Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 26, 2017
That thump you just heard was another shoe dropping in the Russia influence investigation — this time involving confirmation of earlier reports that the funding for that controversial British dossier about Donald Trump actually came from the Democratic Hillary Clinton camp.
Several news organizations report now that money from Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, helped finance the research that resulted in a notorious dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin. Specifically, Elias hired Fusion GPS in Washington, who, in turn, paid Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 spy in Britain for the research work that came to be the dossier.
While seeking opposition research is pretty standard, the results here will be bad all around. This disclosure will help Trump and other Republicans rebut whatever findings are finally reached in the investigations as having been politically tainted. And it will once again take the focus away from whatever the substance of contacts between those working in the Trump camp and Russian operatives during the campaign may have done separately and together.
Meanwhile, Republican congressmen on two committees are launching new probes into — wait for it — matters concerning Hillary Clinton, because, well, you can never have too much investigating of matters concerning Hillary Clinton. The investigations as announced want to look at FBI handling of the complaints that Clinton mishandled classified documents in her e-mails, and an unrelated uranium sales deal to Russia that happened while Clinton was secretary of state, but apparently had no involvement.
Of course, Republicans deny that these investigations are political in nature. Whatever they are, they are dumb, since Hillary is not a significant political problem any longer to anyone outside her own family and friends.
It does make you wince to think what would have been the daily discourse had Clinton actually been elected last November along with the current Republican-dominated Congress. There would be wall-to-wall investigations. But see, we’re getting that anyway — along with all the foibles of President Tweet.
But back to the dossier research.
In April, 2016, Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, hired Fusion to find “opposition research” or dirt on Donald Trump. The Washington Post reported that before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary. The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October, 2016, days before Election Day. Fusion GPS gave Steele’s reports and other research documents to Elias, thought it remains unclear how or how much of that information was shared with the campaign and the DNC and who in those organizations was aware of the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. The Post reported that one person close to the matter said the campaign and the DNC were not informed by the law firm of Fusion GPS’s role.
Christopher Steele had previously worked in Russia for British intelligence. According to the Post and others, the dossier is a compilation of reports he prepared for Fusion GPS. The dossier alleged that the Russian government collected compromising information about Trump and that the Kremlin was engaged in an effort to assist his campaign for president. U.S. intelligence agencies said later that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to aid Trump. The FBI has been investigating whether Trump associates helped the Russians in that effort.
Trump has adamantly denied the allegations in the dossier and has dismissed the FBI probe as a witch hunt. Officials have said that the FBI has confirmed some of the information in the dossier. Other details, including the most sensational accusations, have not been verified and may never be.
Again, the relevance of all this to whether President Trump committed an obstruction of justice, a criminal act, in firing former FBI director James B. Comey Jr. in an attempt to stop any further investigation of Russian ties with his campaign is nil. Nor do they have any relevance to whether The Trump Organization had business dealings in Russia over years. Nor do they show anything about the numerous contacts between people in the Trump orbit with Russian business, diplomatic or other contacts who surely were passing along information to the Kremlin. Nor do they impact investigation of Russian involvement in social media posts and targeted “fake news” reports intended to disrupt the election.
Nevertheless, expect that these disclosures of Democratic involvement with the initial Russian dossier will echo in the comments and any calls for action that may be suggested once the current special counsel investigation by Robert S. Mueller III comes to a blessed end.
At the minimum, the Clinton camp will be seen as having approached — through the Fusion cutout — foreign sources for opposition research and a foe, to boot, is basically a no-no. Of course, this came after an unnamed Republican did the same. Worse, the FBI itself had considered paying Steele for information, basis for a Trump charge of taint in the overall investigation.
Current day Washington cannot touch any issue without leaving the fingerprints of partisan political manipulation.
It is enough to call for a pox on all their houses.