Here's how it tries to disassociate Steele from the Shearer memo that he passed along. The issue here is that Steele passed along materials from Cody Shearer, one of Bill Clinton's plumbers, to the FBI confirming his own claims. It raised serious questions among many, including myself, whether Shearer hadn't originated the whole dossier.
Now here's the whitewash.
The Bureau encouraged Steele to send any relevant information he came across, and that October he passed on a questionable item—a bit of amateur sleuthing that had been done by someone he’d never met, a former journalist and self-styled investigator named Cody Shearer. Jonathan Winer, Steele’s friend at the State Department, had shared with him an unfinished memo written by Shearer. Not only did it claim that the F.S.B. had incriminating videotapes of Trump having sex in Moscow; it also made wild allegations that leaders of former Soviet states had given huge payments to Trump family members. Steele wasn’t aware that Shearer had longtime ties to the Clintons, as did Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton ally, who had given Shearer’s report to Winer. Steele had never met Blumenthal, either, but he dutifully jotted down the chain of custody on the cover of the report before sending it on to the F.B.I., with the caveat that he couldn’t vouch for its credibility. He noted, though, that some of the findings were “remarkably similar” to Orbis’s.
If you believe this, Steele is an absolutely brilliant researcher who should absolutely be trusted when he claims the President of the United States is under Russian control, yet passed along a memo to the FBI without spending 5 minutes googling Cody Shearer?
You can ask us to believe one improbable thing. But not two contradictory ones. Pick your lie and stick with it.
Either Christopher Steele knew who Shearer was. Or he's an incompetent idiot. But you can't have it both ways. This conveniently selective incompetence (also a notorious problem for Hillary Clinton) is how lies come apart.
This paragraph would have us believe that Steele was in the habit of passing along random allegations to the FBI from people he didn't even know. That says nothing good about his credibility. But the alternative is that he and author are lying to us.
Jane Mayer, as often happens in her whitewashing, tries to have it both ways. Steele is a responsible guy who passes along random allegations to the FBI while noting that he can't vouch for them. Because that's what you do when you're an expert researcher. You don't type the name into Google. You don't call one of your many contacts to ask who this guy is. No, you just skim it and pass it along. But you include a note potentially disavowing it.
But here's the landmine. The same bizarre claim could have only gotten into both Shearer and Steele's smears in only one of three ways.
1. Shearer read Steele's work and decided to run with it
2. Steele read Shearer's work because he was really being paid to put some meat on the bones of Shearer's smear
3. It's in both documents because it's true.
The media would like you to believe that it's three. Yet it's the shakiest part of the Steele dossier. The media is quite uncomfortable defending it. Even Jane Mayer is hesitant to defend it. But if three isn't true, that just leaves two possibilities. The fallback position will be to claim that Shearer ripped off Steele's work. And that Steele had no idea who Shearer or Blumenthal were. That is obviously implausible.
Steele was very well connected. And they moved in adjacent enough circles. Furthermore, it's wildly implausible that Steele wouldn't have asked Winer who these people were. Or done the most basic research about the source. So this attempt to insulate Steele leads to a dead end. But if Steele did know who Shearer was, then why lie about it? It's not about protecting Shearer, Mayer all but throws him in the water, it's about protecting Steele from being associated with Shearer because that's one step closer to showing that the whole smear came from the Clinton machine.