It’s the latest chapter in a saga of dubious news stories run by the press and later debunked once facts began to emerge.
On January 10, 2017, Buzzfeed ran an article with a dossier that they alleged showed “proof” that President Elect Donald Trump was compromised due to documentation by Russian intelligence of graphic sexual acts Mr. Trump allegedly engaged in.
The credibility of the report was almost immediately called into question. The same day that Buzzfeed’s article broke, Wikileaks tweeted that the style, facts and dates contained in the report showed “no credibility” and cast doubt on Buzzfeed’s claims. Wikileaks’ assertions came at the same time as an article in The Atlantic where Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, denied that he had ever been to either the Czech Republic or to Russia as the “dossier” published by Buzzfeed claimed. Cohen stated that he was not in Prague secretly meeting with Russian officials Buzzfeed’s dossier alleged he had been. He explained that he had actually been in New York and had taken a trip to Los Angeles with his son from August 23rd to the 29th. A USC baseball source confirmed that Cohen had been visiting USC with his son on August 29th.
Compounding matters was the emergence of claims on online messageboard 4chan that users on their /pol/ (Politically Incorrect) board had authored and fed the dossier to GOP political strategist Rick Wilson, who allegedly passed the information on to the CIA, political figures, and news sources before Buzzfeed finally decided to publicize it.
I reached out to Mr. Wilson to give him the opportunity to clear his name. He gave me a brief interview over Twitter to answer a few of my questions.
Q: Where did Buzzfeed get its information from, if not you?
Wilson: No idea, I never saw it before their report. I first heard about its content on July 2nd.
Q: If you aren’t involved in this, then why do people say you are?
Wilson: Because 4chan is trolling you.
Q: Where and who did you first hear about its content from
Wilson: Not your business.
Q: Do you believe author worked for M16? If so, why?
Wilson: Yes, as does the intelligence community.
Q: Any comment on Wikileaks’ analysis and dismissal of the intel report as fake?
Wilson: Wikileaks is a Russian Intel Operation. I have no further opinion.
In summary, Wilson claims to not be the source who gave Buzzfeed their information. He insists that the dossier is authentic, despite very obvious inconsistencies in its formatting, classification terminology and lack of official watermarks and claims the “intelligence community” finds it authentic as well. And apparently Wikileaks is nothing more than a Russian intelligence plot, despite their flawless track record and the fact that they have never once had to retract a release in their history. Until further facts emerge, Wilson’s exact role in the episode remains to be seen.
If Wilson’s connection to the Buzzfeed dossier were to be definitively established, it would be the second such incident where he has almost fallen for fraudulent capers. Politico reported in August 2016 that Wilson was one of several individuals targeted in an online fraud scheme.