It’s about the worst-case scenario you can imagine.
In 2016, the White House incumbent political party, the Democrats, according to the Washington Post’s Adam Entous, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Heldermant, financed the now-discredited dossier against then-candidate for president, Donald Trump, which alleged that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to hack the Democratic National Committee emails and put them on Wikileaks.
According to the Washington Post report, “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.”
The dossier had also alleged Russia had compromising information on Trump and could potentially blackmail him.
No evidence was ever presented in the unverified documents, authored by former Mi6 agent Christopher Steele and produced by Fusion GPS. The sources were unnamed. But that didn’t matter. It didn’t need to be true.
The dossier’s reports began circulating prior to the nominating conventions in June 2016, but Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, was originally hired by a Republican donor in 2015, according to a March 2017 Vanity Fair report by Howard Blum.
“In September 2015, as the Republican primary campaign was heating up, he was hired to compile an opposition-research dossier on Donald Trump. Who wrote the check? Simpson, always secretive, won’t reveal his client’s identity. However, according to a friend who had spoken with Simpson at the time, the funding came from a ‘Never Trump’ Republican and not directly from the campaign war chests of any of Trump’s primary opponents,” Blum wrote.
It was not until after Trump had locked up the Republican nomination for president that Steele was brought into the mix in 2016. Per Blum, after the GOP money had dried up, Simpson “found Democratic donors whose checks would keep his oppo research going strong. And he made a call to London, to a partner at Orbis he had worked with in the past, [Christopher Steele,] an ex-spy who knew where all the bodies were buried in Russia, and who, as the wags liked to joke, had even buried some of them.”
By July 2016 Steele thought he had cracked the case on the Wikileaks-Trump-Russia nexus and in August 2016 he shared his information with the FBI, according to the Vanity Fair exposé.
The dossier circulated Washington, D.C. and media outlets throughout the nation for months. It compelled former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pen an Aug. 29 letter to Comey, urging an immediate investigation into Trump, stating, “The evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to mount and has led Michael Morrell, the forming Acting Central Intelligence Director, to call Trump an ‘unwitting agent’ of Russia and the Kremlin.”
“The American people deserve to have a full understanding of the facts from a completed investigation before they vote this November,” Reid added.
It had the intended effect, although the investigation would be ongoing long after the election. On Sept. 23, 2016 Yahoo! News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff reported former foreign policy advisor Carter Page, named in the dossier, was under investigation by U.S. intelligence officials for supposed Russian ties, which led to his subsequent resignation from the campaign.
Then, Steele began speaking with reporters, including Mother Jones’ David Corn in an apparent effort to get the information into the public domain in the days before the election. That story published Oct. 31, and sure enough, he hit pay dirt again.
By Nov. 1, NBC News broke the news that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was under FBI investigation. Manafort had stepped down in August from the campaign after reporting from the New York Times that he allegedly received kickbacks from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. This also resulted in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Manafort.
But that was not the end of the dossier’s travels, which also ensnared Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who thought the information was so credible that he personally handed it to FBI director James Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 after receiving it from a British Ambassador, demanding an investigation.
After the election, that was when the Obama administration intensified its efforts to find anything to support the Steele dossier, engaging in hundreds of unmasking requests of Trump transition officials who had turned up in foreign intelligence intercepts, all the way up to the inauguration in January.
In a July 27 letter to National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated that “Obama-era officials sought the identities of Trump transition officials within intelligence reports. However, the was no meaningful explanation offered by these officials as to why they needed or how they would use this U.S. person information, and thus, the Committee is left with the impression that these officials may have used this information for improper purposes, including the possibility of leaking. More pointedly, some of the requests for unminimized U.S. person information were followed by anonymous leaks of those names to the media.”
This might have been the same dossier that inspired several electors of the Electoral College to write a Dec. 12 letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper, demanding that “The Electors require to know from the intelligence community whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election.”
It could have even been teased in the unclassified version of the Director of National Intelligence memo dated Jan. 6, which stated that “Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.”
At some point, the FBI offered to commission Steele to continue his work, according to a Feb. 28 report from the Washington Post. In a March 6 letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to then-FBI director James Comey, Grassley blasted the agency, saying, “The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.”
Instantly on publication, the dossier, now subject to a defamation suit against Steele, was exposed as a fraud. For example, it placed Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen in Prague for a meeting with Russian officials in August 2016 — supposedly dealing with the fallout from the Wikileaks and Trump-Russia collusion — that could have never happened because he was never in Prague and was in California at the time with his son. If the meeting couldn’t have happened, then neither could have the conversations.
Notably, after Buzzfeed published the memos, suddenly there was an effort underway to downplay its significance. The official story about the Steele dossier was not real. NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden reported in January that the reason it had been included in the year-end briefing to outgoing President Barack Obama and then-President-Elect Trump was “they felt they needed to explain to the President-elect the difference between vetted intelligence … and this raw kind of disinformation that’s out there, they had it available.”
Comey testified in May that the dossier was “salacious and unverified,” implying mightily that the agency had not depended on it to launch its investigation into all things Russia. Instead, it was provided, said Comey, to alert Trump of its existence and just in case the content really was an attempt to blackmail Trump: “The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.”
Clinton and the DNC denied having anything to do with the allegations, for which reporters are now scolding them.
But if they all thought it was true, wouldn’t Clinton and the Democrats have claimed credit for exposing Trump as a Russian agent?
Charges that so far as we know to date based on publicly available information were never corroborated. Crowdstrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch said from the get-go in June 2016 that “[W]e don’t have hard evidence” of how somebody had gotten into the DNC emails and the FBI never checked the servers. Steele for his part later admitted in April that the claims in his sensational dossier were unverified and were never even supposed to be published.
So the Steele dossier was a bust. And Crowdstrike admitted up front there was no proof Russia was behind the DNC emails. But now we know the sole source for funding both assessments on Russia, the hack and Trump was the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC.
In the meantime, this dossier and its allegations have become the very basis for attempting to overturn the result of the 2016 election and pursuing the potential impeachment of President Trump. This was a full scale attempted coup, a politically motivated inquisition — in plain sight. And it’s not over yet.
Besides the dossier, it is impossible to find any other reason for there to have been any investigation into the supposed collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, now complete with a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who should conclude his investigation into Trump immediately and either close the matter for good or round up the real crooks who paid for this sick, twisted power play.
As noted by the Wall Street Journal editorial board on Sept. 20, “Mr. Steele was familiar to the FBI, had reached out to the agency about his work, and had even arranged a deal in 2016 to get paid by the FBI to continue his research. The FISA court sets a high bar for warrants on U.S. citizens, and presumably even higher for wiretapping a presidential campaign. Did Mr. Comey’s FBI marshal the Steele dossier to persuade the court?”
As a result, Nunes has subpoenaed the Justice Department and the FBI, threatening to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt, to find to what extent the FBI relied on the Steele dossier to pursue the investigations.
Nunes was also at the center of subpoenaing Fusion GPS to reveal who funded the now-discredited Christopher Steele dossier, which the Washington Post reports was the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning issued a statement praising Nunes for sticking with the issue, saying, “The nation should be grateful to Devin Nunes, who had the courage to continue pursuing the truth related to who was behind fake Steele dossier that contended Trump-Russia collusion. It was Nunes’ doggedness in pursuing the political funders of the opposition research effort that relied on misinformation that has compelled even the pro-Clinton Washington Post to report on the direct funding ties between Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Steele Dossier. It is particularly troubling that Fusion GPS, which produced the Steele dossier has chosen to take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination rather than honestly dealing the issues at hand. Chairman Nunes in light of the leaking Fusion GPS funding by Clinton campaign and the DNC to the pro-Clinton Washington Post, it is very difficult to maintain that they should not provide the House Intelligence Committee their full and complete funding records.”
Manning added, “Our nation has been subjected to over a year’s worth of baseless speculation about Russia collusion and the election. Chairman Nunes has finally broken through to get near the truth, and he cannot back down now.”
Indeed. Consider the fallout here, with the Clinton campaign and the DNC at the center of the funding the fake Trump-Russia collusion documents apparently as a distraction from their own troubles.
As a result, FBI investigations were initiated. Electronic surveillance. People’s rights violated and careers destroyed, all to pursue this fiction. This is Stalinesque on Clinton’s part. This is how totalitarian secret police operate, arresting political opponents on trumped up charges. This can never be allowed to happen again.
Clinton and whoever at the Clinton campaign pursued this shouldn’t be doing talk shows. They should be in jail. Anybody in the government who carried on this witch hunt knowing that the dossier was bogus should be fired and in jail.