Attention related to the dossier has tended to focus on sordid tales of Trump, Russian prostitutes, and "golden showers" in hotel rooms reportedly equipped by Russian spies with cameras and microphones. But by far the most important revelation from the document -- which includes raw, unverified intelligence -- could be reports about Trump supporters paying hackers, especially those from Romania.
What does this tell us? Here's how the London Telegraph described it in an article about the top five revelations in the dossier. The Telegraph ranked the financing nugget as No. 3, but it would be No. 1 in my book:
3: Trump's team knew about, paid for, and helped cover up the Russian hacking of the DNC
Not only did the Kremlin order hackers to steal and leak embarrassing emails from the Democratic Convention in order to damage Hillary Clinton . . . according to the author’s host of anonymous sources, Mr Trump’s team was aware of the operation, partially paid the hackers, and cooperated on contingency plans for a cover up should it be found out.
If this is proven to be true, Team Trump was not just an unknowing beneficiary of Russian interference. Trump supporters knew about the hacking, helped pay for it, and engaged in an effort to develop a cover-up That points to a level of criminality that could send a sizable chunk of Team Trump, including the president-elect himself, to prison.
Information about paying hackers is on the last page of the 35-page dossier. Here is how it reads:
Many news reports have focused on Russia's alleged efforts to gather information for possible use in blackmailing Trump. But the dossier says Team Trump knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to gather and trade information with Russia, even having moles placed inside the DNC:
Meanwhile, at least one report has the dossier originating with opposition research, not by Democrats, but by a PAC connected to Trump's GOP opponent, Jeb Bush.
Has the dossier produced accurate information? It's probably too early to say for sure, but we have learned that the British spy who reportedly is responsible for most of its contents has gone into hiding. The man's name is Chris Steele, and he apparently has not been seen for more than 24 hours. From The Washington Post:
Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer and the director of a private-sector security firm in London, was named as the author of the 35-page packet making the explosive — and unsubstantiated — claims.
According to British media reports, Steele, 52, fled his home in Runfold, a village about 40 miles southwest of London on Wednesday morning before he was identified later in the day in a Wall Street Journal report.
Before leaving his residence, Steele called his next-door neighbor Mike Hopper and asked if he could look after his three cats. Steele moved in about 18 months ago with his wife and four kids, his neighbor said.
We might learn of an explanation for Steele's disappearance that has nothing to do with Trump. But I'm guessing Steele's actions make it likely that his intelligence is on target. It also, in my view, suggests there is even more damaging information about Trump and Russia that has yet to be revealed.