Your Need To Know On The Donald Trump Dossier
The Debrief: Is this real life?
Why is everyone talking about BuzzFeed and President Elect Donald Trump?
The story hinges on a 35-page dossier written by a former Bristish Intelligence MI6 agent. The dossier – known as the ‘kompromat’ because of the compromising information it supposedly holds – was sent to various media organizations several weeks ago. It contains stories of how the Kremlin fed Trump insider info on Hillary Clinton, claims of bribes and shady financial dealings, and an eye-wateringly bizarre and totally unverified story about how Trump paid a load of sex workers to pee on a bed once occupied by Barack and Michelle Obama in the Presidential Suite in the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. We have no way of knowing whether this is a work of fiction or something that actually happened, but it’s a captivating mental image and one that will stay with many of us for some time. It also sparked many questions. Questions such as: is Trump being used as a puppet by Russian President Vladimir Putin? How much do we really know about Trump’s financial affairs and what is he hiding? Did he have to pay to replace the bed and maybe the carpet underneath because seriously that’s got to be quite an impressive waste of currency and quite embarrassing to explain to the concierge?
How did the story end up in the public domain?
Nobody could verify the story – well, any of the stories but the piss story is the one that’s got everyone asking whether the files… hold… any… water. As a result, most publications chose not to publish the information. The rule is normally, ‘if in doubt, don’t publish’. However, BuzzFeed News decided that they would go with the ‘if in doubt, do publish’ approach. The day before Trump’s first press conference as President Elect, it uploaded the document full of unsubstantiated allegations.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed’s editor, explained: ‘Buzzfeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.’
So was it just BuzzFeed who reported the story?
CNN declined to report the actual contents of the report, because – as discussed – they are uncorroborated. Instead, they did some digging around the story and examined what the rumours could mean for the President Elect.
'CNN's decision to publish carefully sourced reporting about the operations of our government is vastly different than Buzzfeed's decision to publish unsubstantiated memos. The Trump team knows this,' the organisation said. Trump was still a distinctly unhappy bunny with CNN, but more on that later.
How did Trump react?
No prizes for guessing that Trump used Twitter to deny the claims and hit out against his critics in a series of furious messages.
He called BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier a 'witch hunt' and compared the situation to 'Nazi Germany.'
FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
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
But what made BuzzFeed’s story all the more dramatic was that it was published just before Trump’s first press conference since winning the election.
How uncomfortable was the press conference?
Very! He took to the stage 15 minutes late, leaving many media organizations wondering whether the thing was going to happen at all. Vice President Elect Mike Pence introduced Trump, who was standing to the side of the stage in between his daughter Ivanka and her husband – now his senior advisor – Jared Kushner. Pence set the tone for the combative nature of the hour-long conference by talking of “media bias”, before Trump took the stage.
Trump spent most of the conference slamming the intelligent agencies, and accusing them of leaking confidential information.
On the topic of other leaks, he has totally denied the urine story - and said that the ‘Watergate 2’ incident couldn’t have happened because he’s a 'germophobe' and is always warning his staff to be 'good' in hotel rooms because you can get really small cameras and hide them. Piers Morgan later backed up the germophobe statement in a characteristically supportive column for the Daily Mail although it might be worth pointing out that urine isn’t actually particularly germ-y.
Despite opening with a sentence saying that he had 'great respect for the news and freedom of the press and all that,' the mood in the room was tense. He called BuzzFeed a 'failing pile of garbage' and said that the website would 'suffer the consequences.'
Jim Acosta of CNN tried to get in a question, which led to an extraordinary interaction between him and Trump. Acosta kept insisting on asking a question and Trump repeatedly said 'not you,' said 'your organisation’s terrible' and called CNN 'fake news.'
What will the long-term impact be?
The 'suffer the consequences' line Trump used was particularly ominous, but it’s still too early to see what those consequences might be. Trump has limited power until he is sworn in on 20th January. However, BuzzFeed is still sticking to its guns, despite the extraordinary personal attack from the President Elect.
One hour after the highly stressful press conference ended, BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Perretti said that he stood by Smith’s decision to publish the dossier, and said that they were in “great company” with CNN.
Trump certainly has form when it comes to attacking people, including media organisations, so it’s impossible to tell what he’s going to do – or what he will be able to do – to people he views as ‘enemies’. Just check out this list of people he’s insulted for more.
The next four years won’t be boring.
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