|Steve Bell, The Guardian
Donald Trump will match his credibility against Christopher Steele's anytime. That's Trump's problem. He has none.
If there's anything that the last two years have proven, daily, it's that Donald J. Trump is a pathalogical liar. What comes out of his mouth has only the loosest connection with reality, fact, truth.
As German chancellor, Angela Merkel, put it, "It's interesting to see the thought environment he inhabits."
Now we have this other fellow, Christopher Steele, until this week a name unknown to almost all of us. Trump's antagonist. Information damaging to Trump has been credited to a dossier assembled by Mr. Steele who, by the way, has reportedly gone to ground along with his family. It's said that Steele is terrified of retaliation from Putin, a character he knows well. Perhaps he doesn't like his tea with polonium. Anyway, he left the family cat with the neighbour "for a few days" before vanishing.
What do we know of this Christopher Steele? Actually, quite a lot, and, so far, it's all blue ribbon stuff. It emerges that Steele has in abundance the qualities of which Donald Trump is utterly bereft.
Former colleagues of Steele describe him as “very credible” – a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.
One former Foreign Office official who has known Steele for 25 years and considers him a friend said: “The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false, completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.”
The official added: “If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”
That is the way the CIA and the FBI, not to mention the British government, regarded him, too. It’s not hard to see why.
An Oxford graduate, Steele was one of the more eminent Russia specialists for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The Guardian understands he focused on Soviet affairs after joining the agency, and spent two years living in Moscow in the early 1990s.
It was Steele, sources say, who correctly and quickly realised Litvinenko’s death was a Russian state “hit”.
What a mess. If Donald Trump really wants to drain the swamp, he should start with the one he's currently standing in, neck deep. Leave the kinky sex stuff out. Forget about it. Deal with the financial allegations, the accusations that Trump and his empire were bought and sold and are now in the pockets of Russian operatives, i.e. Vlad Putin.
We know when this is said to have begun - after Trump's 7th bankruptcy when his traditional sources of financing cut him off. Open the books from that point onward. Who financed his deals? How many of the financiers were Russian or , worse, unknown. Additionally, if Trump properties were used for money laundering, who was buying them at far above market prices? If they're just numbered companies, Trump should explain that too.
Why should Trump open his books? Because there's so much at stake in this. It's his duty to put this behind him, to restore the confidence of the American people in their president. He chose to put his credibility in the toilet and that can have consequences, especially when he's confronted by someone whose veracity and integrity is vouchsafed by so many at such high levels.