Hillary Clinton has a gift for one thing: She is good at doing – or saying – things she later pretends not to have done or said. New revelations tying her presidential election team to the funding of a questionable smear campaign against the man who defeated her are the latest manifestation of this talent.
The twisted tale of the Fusion GPS dossier on President Donald Trump resurfaced recently, courtesy of the Washington Post. While many Republicans, including the President himself, are gleefully pouring over the sordid details of how the Clinton election campaign and Democratic National Committee were involved in funding the shady research, the Democrats are squirming.
Beyond the wafer-thin credibility of the dossier itself lie far more damaging issues that cast deep shadows over both the Clinton campaign and the credibility of the entire Trump-Russia conspiracy theory.
Collusion Or Opposition Research?
The irony of the situation is not lost on anyone who has followed the back and forth over the accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials. When details of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney surfaced, the left experienced a brief rush of triumph. The narrative pursued by the establishment media, fueled by leaked email communications, was that Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, believing that he would be provided with information detrimental to Hillary Clinton’s quest to become president. The meeting turned out to be a bust, in this respect, but that is not the ironic part.
Even accepting the fact that the president’s son was indeed on a quest to obtain information that would damage his father’s opponent, the zealots within the Clinton camp – including a large swathe of the media – chose to portray Trump Jr.’s motive in a way that has now come back to bite them.
Assuming the aim was to obtain such information, this would have fallen within the definition of what is known as ‘opposition research.’ At both the federal and state level, the gathering of opposition research – or information that will damage the reputation or credibility of a political opponent – is common practice and well within the law. Left-leaning media organizations, however, tried desperately to portray it as something sordid, dishonorable, or even deceitful. The general implication – put simply – is that it constituted a form of cheating.
Clinton Still Above the Law?
Now that new findings reveal how the DNC and Clinton campaign funded the gathering of information that would smear Donald Trump, the same Clinton surrogates who blasted Trump Jr. for his meeting with the Russians are shrugging their shoulders, claiming that Clinton’s people were merely funding opposition research. Such activity, they claim, is a normal part of campaigning. Move along, nothing to see here.
In truth, Clinton’s defenders are correct. That her campaign may have paid millions of dollars to a company that specializes in strategic intelligence – with the aim of acquiring dirt on Trump – is not problematic. In the same way, Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians who might have been able to provide him with compromising information on Clinton was not problematic. The stumbling block for the Clinton campaign, however, is a little thing known as the law.
Campaign finance laws require a candidate to disclose how his or her campaign spends the money it raises. There is no law against a campaign paying for opposition research. The problem arises when a campaign pays a third party for opposition research and fails to disclose those payments. According to newly-revealed information that surfaced as a result of demands from Congress for Fusion GPS to reveal its financial records, The DNC paid the firm more than $3.5 million, and the Clinton campaign forked over almost $6 million.
These payments, however, were funneled through a law firm and reported as legal costs. The Federal Election Commission has now received a complaint that may have serious implications for both the Democratic Party and its 2016 presidential candidate. Whilst nobody has directly denied that payments were made to Fusion, everybody is denying knowledge of them.
Assuming that money, much like a handgun, is incapable of making its own decisions, someone will be held accountable for the payments, at some point in the not too distant future, one would hope. When that point arrives, the least honest of our politicians will learn a lesson they should not have needed to learn; it is not so much what you do that causes the American people to distrust you, as it is pretending you didn’t do it at all.