The Main Author of Wikipedia’s Steele Dossier Page Is a Russiagate Truther

GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File ALEX WONG
GETTY IMAGES/AFP/File/ALEX WONG

Wikipedia’s page on the infamous dossier crafted by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele is heavily slanted in favor of treating the dossier as a credible document, despite it being debunked by multiple federal investigations. One reason for this bias is the page’s primary author, “Valjean” a.k.a. Paul Lee, who is also an active member of the anti-Trump “Resistance” on Twitter as “TheDudeSeesAll” and relentlessly pushes baseless claims on Wikipedia and social media that Trump is a Russian asset.

Lee’s anti-Trump bias has affected Wikipedia articles on the Trump-Ukraine impeachment controversy, allegations of improprieties in the Russia collusion investigation such as those affecting former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation into said allegations. Lee maintains several pages in a personal editing space that smear Trump, including an essay that suggests Trump was involved in killing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists might be “disappeared” if Trump won re-election.

The Wikipedia page on the Steele dossier has been viewed nearly three million times since the page’s creation shortly after the dossier was published in BuzzFeed. Such a high traffic article on a major political news story would normally see a diverse range of contributions, even if mostly from a left-wing slant. However, the Steele dossier page is unusual as nearly 1,500 edits to the page, roughly a third of all edits, were made by Lee and constitute the bulk of the page’s content.

Currently, Lee uses the name Valjean on Wikipedia, from a character in the Victor Hugo novel Les Misérables. Lee has previously used other names on Wikipedia. Most recently he used the name “BullRangifer” and earlier used “Fyslee” as his username. Nearly all his contributions are listed under his current account, including an image upload where he gives his real name and several times where he signed comments with his real name. His Fyslee account’s profile page also disclosed his real name as does a profile page under the same account name on SourceWatch, a wiki owned by the progressive Center for Media and Democracy. Most of Lee’s edits at the Steele dossier page were under the BullRangifer username, with some recent activity happening under his current username.

Initially, the Steele dossier article showed the partisan wrangling typical of political articles. While the article consistently favored a left-wing bias, it was not dominated by any particular editor in the year following its creation. Much of Lee’s early contributions in this period had portrayed Steele and his allegations as credible citing FBI reliance on the dossier, including for the FISA warrant since discredited by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Lee also framed as credible later debunked claims of Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen supposedly visiting Prague to talk to alleged DNC hackers and repeated other extreme collusion claims uncritically.

Lee’s dominance of the page followed his creation of a page dedicated solely to listing allegations in the dossier. Editor “Atsme” subsequently tried to have the list page deleted for defamation, and when that failed tagged it for neutrality issues. This pressure against a separate article led to Lee moving most of the list to the main article and a discussion on merging the list article into the main article on the dossier ended with Lee moving what remained to the dossier page.

The memo by the House Intelligence Committee’s lead Republican, Devin Nunes, criticizing the dossier’s use for a FISA warrant targeting Trump campaign adviser Carter Page prompted further efforts by Lee to defend the dossier. This included adding material denying since-vindicated statements by Nunes that the dossier was essential to the warrant’s approval and adding material suggesting its use was appropriate. Lee added claims of allegations being “confirmed” and citing details ostensibly validating the dossier, including assessments of fired FBI Director James Comey and House Democrat Adam Schiff, who authored a response to Nunes later debunked by Horowitz’s investigation. Lee also pushed the Cohen Prague allegations and allegations Russia blackmailed Trump with video of him with prostitutes.

Lee was particularly invested in defending the investigation from dossier-related criticism after the results of Mueller’s investigation were announced. On the Nunes memo article, he detailed the mechanism by which Steele was paid indirectly by the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party to suggest there was no impropriety involved. He also fought to preserve material attacking Trump, Nunes, and various Fox News hosts, for arguing the dossier specifically prompted the investigation when it instead formed the primary basis for collusion allegations. At the dossier article, he continued pushing the credibility of specific claims, including the Prague allegations specifically refuted by Mueller where Lee cited McClatchyDC.

While editors often express a bias on Wikipedia, Lee exhibits a much stronger bias on social media as TheDudeSeesAll where he identifies as part of the “Resistance” against Trump. Under that name, he acknowledged being a Wikipedia editor interested in the same topics and gave out the same real name. Lee also posted directly to his TheDudeSeesAll Facebook page multiple times using his personal account (Lee’s personal Facebook account is not linked here for privacy reasons). On Facebook Lee mentions losing his house in 2018 during the California Camp Fire, a fact he has also mentioned on Wikipedia.

In his tweets, Lee has supported boycotts against Breitbart and questioned NBC’s reliability because it doubted the Steele dossier’s veracity. In tweets, Lee has repeatedly claimed Trump actively conspired with Russia in hacking the Democratic Party and continued even after the Mueller and Horowitz investigations discredited the Steele dossier, with Lee going so far as to claim President Trump is a traitor who aided warfare against the United States. These attacks have included repeatedly calling Trump a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lee made similar attacks against then-Democratic Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, suggesting that by criticizing Clinton she was “acting like a Russian asset.”

His extreme views on social media closely reflect his editing. On Twitter, Lee long displayed a pinned tweet demanding Trump respond to the dossier allegation that Cohen paid off hackers in Prague. He also tweeted about being a “Peeliever” in reference to an alleged tape of Trump with prostitutes supposedly paid to urinate on a Moscow hotel bed once used by President Obama, which Russiagate believers claim Russia used to blackmail Trump. At the dossier Wikipedia page, Lee added several paragraphs pushing the “pee tape” allegation’s validity, though Mueller suggests such reports were mere gossip, and if any tape existed it was likely fake. Horowitz’s investigation further discredited the claim.

Following the release of Mueller’s report, Lee made extensive edits advancing Russia collusion claims to the dossier page. In addition to pushing the “pee tape” and Prague allegations, Lee added material  to a section still in the article on the “veracity” of the dossier, which noted favorable statements Trump made on Russia at the 2018 Helsinki summit. The section cited Trump opponents such as Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer suggesting Trump’s comments prove Russia was blackmailing him. When Horowitz further debunked the dossier, Lee switched to minimizing its role in securing the FISA warrant against Page after previously treating that as proving its credibility and tried spinning damaging revelations, such as by casting doubt on one dossier source stating Steele misrepresented him.

Despite the dossier’s discrediting, Lee has continued throughout the last year in pushing more information asserting the credibility of Steele’s work and downplaying discrediting details about it. Lee’s extensive additions since early 2018 were the primary cause of Wikipedia’s dossier page quadrupling in size. Both the page’s size and evident bias prompted criticism from other editors. This includes the article three times repeating essentially the same information about a footnote in Mueller’s report regarding the dossier’s “pee tape” allegation and the page’s extensive use of opinion pieces. While some efforts to address these problems have been made, others have been rejected. However, Lee also created a shorter version of the dossier page for the Danish Wikipedia, which retains his biased framing.

Other than the Steele dossier page, Lee is also active on other Wikipedia articles concerning Trump and the Russia investigation. He has made slanted edits pushing the Democrat impeachment narrative on the Ukraine controversy, helped smear Mark Levin over his criticism of improprieties in the Russia investigation, and downplayed other criticism of the Russia investigation, including painting U.S. Attorney Durham’s investigation into improprieties as part of a “cover-up” by Trump’s Administration and helping censor exculpatory evidence from articles concerning the false statements case against Flynn.

Lee also maintains in a personal editing space draft articles or edits aggressively pushing a Russiagate bias. This includes several attacking criticism of the dossier as “conspiracy theories” and other draft pages painting criticism of the Russia investigation as “conspiracy theories” or otherwise invalid. Some frame Trump as a “puppet” of Russia with one accusing Trump of a “soft coup” and a proposed article on “suspicions about Donald Trump’s loyalties” including various treason allegations against Trump and using the line “Putin’s Puppet” prominently, the same line Lee pushes on social media.

His anti-Trump editing is not limited to Russiagate matters. An article on “Veracity of statements by Donald Trump” was significantly expanded by Lee, which included portions ripped essentially unaltered from a polemical anti-Trump essay he wrote and that largely remain in the article. Some material in the “veracity” article that Lee pulled from his essay was removed citing Wikipedia’s policies, which Lee has contended do not apply as strictly to the essay itself.

Editors argued the essay also violated site policies, specifically on polemical content, and attempted to have it deleted. Left-wing editors swarmed the deletion discussion to keep the essay. Lee later updated the essay with even more inflammatory material suggesting Trump may start “disappearing” journalists if re-elected and even implying Trump had the Saudis kill Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi for criticizing him. Another page Lee maintained in his personal editing space accuses Trump of promoting various conspiracy theories, including the “white genocide conspiracy theory” other editors labeled a “neo-Nazi” theory when including Trump in a list of advocates.

Political articles are just one area where Lee’s external bias influenced his editing. Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, often likened to a Supreme Court, previously reviewed conduct by Lee and others regarding a legal dispute scientific skeptic Stephen Barrett, founder of QuackWatch and the National Council Against Health Fraud, had with advocates of alternative medicine. Lee’s prior involvement with both groups Barrett founded became an issue as Lee edited articles to favor Barrett in the legal dispute and promoted Barrett’s organizations elsewhere on Wikipedia.

While cautioned by the Committee to edit neutrally where he has a clear bias, Lee’s biased editing on such topics continued. He even garnered praise from Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, a group touted by the media, after he added lengthy quotes to Wikipedia’s article on Jenny McCarthy bashing the actress and vaccine critic’s selection as a host on daytime talk show The View. Lee continued backing Barrett as well despite the Committee’s warning as he did when editors sought to have Barrett’s Quackwatch deemed an unreliable source last year. In that discussion, Lee vigorously argued for the site being generally reliable.

Same as many left-wing editors on Wikipedia, Lee faces no real consequences for his egregiously biased editing on political articles and other articles. Rather, Lee has merely been warned a couple of times for incivility, once getting a brief suspension and later a temporary civility restriction. Lee has often deflected criticism of his editing with guilt-tripping. After receiving the aforementioned civility restriction Lee responded by noting the loss of his house months earlier and complained the sanction was therefore poorly timed.

Alongside other similarly protected left-wing editors, Lee has helped get numerous conservative news outlets smeared and suppressed, including the Epoch Times, Fox News, and Breitbart itself. On Twitter, Lee promoted media coverage touting such suppression. His ability, and that of other editors, to engage in biased smear campaigns with relative impunity demonstrate Wikipedia’s endemic left-wing bias, something criticized by the site’s own co-founder.

(Disclosure: The author was previously involved in disputes on Wikipedia with Lee regarding McCarthy)

T. D. Adler edited Wikipedia as The Devil’s Advocate. He was banned after privately reporting conflict of interest editing by one of the site’s administrators. Due to previous witch-hunts led by mainstream Wikipedians against their critics, Adler writes under an alias.

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