More on Dossiergate

Kimberly Strassel:

The confirmation this week that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid an opposition-research firm for a “dossier” on Donald Trump is bombshell news. More bombshells are to come.

The Fusion GPS saga isn’t over. The Clinton-DNC funding is but a first glimpse into the shady election doings concealed within that oppo-research firm’s walls. We now know where Fusion got some of its cash, but the next question is how the firm used it. With whom did it work beyond former British spy Christopher Steele ? Whom did it pay? Who else was paying it?

The answers are in Fusion’s bank records. Fusion has doggedly refused to divulge the names of its clients for months now, despite extraordinary pressure. So why did the firm suddenly insist that middleman law firm Perkins Coie release Fusion from confidentiality agreements, and spill the beans on who hired it?

Because there’s something Fusion cares about keeping secret even more than the Clinton-DNC news—and that something is in those bank records. The release of the client names was a last-ditch effort to appease the House Intelligence Committee, which issued subpoenas to Fusion’s bank and was close to obtaining records until Fusion filed suit last week. The release was also likely aimed at currying favor with the court, given Fusion’s otherwise weak legal case. The judge could rule as early as Friday morning.

If the House wins, don’t be surprised if those records include money connected to Russians. In the past Fusion has worked with Russians, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who happened to show up last year in Donald Trump Jr.’s office.

FBI bombshells are also yet to come. The bureau has stonewalled congressional subpoenas for documents related to the dossier, but that became harder with the DNC-Clinton news. On Thursday Speaker Paul Ryan announced the FBI had finally pledged to turn over its dossier file next week.

Assuming the FBI is comprehensive in its disclosure, expect to learn that the dossier was indeed a major basis of investigating the Trump team—despite reading like “the National Enquirer,” as Rep. Trey Gowdy aptly put it. We may learn the FBI knew the dossier was a bought-and-paid-for product of Candidate Clinton, but used it anyway. Or that it didn’t know, which would be equally disturbing.

It might show the bureau was simply had. Don’t forget that it wasn’t until January the dossier became public, and the media started unearthing details. And the more ugly info that came out (Fusion, Democratic clients, intelligence-for-hire) the more former Obama officials seemed skeptical of it. In May, former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper said his people could never “corroborate” its “sourcing.” In June, Mr. Comey derided it as “salacious and unverified.”

Yet none of this jibes with reports that the FBI debated paying Mr. Steele to continue his work. Or that Mr. Comey was so convinced by the dossier that he pushed to have it included in the intelligence community’s January report on Russian meddling. Imagine if it turns out the FBI was duped by a politically contracted document that might have been filled up by the Kremlin.

There’s plenty yet to come with regard to the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Every senior Democrat is disclaiming knowledge of the dossier deal, leaving Perkins Coie holding the bag. But while it is not unusual for law firms to hire opposition-research outfits for political clients, it is highly unusual for a law firm to pay bills without a client’s approval. Somewhere, Perkins Coie has documents showing who signed off on those bills, and they aren’t protected by attorney-client privilege.

Those names will matter, since someone at the DNC and at the Clinton campaign will need to explain how they somehow both forgot to list Fusion as a vendor in their campaign-finance filings. Some Justice Department lawyer is presumably already looking into whether this was a willful evasion, which can carry criminal penalties. It’s one thing to forget to list that local hot-dog supplier for the campaign picnic. It’s a little fishier when two entities both fail to list the firm that supplied them the most explosive hit job in a generation.

And there are still bombshells with regard to unmasking of Americans in surveilled communications. If the Steele dossier reports (which appear to date back to June 2016) were making their way into the hands of senior DNC and Clinton political operatives, you can bet they were making their way to the Obama White House. This may explain why Obama political appointees began monitoring the Trump campaign and abusing unmasking. They were looking for a “gotcha,” something to disqualify a Trump presidency. Of course, they were doing so on the basis of “salacious and unverified” accusations made by anonymous Russians, but never mind.

No, this probe of the Democratic Party’s Russian dalliance has a long, long way to go. And, let us hope, with revelations too big for even the media to ignore.

Readers of a certain age may remember the 1988 presidential campaign and Willie Horton, a Massachusetts prison inmate let out on furlough to commit more crimes. That was hung around the neck of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. The issue wasn’t started by Republican George H.W. Bush, but by one of Dukakis’ Democratic rivals, Al Gore.

With that in mind, read the Washington Free Beacon‘s announcement Friday:

Since its launch in February of 2012, the Washington Free Beacon has retained third party firms to conduct research on many individuals and institutions of interest to us and our readers. In that capacity, during the 2016 election cycle we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton. All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier. The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele. Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign.

Representatives of the Free Beacon approached the House Intelligence Committee today and offered to answer what questions we can in their ongoing probe of Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier. But to be clear: We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods. We consider it our duty to report verifiable information, not falsehoods or slander, and we believe that commitment has been well demonstrated by the quality of the journalism that we produce. The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit, and we intend to continue doing just that as we have since the day we launched this project.

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