Remember that infamous Russian “dossier,” the unverified document that BuzzFeed unceremoniously dumped into the public square earlier this year? You might recall it as making a series of incredibly salacious and completely unproven accusations against the sitting president of the United States. Well, it turns out that it was a piece of partisan opposition research, bought and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, both of which then denied having anything to do with it after the fact. Last night the Washington Post reported that the Clinton campaign and the DNC used a lawyer named Marc Elias to retain the oppo-research firm Fusion GPS to conduct research on the Trump campaign (the firm had previously worked on behalf of a still-unidentified Republican to investigate Trump). Fusion GPS then hired a former intelligence officer named Christopher Steele, who conducted an investigation and authored the dossier. According to the Post, the Clinton campaign and the DNC used the law firm to pay Fusion GPS right until the end of October 2016. As my colleague Andrew McCarthy notes, it’s a clever arrangement. The use of the law firm adds a layer of deniability, and when controversy arises, Fusion GPS is able to appeal to attorney-client privilege to shield itself from scrutiny. It would be easy, at this point, to start to wander down the rabbit hole, to wonder how much of the so-called “Russia controversy” is based on the Clinton campaign’s opposition research, but let’s not speculate. The truth will emerge. Instead, let’s do something else: Let’s consider how the Russian-dossier story has thus far represented a perfect storm of classic Clintonism, media irresponsibility, and Democratic moral blindness. First, the Clintonism. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman responded to the Post story with a perfect tweet: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year” “Sanctimonious lying” is Clintonworld’s M.O. From Bill to Hillary to key members of her team, they lie constantly, repetitively, and with style, and the lies often conceal no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle politics designed to win races and destroy political opponents. The lies here are important. It’s one thing to review a dossier compiled by a “former intelligence agent” and consider its contents as the product of an objective process. It’s another thing entirely to review that same work as the direct product of an opposing campaign’s opposition research. The goal of an opposition researcher is to collect everything and share everything with the client. A proper intelligence analysis, however, involves separating truth from fiction and provable claims from unverifiable allegations. Those who pitched the Russian dossier treated it not as opposition research but rather as a form of intelligence report. It had distinctive formatting. It used terms of art. It looked like a government document. How many people did it fool? Then there’s the media irresponsibility. There are reasons why news outlets don’t simply publish partisan opposition-research files: they’re full of rumor, innuendo, and sometimes outright lies. Campaigns routinely keep gigabytes of information about political opponents, and those files can contain the most fantastical of allegations. Yes, there are often true allegations alongside the scurrilous ones, but responsible journalists research those allegations before publishing them. Responsible journalists know to treat dirt from opposing campaigns with special skepticism. They don’t simply take a campaign’s work, upload it to their servers, and press “publish.” Yet that’s exactly what BuzzFeed did when it published the dossier in January. We knew then that it was the product of Trump opponents. (After all, which Trump friend would commission such a report?) We did not know it was the product of the Clinton campaign. A news outlet took a rumor-filled document of then-unknown origin, failed to verify its claims, and published it anyway. At the time, BuzzFeed called its work “ferocious reporting,” but anyone can publish an opposition-research file. It was shameful for BuzzFeed to publish the dossier then. It’s even more shameful now. Finally, let’s talk for a moment about Democratic moral blindness. One of the more incredible aspects of the emerging post-election narrative is the hero-worship that greets Hillary in some progressive circles. Sure, there are Bernie Bros and others who are bitterly angry at her, but others greet her with hugs, cheers, and tears. This is absurd. It’s as if some Democrats see the 2016 election as a Lord of the Rings–style struggle of good versus evil, Frodo battling Gollum at the Cracks of Doom, only to see Gollum win. Nope, sorry.
Agreed…and well said, David. Attorney, and Army Reserve officer (Major), David French is responsible for that spot-on analysis. David was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq.