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis. This appearance, scheduled for Thursday, was before the House Armed Services Committee.
All of this suggests that a potentially enormous national security investigation has been going on for months. Much, but not all of it will most likely come to a head before Inauguration Day, confronting Congress with grave and historic choices.
Could Trump at least act innocent?
Make no mistake, the American intelligence community has been doing a lot of investigation, and has a LOT more information on the fraud and charlatan about to be sworn in as president. They just aren’t going to burn their own sources by publicly tipping their hands. Yet.
Every human source, or even potential source in Russia or its satellites is now in heightened danger, as is the American intelligence network.
Importantly, this newly released information throws much harsher light on FBI director James Comey's inexplicable and baseless intrusion into the final days of the election campaign. This investigation could very easily widen, if it hasn't already, to explore Rudy Giuliani's ebullient claims of inside information from the FBI. The scope of potential collusion and suspect conduct by Trump's surrogates goes well beyond Russia and Vladimir Putin.
As for Trump himself, it would do wonders for his case if he could at least act innocent — a feat that seems utterly beyond his limited range.
At Wednesday's rambling and nearly incoherent press conference, the badly damaged president-elect clearly aligned himself with Putin and declared war on the media and US intelligence agencies.
One thing's for sure. Trump is playing with the big boys now, and their guns are bigger than his.