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Unconfirmed revelations from Christopher Steele, Britain's highly respected former top MI6 spy in Russia, shed new light on Putin's campaign to take out Hillary Clinton. If reports are true, the Kremlin and Trump's team conspired to help both Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein in their efforts to defeat her.

In the spring of 2016, social media on the left was so consumed with anti-Clinton vitriol that it became difficult for her supporters to speak out.

Earlier in the campaign, supporters of each candidate diverged in a more benign dispute over policy and candidate appeal. Clinton was seen as a status quo candidate, while Sanders offered a frisson of excitement.

But then things changed. The negativity built and built, eventually rising to a crescendo. Something indefinable shifted, and something that felt like hate entered the campaign, and never left it. Many, if not most, of Hillary's millions and millions of supporters kept quiet, avoiding confrontation.

There were two main reasons for their relative silence:

  • It felt risky. It was obvious that publicly and strongly supporting Clinton could result in immediate attack and possibly retaliation on social media. This especially affected women, who have learned to fear social media;
  • Clinton supporters knew that to engage with Sanders supporters while emotions ran so high risked alienating them during the general election.

All this had the effect of muting her supporters, while the clamour against her rose to near hysteria. “She’s going to be INDICTED!” screeched Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat.

It was so unhinged that even during Clinton's historic nomination speech, a yelling chorus of opposition literally tried to drown out her speech and shout her down from the floor of the Democratic convention.

Christopher Steele's now infamous intelligence dossier may offer fresh insights into the genesis of the almost frenzied attacks on Clinton from the left.

The report has not been independently verified, and Steele has gone into hiding. Many of the factual claims in the report are in question and must be read with caution and skepticism. However, given Steele's exceptional credibility, its claims are worth examining in the context of known facts.

Dossier alleges Russia, Wikileaks and Trump campaign coordinated to help Sanders

The dossier alleges extensive active co-ordination between Russia and the Trump team, and suggests that much of the anti-Clinton rhetoric from the left was deliberately orchestrated by Russia and Trump's team to harm her campaign.

The dossier reports that "the aim of leaking the DNC emails to Wikileaks during the Democratic Convention had been to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump."

Excerpt from the Trump intelligence dossier. Highlights added by National Observer.

What is not in doubt is that the Russian hacking/Wikileaks affair was in many ways a classic propaganda campaign. It successfully discredited Clinton and especially sowed doubt about her honesty and integrity among traditional Democratic supporters.

That Wikileaks didn't leak a thing from Clinton herself, but only the fairly uneventful inside chatter of John Podesta and the party, shows the striking power of propaganda on any audience.

As a former KGB operative, Putin is intimately familiar with the tried and true effectiveness of these techniques.

If true, the Steele dossier brings more clarity to some of the murkier edges of the campaign. To an unknown extent, it suggests that Jill Stein, probably unwittingly, was pulled into Putin’s orbit as part of anti-Clinton pro-Trump plan.

Kremlin used Stein in campaign

For months observers have been mystified by Stein's Moscow appearance at an RT gala last winter, where she was photographed at the head table with Vladimir Putin and Mike Flynn.

Jill Stein with Putin, Flynn at RT gala. File photo by Michael Klimentyev, Sputnik. Highlights added by National Observer.

According to the dossier's unverified conclusions, the Kremlin, in pursuit of its objective to influence the election: "support(ed) various US political figures, including funding indirectly their recent visits to Moscow. (The source) named a delegation from Lyndon Larouche: ...Jill Stein, Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page, and (Trump national security advisor) Mike Flynn, in this regard and as successful in terms of perceived outcomes." (I've added emphasis here)

Excerpt from the Trump intelligence dossier

How far Putin used Stein's candidacy as a propaganda tool against Clinton is not known. But the Steele dossier does suggest she was part of his plans.

Where's Bernie?

One intriguing feature of the election fallout is the near total silence of Bernie Sanders on the topic of Russian hacks. In light of the Kremlin's alleged pro-Sanders strategy (as a means of supporting Trump), the senator from Vermont seems a little like the dog that wouldn't bark in the night.

Indeed, rather than attack Trump's legitimacy as president, Sanders seems to underline it by pointing to Clinton's defeat as a kind of vindication for his own views.

That's a fair enough position as far as it goes, although Clinton's 2.1 per cent margin of victory in the popular vote somewhat undermines that conclusion.

What's a little more troubling is the CV of his chief strategist, Tad Devine. It turns out that Devine worked as an advisor for Vladimir Putin's man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovich in 2006, and then for his 2010 election campaign. By curious coincidence another American had very close ties to Yanukovich during this exact period.

That would be Paul Manafort, Trump's one-time campaign manager.

​Manafort is implicated by a host of suspicious circumstances, including the secret ledger in Ukraine detailing millions of dollars in undisclosed cash payments. Although all information is unverified, the Steele dossier identifies Manafort directly as a point person in the "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between (the Trump campaign) and the Russian leadership."

In the political world, a lot of people know a lot of people. Nothing suggests that Tad Devine knew anything about this at the time. But given his previous work with a Putin puppet (Yanukovich) and apparently Manafort, as well, it would be helpful to know, in hindsight, what light Devine can shed on these events.

Yet given what's at stake, for health care, climate change, voting rights, the Supreme Court and any number of issues, Sanders' failure to seriously challenge Trump's legitimacy is one of the striking mysteries of this election fallout.

At a time when civil rights hero John Lewis is openly challenging a man who cheated his way into the White House, Bernie Sanders seems to have spent more energy attacking Democrats.

To what purpose?

Russian interference decided the election

One thing is certain, it's impossible to overstate the impact of Russia's interference in the election, which was decisive. People, especially Democrats, should dispense with the mantra that it had no effect.

Average voters aren't news junkies like you. Most people have no idea of the difference between Wikileaks and the FBI investigation into Clinton emails.

For the average voter, Wikileaks and Comey were two sides of one coin: Emails. Which became shorthand for "Hillary lies." When Comey's letter came, it electrified the election because the public had already been primed to distrust Clinton by Wikileaks.

Trump knew it. He pounded the Wikileaks drum relentlessly, mentioning them a total of 164 times in the last month of the campaign alone. Half the time he did it on free national television coverage as his speeches were broadcast live.

The media danced so hard to Putin's tune you could write a Broadway musical just from the headlines.

It was because of the relentless pounding of the Wikileaks stories that Comey's letter nailed the Clinton coffin shut. (Comey himself is now under investigation.)

Data trackers Echelon Insights reports that, with 33 million mentions, the Wikileaks hacking stories were by far the most talked-about election issue on Twitter, closely followed by Clinton's email (Comey). Together they combined for an astonishing 54 million mentions — about 10 times the impact of the Access Hollywood tapes.

Data by Echelon Insights

So what remains today is the suggestion, through this mysterious document, that the Kremlin and Trump campaign sought to benefit themselves by supporting Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. There's no evidence that either knew about this plot, if it existed.

All of it worked, and it worked on the left as well as the right. All of it damaged trust in Clinton. Having maintained approval ratings well over 50% for 15 straight years, over the course of the campaign Clinton's positives plummeted into the 30's almost overnight.

Source: Gallup

The single most damaging narrative, that Clinton was untruthful and untrustworthy, only got traction when Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin, intervened to help Sanders, Stein, and ultimately Donald Trump.

If the Steele memo is to be believed, a very great deal of the pro-Stein and Sanders, anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric was a Russian propaganda op. It certainly silenced and intimidated a great many of Hillary's supporters who deeply wanted to cheer for her unabashedly and without reservation.

That gap gave doubt an open runway.

In the end, the election turned on about 100,000 votes in three states. That's .07 per cent of the electorate, while Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. By any objective standard, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence suggests that Americans were deprived of the president they chose because of Russian interference.

Putin "hated and feared" Clinton

The propaganda effect continues today. Despite having the most popular outgoing president in recent history, Democrats are so demoralized by internal divisions that they haven't been able to mount a serious challenge to Trump, whose legitimacy is surely poisoned. They should flat out repudiate his inauguration. Until he is cleared by an independent investigation, Trump's victory is no more legitimate than an ill-begotten Russian Olympic gold medal.

This scandalous conspiracy cannot be rewarded by handing him control of all the levers of power that assert the rule of law in America.

I would add one final note, perhaps the most important sentence in Christopher Steele's entire dossier.

In describing the coordinated plotting between the Kremlin and Trump campaign, one of Steele's sources said: "the two sides had a mutual interest in defeating... Hillary Clinton, whom President Putin apparently both hated and feared." (Emphasis added)

At this moment in history, the United States deserves a president that Vladimir Putin is actually afraid of, instead of the reverse.

Editor's Note: The story was revised at 2 p.m. E.T. on Mon. Jan. 16, 2016 to clarify that highlights in embedded photos were added by National Observer.

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I thought the National Observer was a Canadian focused publication? Why does the National Observer reserve all this space for Ms Garossino's obsession with Hillary Clinton's defeat? What value can Canadian readers possibly derive from endless speculation about the USA's election?

I wish Ms Garossino's pet issue was closer to home. Why doesn't she examine the FACT that the Christy Clark government has hired 12 Harper/Alberta conservatives since January 2016?
It is interesting timing, considering the fact that while Clark was recruiting this political operatives to BC from Canada's oil heartland, she was simultaneously arguing to the NEB that Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline was too dangerous for BC.

Fast forward a year later, and Clark has flip flopped and approved Trans Mountain, while also collecting who knows how much in donations from the Canadian oil patch.

Canada has all the politcal intrigue and subterfuge we need, right here at home. I signed up to National Observer to support journalists who inform readers about issues affecting Canada. The hope is that we can keep our Canadian leaders accountable and have a reputable source for information.

I am tired of seeing that good work crowded out by Ms Garossino's speculation.

It's not either/or. One would hope that there is enough oxygen in the independent Canadian media to cover any major issues. The legitimacy of the US Presidential election sure qualifies.

Hi Chris,

Luckily, we have the Internet, and no reporting gets crowded out by my columns!

These columns do generate some of the highest readership on the National Observer site, and attract new subscribers, which is one of the reasons I continue to write them.

Another and more important reason is that Donald Trump presents a clear and present threat to global stability and Canadian interests. His statement to British media yesterday that NATO is obsolete and we should make a deal with Russia threatens the safety of our intelligence operatives and sources abroad, and the safety of Ukrainian Canadians and Russian Canadians active in the resistance to Putin domestically.

To say nothing of the fact that the only time since NATO’s inception that Article 5 has been invoked was following 9/11, when Canada and all NATO allies joined the Afghan mission. 159 Canadian soldiers lie buried in the ground because we answered that call.

Trump has not even been inaugurated and already today (in response to his tweets) China is reported to be threatening a “head-on confrontation”. Whatever that means, it’s not good for Canada.

Meanwhile, Russia and Assange are already trying to oust Angela Merkel and manipulate the French election. That democratic institutions can be so easily gamed by malicious actors should, I’d submit, alarm everyone.

I have often written about Premier Clark, and will do again as the election approaches. Your support will continue to go to our reporters covering domestic issues--rest assured that nothing is being crowded out.

Best regards,


My point was that your speculative columns crowd out your audience's time. At least you have integrity - thanks for admitting these posts are mainly click bait. But at a certain point National Observer will have to decide whether it is solely competing in the click bait arena or if it wants to be something bigger than that.
Please don't become another HuffPo or Tyee.

Well put and I agree with this point of view. Defence of Clinton's defeat is moot. And the fact that Geo Politics brings the world into local (if we can call the USA election local) is a fact. Are we to assume that the USA is not culpable in influencing dozens of elections, coups and rebellions, around the world and for such a very long time now that it becomes evident that Russia...and likely other states...are trying to influence outcomes. It is the real world and we are subject to this kind of politics because of the straight out imperialism of the USA. Its a consequence and its absurd to try to paint it as a new thing with this kind of non-reporting. I do think the Observer should stick to its investigative agenda and leave pundit columns to the other rags. Its why I contribute to the cause by subscribing.

Given the reputable source conveying them, the least we can be sure of is that these stories (whether factual or not) circulated in Moscow political circles. That, it seems to me, is damning enough.

Firstly, I have no problem with some coverage of the United States in the National Observer*. It is the most powerful country in the world and we are right next door. Sadly, its external (and many internal) policies exert much influence over us. The hope is always that we can resist its many dog-eat-dog tendencies.

Secondly, and however, Ms Garossino, and many others, are appropriating way too much credit to Russia and thus overshadowing the most likely reasons Rodman Clinton lost: she was seen by *enough* voters as being 1) too friendly to Wall Street; 2) too closely tied to the interventionist foreign policy of Bush/Clinton/Bush 2/Obama; 3) too beholden to conventional thought to really tackle climate change; and yes 4) too culpable in the dealings regarding her private email server.

So, Rodman Clinton was seen by *enough* voters as being too conventional of a politician. There was no fervour to get out and vote. Just *enough* people had a "ho-hum" feeling towards her to take time off work, or find child care, or stand in line for two hours to vote. This contributed to her loss to "Change We Can Believe In" Obama and "Drain the Swamp" Trump. Did Obama change much at all for the better? Overall, with a hostile Congress, no. Will Trump change much for the better? HELL NO!! In fact, Rodman Clinton's compromising bipartisan incrementalism might have had the most success. But compromising bipartisan incrementalism does not appear to win elections these days.

Only some good scholarship will truly be able to decipher and categorize the many varied (both complex and simple) reasons Trump overcame long odds and beat every conventional Republican politician (including Bush 3) in the primaries and Rodman Clinton in the general. I look forward to an informed discussion, in the National Observer and elsewhere (see The Intercept for example), of the MANY factors that contributed to Trump's victory and Rodman Clinton's defeat. A long prolonged discussion "that RUSSIANS are to blame" does not server us well.

*Full disclosure: I am a National Observer Monthly Supporter

Sorry to see this article here. It is so obviously biased towards Clinton. If the Russian campaign hadn't happened, and I don't doubt that there was collusion between Trump and the Russians, Clinton would still have been the same person, with the same track record on dishonesty and bad decisions, poor judgement in who to represent in her campaign (the banks etc.), and even worse optics in statements like "we came, we saw, he died" in the debacle that was and is Libya. Every single 'opponent' of Clinton is smeared in this article. The only one who comes off looking clean is Clinton. How is that possible given her actual track record? The story is massaged to protect the establishment of the DNC and in my reading of it, needs serious editorial comment from the Observer.

There is nothing CLICK-BAIT about this!!! This is very pertinent for every Canadian, exactly the type of article I expect from my subscription to the National Observer. Thank you Sandy Garossino and keep up the good work.

Thanks, William. It is true that there is nothing Click-Bait about this article. People care about these issues beyond America's borders. I think most Canadians will be glued to the story of the shift in power throughout this week.

We work very hard to come up with stories headlines that will engage readers like you, and that reflect the quality of the piece. You may or may not know that National Observer is made up of a few editors and journalists, very real people who spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing collectively and individually about every word that goes into the publication, to make it compelling and vital to you. Sandy Garossino is exceptional in terms of the time and effort she puts into her stories. Our pay-off is creating something that has meaning to readers. We don't hit the mark in every story for every reader by a long-shot, but the stats on this story tell me it has resonated for nearly 30,000 people already. I suspect its audience will grow as we countdown to the inauguration of a truly scary, unstable American president with a long and documented history as a bully and a conman.

Sandy said "These columns do generate some of the highest readership on the National Observer site, and attract new subscribers, which is one of the reasons I continue to write them." This about as good a definition of click bait as I can find.

The fact remains Canadians are better off reading the content of the leaked DNC emails, the Snowden leaks of 2013, and the leaked USA cables released by Wikileaks in 2010, than reading speculative articles designed to enhance readership. Reading information as close to primary source as possible reveals more useful information that citizens can use to protect their interests. Becoming distracted and disturbed by punditry is not useful and helps maintain the frenetic anxiety of the masses that powerful people prey upon for their status.

I would gladly pay triple the cost of the National Observer subscription if the information I received from the site was fact based, assisted me in protecting my interests as a Canadian, and was fully referenced so I could dig deeper if desired. The amount of time such a service would save citizens would be immense and it would propel the National Observer to a preeminent status in Canada's media industry. Perhaps a tiered membership model would be useful so that readers like myself could have access to regular long from reports that reduce the need for the site to fish for eyeballs with speculative articles.

Chris, you are absolutely correct that "Canadians are better off reading the content of the leaked DNC emails, the Snowden leaks of 2013, and the leaked USA cables released by Wikileaks in 2010"! Ms Grossman's piece is highly speculative and as I mentioned in an earlier comment adds nothing to the discussion about why Trump was able to not just beat HRC but every challenger on the Republican side.

However, it is clearly listed as an Opinion piece and considering its source you kinda know what you are going to get. The National Observer has many well researched and documented pieces that are worthy of our full attention.

And by the way, if you want well researched, documented, and fully referenced articles regarding the USA I would highly suggest The Intercept. But I think you know about them already!

Whoops, I meant Ms Garossino! Macbook auto correct: not a big fan.

Thanks Ellery, and point taken.

"In the spring of 2016, social media on the left was so consumed with anti-Clinton vitriol that it became difficult for her supporters to speak out." _____ Not true, not substantiated. State facts. Keep your opinions to yourself. Clinton's support was hugely conveyed on social media.

Go, Sandy! Yes, we should be challenging his legitimacy and denying him the presidency and getting a new election.

I thought the media didn't deal in unverified speculation but guess I was wrong. They seem to deal in rumours and speculation a lot. How about reporting facts. And lets not forget the US is the most technologically advanced country in the world (or so it says) and has messed around one way or another with other countries elections for years.

I subscribed to the National Observer and I am very, very disappointed. I thought it would deal with Canadian politics and would hold Canadian politicians to account. All I have heard from every media source in the last week is a tsunami of comment about Trump and the US election and fairly uninformed speculation about how it might affect Canada and I am heartily sick of it.