The memo even contains a succinct psychological evaluation of Trump as “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex.” It’s these properties that make Trump both predictable and controllable. And, should Trump’s all-too-accessible brain buttons get a little sticky, the report makes it clear that they also have available material from “certain events” that happened on one of Trump’s visits to Moscow. Which appears to be Russian for “pee pee tape.”
In short, the memo contains all the things we know actually happened—Russia conducted a military and intelligence operation designed to promote Trump’s election; all the reasons we suspected that this happened—because Russia knew that promoting Trump leverage opened a giant rift in the United States; and all the reasons they thought this would work—because Trump is a whiny man-child who can’t stop trying to have sex with things.
If it’s real, the report should be getting 24/7 air time on every network not currently dedicated to carving Trump’s face on Mt. Rushmore. So … is it real?
Reading through the original article is satisfying, but also full of moments worth generating some serious review. For example, there’s “The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine.” An expert in Russian intelligence claims that the steps described are “consistent with the procedures of the security services.” There is also a moment in which the article assures readers that the document “features details redolent of Russian intelligence work.” In other words, it smells authentic.
And to be fair, if it is a forgery, it appears to be at least a good, thoughtful forgery. The dates of Kremlin meetings given in the document match those known to map to actual Kremlin gatherings. The people present at these get togethers are people who might have really been there. Both the information they have, and the outcomes they suggest, seem to be information Russia might have had at the time and certainly align with what Russia did over the course of the election.
At this point, five years after the fact, there have been more than enough investigations to show that Russia took a direct hand in altering the outcome of the 2016 election. We know that Russia hacked into the DNC and the emails of Democratic officials. We know that Russia created thousands of social media accounts and spread millions of pro-Trump messages. We know that Russia purchased ad space on both social media and radio to promote Trump. We know that Russia created dozens of fake news sites as sources for false and misleading stories and helped those stories spread. We know that in at least one case Russia sent agents to the United States and conducted a boots-on-the-ground rally in which the “grassroots” organization was founded and funded by Russian intelligence. And we know that throughout all of this, Trump’s campaign had over 100 contacts with Russian agents, exchanged information with those agents, and eagerly reached out for more.
All of that is in the can. That Russia did help Trump is a known thing. That Trump welcomed that help is a known thing.
So what can the new document produce, if it is real?
The biggest thing appears to be clear motivation. According to the document published in The Guardian, Trump was the “most promising candidate” from Russia’s point of view because a Trump victory would “definitely lead to the destabilization of the US’s sociopolitical system.” That alone may be the clearest and most impactful statement—Russia helped Trump because they knew that a Trump win would definitely be destructive to America. The report is clear that Russia understood they could use Trump to lever open an incurable rift between left and right, and that they could use what the paper calls “media viruses” to erode American stability.
That’s a satisfying outcome, because it, like everything else in the memo, matches with perceptions of just why Russia might have acted and just what it generated by giving Trump a much-needed boost. Trump’s win was razor thin. If James Comey had not decided to grandstand in the last weeks before the election, Trump would have lost. If major media outlets had not decided to blow up a pretend scandal about Hillary Clinton’s email server, Trump would have lost. If Trump had not been given all the assistance he got from Russia, including providing documents to WikiLeaks and generating a million rumors—including his secret endorsement by the Pope—Trump would have definitely lost. This document puts a nice, bold underline beneath all of that.
But … it’s all just a little too pat. It has exactly what we might expect to find, but what it doesn’t seem to have is the kind of information that might generate additional threads to follow. The way it insults Trump, the explanations for why Russia might help Trump, and the hints at the leverage they have over Trump, are all satisfying—in a sort of small beer way. What the document doesn’t have is rough edges. It doesn’t have statements that contradict information we already know. It doesn’t have contents that run counter to expectation. It doesn’t have nice dangling threads that might be tugged on to unravel more of the story.
Maybe it’s real. In a sense, it would be nice to know that everything happened just the way we thought it did. And it would certainly be nice to have something to wave around in front of Republicans while saying “See? See?”
But it is all very neat.