Christopher Steele, former British intelligence officer in London Tuesday March 7, 2017 where he has spoken to the media for the first time . Steele who compiled an explosive and unproven dossier on President Donald Trump’s purported activities in Russia has returned to work. Christopher Steele said Tuesday he is “really pleased” to be back at work in London after a prolonged period out of public view. He went into hiding in January. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

If you want to smear someone and make it stick, convince those who might otherwise support him or her that the person has done something really wrong. At least that’s the theory behind why a John McCain aide named David Kramer was tapped — along with McCain himself — by Christopher Steele, author of the infamous Steele dossier, to farm out the dossier to a dozen journalists.

Which makes Kramer’s surprise that one of those less-than-scrupulous reporters from Buzzfeed ended up publishing the dossier in full a bit surprising. Or sad if one believes what Kramer said in a recently unsealed deposition: that he was horrified Buzzfeed had published it without verifying it and that he warned them they were going to get people killed.

Kramer was identified as the source of the dossier in a recently unsealed deposition related to the libel case brought by Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev against Buzzfeed, who alleged that Gubarev had attempted to hack DNC servers during the 2016 election. It has been known for some time that McCain, Kramer’s boss, had given the dossier to James Comey at the FBI, but the story of Kramer — who met with Steele in London and took the dossier back to McCain — and how Steele directed him to meet with Buzzfeed and others is a new wrinkle.

A Steele associate, Andrew Wood, told [Kramer] and Mr. McCain about Mr. Steele’s explosive accusations during a conference in Canada.

The next step was for Mr. Kramer to travel to London that fall, rendezvous with Mr. Steele, read his claims and report back to the senator.

Mr. Kramer read the dossier at Mr. Steele’s home outside London. Mr. Steele said the allegations were “raw intelligence” that needed to be confirmed.

“He said that he had been hired to look into Donald Trump’s dealings in Russia, and that in the course of doing so, he came upon material that indicated that there were close ties between the Trump Campaign and various Russians, and the possibility of compromising material on Mr. Trump,” Mr. Kramer testified.

“He explained that what was produced … needed to be corroborated and verified. He himself did not feel that he was in a position to vouch for everything that was produced in this,” he said.

Mr. Kramer said Mr. Steele disclosed his Russian sources to him. He didn’t disclose them during the deposition.

By November, Mr. Steele sent a secure message to Washington that included 16 of the dossier’s 17 memos. Mr. McCain then handed the material to then-FBI Director James B. Comey. By that time, the FBI had obtained the information directly from Mr. Steele and from operatives of the Clinton campaign.

The Daily Caller reports that Kramer says he never intended for the dossier to be published, despite having given it to reporters from McClatchy, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed and CNN’s Carl Bernstein, among others which include Obama administration officials.

Kramer alleges Buzzfeed took pictures of the dossier without permission and published them accordingly, leading Steele to contact Kramer to inform him the rogue news outlet had published it in full. Kramer admitted to lying to Steele that he was the source of the information so the British ex-spy wouldn’t end their relationship.

But it’s what Kramer admits about why he and his boss, McCain, were approached that makes Steele’s presumptive shock and Kramer’s documented shock a little difficult to believe.

Kramer said he believed McCain was sought out in order to provide more “oomph” in terms of attracting the FBI’s attention.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” said Kramer.

In some cases, according to the deposition, Kramer shared the dossier with reporters with Steele’s and Simpson’s knowledge.

That “oomph” they were seeking wasn’t just for the benefit of the Obama administration, or indeed other legislators of both parties, or the dissemination of the information would have been for their eyes only.

To say they gave the information to a dozen press outlets in the hopes it would be verified by journalists (when Steele was the ex-spy with the contacts) is patently absurd. The fact that so many passed on running it says something about the content itself. The truth is more likely that they wanted the information published and were counting on a hungry news site, eager for a scoop, to pick up the ball and run with it.

Enter Buzzfeed.

The surest way to smear someone is by telling people who otherwise would support him, like the Americans who voted for Trump, that he had done something really wrong.