The now-infamous Trump Dossier was supposed to be the thing that sunk President Donald Trump once and for all. The documents, compiled before the election by a former British intelligence agent, included explosive allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia. Of course, there was one big problem with the dossier: It was salacious, unproven nonsense.
And after the revelations of the last couple of days we now now know that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee were the groups behind the unconfirmed dirt.
It’s a purposefully twisty fact pattern. The Washington Post, who broke the story, explains the layered arrangement:
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.
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.
After the Post’s report, DNC leadership, including Tom Perez, as well as Clinton campaign leadership, including Clinton herself, has attempted to distance themselves from direct knowledge of Fusion’s muckraking. The design of the arrangement itself, including using an attorney, who can claim attorney-client privileges, suggests that the scheme was intentionally designed for deniability. Even still, as former Clinton adviser and former New York City Councilman write, it’s difficult to imagine that the Clinton campaign weren’t aware of what their money was being used for.
“With both of us having extensive experience in campaign budgetary decision making, the suggestion that top officials in the Clinton campaign, including Clinton herself, and the DNC weren’t fully aware of the research that their general counsel was commissioning, strains credulity,” writes Doug Schoen and Andrew Schein. “With more than 380 payments form the Clinton campaign and the DNC being made to Perkins Coie, it is seemingly impossible that the candidate herself would not have direct knowledge of the purpose of those payments or any earmarks being made, especially those for Fusion GPS.”
Three hundred and eight payments totaling $12.4 million. And what did that huge chunk of change buy Democrats? Well, in a sane world it should have bought them a bunch of raised eyebrows from journalists skeptical of publishing a bunch of unfounded innuendo and hearsay, especially the top two sources were high level officials in the Kremlin. In a just world it would have stayed buried and never seen the light of day until it could be proven.
But the world of politics is neither sane nor just, and so the media ate it up and asked for seconds. John Kass, writing for the Chicago Tribune, explains the media’s damaging obsession:
Americans may find that this one has a third parent: Beltway journalists, who may have allowed themselves to be manipulated by a political intelligence operation in exchange for peer praise, the warmth of social media tribalism and clicks.
This hurts the many journalists putting partisanship aside to follow stories wherever they lead.
And it hurts the republic, which depends on credible, rigorous media oversight of the powerful, especially the imperial presidency. …
I hope all this worries you, no matter what political tribe you belong to, because for more than a year now, that Democratic Media Complex has been shrieking about Russia this and Trump that and collusion this and collusion that.
In other words, the DNC and Clinton’s money was well spent. They bought lies. Heck, they bought lies being offered up by Russian officials whose goal was to spread misinformation. But somehow, it still worked. The media, and even the FBI, used the dossier to engage in a Trump witch hunt (which has still yet to find anything resembling collusion to steal the election from Clinton) that has stretched on for months, not only damaging Trump, but damaging the entire institution of the presidency.