Ever since The Washington Post revealed that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign funded the salacious Trump-Russia dossier, published earlier this year by BuzzFeed, President Donald Trump has reignited his efforts to discredit the memos that launched FBI’s Russia investigation.
“Don’t forget Hillary Clinton totally denied this. She didn’t know anything. She knew nothing,” Trump dramatically exclaimed during an interview on Fox Business Network's “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Wednesday. “All of a sudden they found out. What I was amazed at, it’s almost $6 million that they paid and it’s totally discredited, it’s a total phony. I call it fake news. It’s disgraceful. It’s disgraceful.”
Does it really matter who paid for the dossier when it comes to the authenticity of its claims?
The dossier, prepared by highly revered former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, detailed the compromising and blackmail-worthy material Russian spies allegedly gathered about Trump. It also revealed the extent of supposed ties between members of the Trump campaign and officials in Moscow, which prompted FBI to launch an investigation and conclude Russian government indeed interfered during the 2016 presidential election.
The 35-page collection of research memos had been circulating among high-level government officials for a while before some journalists were briefed on it. A few weeks later, Buzzfeed decided to publish it, raising questions about ethics as the accusations listed in the dossier remained unsubstantiated.
According to the recent report, an anonymous donor paid a research firm, called Fusion GPS, during the Republican primaries to dig dirt on then-frontrunner Trump as part of the opposition research. While it was suspected the supporters of former GOP presidential candidates – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – may have been responsible, the donor was never identified.
Following the Republican National Convention, when Trump became the party’s nominee, Perkins Coie, the law firm representing Clinton Campaign and DNC, retained Fusion GPS to continue its work and gather information on people connected to Trump’s campaign and businesses.
Fusion GPS, in turn, hired Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based company founded by Steele, to compile the study. It was part of the opposition research, which is legal, and all campaigns do it to change the public view of their rivals.
Apparently, the FBI reached an agreement with Steele regarding his research before the election. They had reportedly agreed to pay the former MI6 agent as well. However, the plan was scrapped after the dossier became public. Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) was the one who reportedly provided the copy of the dossier to former agency director James Comey shortly after the election. Trump later fired Comey.
At the time, top intelligence officials briefed former President Barack Obama and then-president-elect Trump on claims that Russian spies allegedly have compromising personal and financial information on the business mogul.
The dossier included some salacious allegations – including Russia “cultivating, supporting and assisting” the billionaire for five years and feeding him information about high-profile politicians in an attempt to split the “western alliance.” It also claimed the Kremlin had been accumulating compromising material on Trump that could be used to blackmail him if need be aka the infamous “golden shower” tape.
Trump denied it all and called the dossier a “political witch hunt.”
FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Now, the Republicans are using the revelation about the dossier’s funding to slam the former secretary of state and holding the Democrats responsible for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference along the investigations by three congressional committees, escalating tensions on the Capitol Hill.
However, as many have since pointed out, it does not matter who funded the dossier, considering some of it claims have been independently substantiated, as Think Progress pointed out.
For instance, the dossier claimed Trump operative Carter Page held “secret meetings in Moscow” with d former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, a strong ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss the release of alleged “Russian dossiers of ‘kompromat’ on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.”
Last year in September, it was reported that Page had visited Moscow and met Sechin. It was also claimed Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had personally approved the meeting.
Furthermore, the dossier also named Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort.
In February, the New York Times reported Manafort had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials revealing his ties to a large Ukrainian network that used to “loot assets and influence elections” during former President Viktor F. Yanukovych’s administration.
In July, FBI agents seized documents and other material from his home during a raid as part of a special counsel's probe into alleged Russian meddling.
The intelligence agency also confirmed Manafort, along with Donald Trump Jr. and White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer to obtain dirt on Clinton.
Similarly, former National Security adviser Michael Flynn also reportedly held meetings with Russian government officials. After U.S. agencies confirmed he was communicating with Moscow, Flynn became the first casualty of the chaotic Trump administration.
Trump team has been repeatedly slammed for it alleged ties to Russia, something that this dossier corroborated. Several Trump advisers have reportedly contacted Kremlin officials in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.
“Look at how they’re switching attention,” said New York Rep. Jerry Nadler (D) told Politico, referring to pointing to the two investigations the congress Republicans congress have now launched against Clinton. “They’re using this for the White House to divert attention from the real issue, which is Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.”
Thumbnail / Banner: Reuters, Carlos Barria