Since its emergence on the Buzzfeed website, much attention has focused on the “Trump-Russia Dossier.” First, let’s review what the dossier is and what it is NOT.
Every political campaign does “opposition research. That is, every campaign digs into the background of their opponent(s) to find policy positions, voting record, and embarrassing information.
There are organizations — most of them located in Washington, D.C., or in New York — that specialize in digging into the backgrounds of political candidates. One of the more prominent and capable of these is a firm named FusionGPS.
In September 2015, FusionGPS was hired by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political website, to do opposition research on Trump and other Republican presidential candidates. In spring 2016 when Trump had emerged as the probable Republican candidate, the Free Beacon stopped funding investigation into Trump. From April 2016 through October 2016, the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained FusionGPS to continue opposition research on Trump. In June 2016, FusionGPS retained Christopher Steele, a private British corporate intelligence investigator and former MI-6 agent, to research any Russian connections to Trump. Between June and September 2016, Steele produced a 35-page document, soon to become known as the “Trump Dossier.” Fusion GPS provided Marc Elias, the lead election lawyer for Perkins Coie, with the resulting dossier and other research documents.
Meanwhile, copies of the dossier began to circulate among journalists in Washington, London, and New York. Eventually the dossier made its way to the FBI, turned over by unknown persons who were concerned about the illegal activity revealed in the dossier. The FBI, in turn, quietly opened at least one foreign counterintelligence investigation into activities of persons in the Trump campaign who were in contact with Russians.
Now, at the end of 2017, the dossier is an important element — though not critical and not the only item — in a growing cloud over the Trump presidency.
Republican lies about the dossier
As of late November 2017, Republicans and their allies in the rightwing press — mainly Fox — have launched an all-out campaign to not only cast doubt on the dossier but also to impugn the integrity of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into Trump-Russian collusion. Here are only a few of the lies being sprad about the dossier.
Lie #1. The Clinton campaign paid for the dossier. Bullshit. The dossier was ordered and paid for by The Washington Beacon, a rightwing newspaper. Most sources believe the Beacon was acting on orders from and with money paid by the Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush campaigns. These sources report, if Bush or Rubio had been the GOP Presidential nominee, the other would have been named as VP, thus, they had plenty of motivation to trash Trump. They are the culprits, if there are any.
Lie #2. The FBI has no business basing an investigation on this dossier. Wrong. The FBI would have been derelict in their duties if they had not investigated allegations in the dossier. Consider this: Suppose, instead of dealing with Trump’s connections to Russia, the dossier had described multi-state criminal activity centered in Kansas City. Should the FBI have initiated an investigation into those allegations? Of course they should. That’s exactly what happened with the Trump-Russia dossier — it is filled with allegations about likely illegal activity involving Trump, his associates, and the Trump campaign; the FBI is duty-bound to investigate.
Lie #3. The Department of Justice obtained a FISA warrant to monitor Trump associates’ conversations illegally. Bullshit. The DOJ lawyers who prepare FISA applications take this VERY seriously. For example, even if the application contains a common-knowledge assertion such as “Country X is a state-sponsor of terrorism,” the FISA application must include a cite (preferably two) supporting the statement. Every fact must be airtight. Therefore:
- The Steele dossier is “raw intelligence.” It contains reporting from third party sources — meaning it is basically hearsay. So the FBI can’t just staple the dossier to a cover sheet that says “Give us a FISA” and be done with it.
- To use any part of the dossier, the FBI would have to provide independent verification and corroboration of each fact that would be included in the application. This could mean first-hand witness statements, actual recordings from electronic surveillance, and the like.
- In other words, if the FBI did use the contents of the dossier to obtain a FISA, then by definition those contents are true, corroborated, and independently verifiable. Remember that the application is presented to an Article III judge — a judicial check — before granted.
- THEREFORE, this does not seem to be the road Trump supporters want to go down…and yet they are. It’s so bizarre. And to underscore: To claim that this was a huge conspiracy also directly implicates members of the judiciary (who could be Republican appointees). The Trump Gang does not want to go down this road claiming the FISA warrant(s) is/are an FBI conspiracy, yet, because they are ignorant, because they think they can do no wrong, because they think they can get away with anything (because, up to now, they have), they seem to be barrelling down this road at top speed.
Lie #4. The dossier is a witch hunt. No, it’s not. Depending on how you read and analyze the 35-page document, there are at least 42 — maybe more — charges against Trump. While some of the allegations are salacious, such as those dealing with Trump and Russian prostitutes, most of the charges are serious, involving money laundering by Trump for Russians, illegal financial transactions, and a multitude of other shady dealings ranging from shady to highly illegal. In fact — and this is something you will not hear on Fox — as of December 2017, twelve of the allegations against Trump, contained in the dossier, have been proven to be true. That’s right — proven to be true.