Hillary Clinton and DNC bankrolled anti-Trump "dossier"
The big news is confirmation of something people long suspected: that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for the infamous "dossier" on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
For those who may not recall this bit of political history, the dossier was assembled by former British intelligence office Christopher Steele, working as a contractor for an opposition research firm called Fusion GPS. The dossier makes a numbers of claims about Trump and his campaign, including allegations of collusion between Trump and the Russian government, as well as a variety of lurid charges about Trump himself.
Fusion GPS refused to answer congressional investigators' questions about the dossier's origins and backers and had Demcorats running interference for the group. But some suspected the document was always covered with Democratic fingerprints -- a charge the Clinton campaign strenuously denied.
It turns out they were -- surprise! -- lying about the whole thing:
The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.
Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.
After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.
It was a lucrative gig for Elias' law firm:
The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie $5.6 million in legal fees from June 2015 to December 2016, according to campaign finance records, and the DNC paid the firm $3.6 million in “legal and compliance consulting’’ since November 2015 — though it’s impossible to tell from the filings how much of that work was for other legal matters and how much of it related to Fusion GPS.
At no point, the people said, did the Clinton campaign or the DNC direct Steele’s activities. They described him as a Fusion GPS subcontractor.
So what does all of this mean? We already knew the Clinton campaign had a habit of lying. This just one more episode in a long train of lies.
One takeway is that campaigns deal in dirt -- sometimes very nasty, often malicious, and frequently incorrect dirt. Those who collect this information -- both the true and the false -- can do very well for themselves. And they very often face no consequences for their actions. The lies flow, reputations are destroyed, but so long as the checks clear, it's all good.
That's the usual stuff. What's unusual here is that the dossier was part of the basis for the Democrats to raise the specter that Trump is, and has long been, a deeply compromised tool of the Russian government. That thesis still carries great weight in some circles, and motivates some to go so far as to urge Trump's impeachment.
Knowing now, and quite clearly, that the whole thing was a partisan hack job from the beginning puts the whole Russian mess into a new light. There is unmistakable evidence the Russians were trying to cause trouble on both sides of the partisan divide in recent years. We should know exactly what they did, and take measures to ensure it does not happen again.
And we should also seriously question whether the real collusion wasn't between the Democrats and the Russians, and whther the FBI was up to its neck in the mess as well. Moreover, the investigaiton by former FBI director Robert Mueller into the Trump administration is now tainted beyond repair. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
Two pertinent questions: Did the dossier trigger the FBI probe of the Trump campaign, and did Mr. Comey or his agents use it as evidence to seek wiretapping approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Trump campaign aides?
Congressional investigators need to focus on the FBI’s role, and House Speaker Paul Ryan was correct Wednesday to insist that the bureau comply with Congress’s document demands “immediately.” Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe, but he and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein can still insist on transparency. Mr. Ryan should also reinstall Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes as lead on the Russia investigation, since it appears the Democratic accusations against him were aimed in part at throwing him off the Fusion trail.
All of this also raises questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Fusion news means the FBI’s role in Russia’s election interference must now be investigated—even as the FBI and Justice insist that Mr. Mueller’s probe prevents them from cooperating with Congressional investigators.
Mr. Mueller is a former FBI director, and for years he worked closely with Mr. Comey. It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest.
He should do so -- but we will not hold our breath waiting for Mr. Mueller to do the right thing. Nor will we expect Democrats to admit that the trail of bread crumbs on the dossier, and possibly collusion with the Russians, leads to their door.
But voters may remember it comes November 2018.