The long probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election took another turn this week when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign helped fund the creation of the controversial Trump dossier.
Like with so much else attached or adjacent to the Russia investigation – from President Donald Trump’s campaign and its associates to Clinton and hers – separating the noise from the news can be an exhausting endeavor. This latest round of new details poses all the usual complications.
So, what happened – and what matters? Partisans, especially Clinton and Trump loyalists, would give you very different answers. But it boils down to a question of priorities. None of the major facts revealed this week are being disputed. The fight is over what’s relevant to the bigger picture – and whether anything has materially changed.
The law firm for the Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee has acknowledged its clients’ role in paying a company called Fusion GPS for opposition research on Trump. Some of that research became the dossier of allegations about the now-President and Russia.
This matters because:
Fusion GPS is the research group that hired as a subcontractor the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. And it was Steele, working for Fusion GPS sometime after it hooked up with the Democrats, who compiled the now-famous dossier.
Is this news?
In a story like this, even seemingly minor details can tweak the narrative.
As CNN reported in January 2017, a summary of Steele’s file was presented by senior US intel chiefs to both President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump a few weeks before Inauguration Day.
Also in that story, and especially relevant now: “(Steele’s) investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.”
Even more simply put, Republicans began this specific effort to gather dirt on Trump and, when they pulled back, Democrats took it over. It makes perfect sense if you look at a calendar. As noted above, the Democrats first started work with Fusion GPS in April 2016 – the month in which it became undeniably clear Trump was on his way to becoming the GOP nominee.
So again, the new thing here is not that Democrats paid Fusion GPS, and so helped – wittingly or unwittingly – to bankroll Steele’s work, but that it was, specifically, Clinton’s campaign and the