A FAMOUS GROUSE
THERE was a satisfying irony — or so we felt, here at the Mahogany Ridge — about the manner in which the intelligence dossier linking Donald Trump to the Kremlin has made its way into the public domain.
Ah, yes, we agreed, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. And it was about then that were told that schadenfreude wasn’t, as we’d supposed, an off-dry white wine after all…
The other big word we learnt this week was kompromat, Russian for “compromising material”.
This, the dossier alleges, is what Russian agents have on the man who is shortly to be sworn in as the next American president because they secretly filmed him with prostitutes in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow.
We needn’t go into the details about what was said to have taken place — let’s just say that, if true, it’s an about-turn for a man who has publicly expressed his disgust with women’s bodily functions — but a bed was allegedly defiled for no other reason than outgoing US president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, had once slept in it.
Penthouse Magazine has meanwhile offered to pay a million dollars for exclusive rights to any sex tapes. Hustler, on the other hand, has not. Well, not yet anyway.
Trump, naturally, has dismissed the dossier. He told a press conference on Wednesday that it was “fake news”, “phony stuff”, “crap” and the work of “sick people” among his political opponents.
The Russians, he said, don’t have any secret tapes of him behaving badly because whenever he goes to a hotel abroad, he warns his staff, “Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras.”
Besides which, it couldn’t be true because, as he put it, “I’m also very much a germophobe, by the way.”
He’s a lot more besides, but let’s think of him as a bully with a bewildering disregard for the facts who is now getting a dose of his own medicine. As they say, live by post-truth, die by post-truth.
In this regard, it’s true that news organisations and western intelligence agencies have not been able to verify the dossier’s salacious details.
But Trump, a master manipulator of the media, must be aware of the down-side to this: while the information cannot be regarded as reliable, neither can it be dismissed as unreliable.
And it would seem the news was perhaps not so fake after all. Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 officer who compiled the report, is reportedly highly regarded in British and American intelligence circles and has been described as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed. According to the Guardian, he was at one point in charge of MI6’s Russia desk and has extensive contacts in Moscow.
After circulating among journalists and intelligence agents, Steele’s dossier was handed over to FBI director James Comey in November by the Republican senator John McCain.
Federal authorities then decided that, given its contents, both Obama and Trump had to be informed. This was done in the form of a summary which was appended to their report to the president and the president-elect on the Russian hacking of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election.
Even if there was no sex tape, it was this aspect, along with speculation on Trump’s relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, that will ensure the dossier won’t be disappearing anytime soon — especially as he now openly brags about the bromance. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters, “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that is called an asset, not a liability.”
Asset, yes — but to whom?
Which brings us to other supposedly fake news: reports that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was allegedly drunk when she addressed a meeting in Germiston last week. Suspicions were raised because she was three hours late, she wobbled a bit, and had to use the microphone stand when sitting and standing up.
In response, Dlamini’s potty-mouthed spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, rather forcefully pointed out in a Facebook posting that Dlamini doesn’t drink.
“Above all,” she raged, “allow me to be vulgar. Anyone of you who wish to use this post for your articles, go the fake ahead! Yes, the fake ahead. Let me just tell you about the Bathabile Dlamini I know and her attitude towards alcohol. Akabufuni (she hates it). Akabuseli (she doesn’t drink). If it were all up to her, South Africa would not be drinking, there would be no advertising. Akabufuni (she doesn’t want it)…”
Actually, I had to tweak Olifant’s words slightly. Can you see where? There’s been enough vulgarity here already.
This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.