In a bombshell dropped by the Washington Post today, it seems Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped to bankroll the Steele Dossier, the dog-eared but not terribly credible document of intelligence scuttlebutt involving Donald Trump’s relationship with Russians.
The campaign picked up a contract with the firm Fusion GPS originally taken out by an anti-Trump Republican and leading to the production and distribution of the document, which then circulated around Washington before being published by Buzzfeed. The Steele Dossier (named after Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who wrote it) got a lot of attention for its depiction of a lurid sexual scenario in Moscow that was allegedly the basis of Russian blackmail of the then-president-elect.
Since the allegations were much mocked and never corroborated, the dossier has mostly dropped out of the conversation about Trump and his Russian acquaintances — except among Trump supporters, for whom the incident “proved” that all the suspicions about Trump, his campaign, and Russians were nothing more than partisan smears. Such arguments are now going to run wild, probably with much encouragement by the Tweeter-in-Chief, who speculated just the other day that “Russia, FBI or the Dems” may have paid for the “discredited and Fake Dossier.”
The Post story does not allege that the Clinton campaign or the DNC had any contact with Steele, or any knowledge of what he was working on, though it does suggest that these Democrats wanted dirt on Trump and Russians if some was available. Certainly there’s nothing unusual about a campaign or a party committee investing in opposition research; all the story shows, at this point, is that said opposition research ultimately led to some very strange materials.
In any event, even though there’s no evidence of wrongdoing, this is another blow to the reputation of the Clinton campaign, and at a minimum a distraction to the work of federal investigators looking into the Trump–Russia connection. Just because the Dossier’s allegations cannot be confirmed is no reason to assume that others can’t be either, and the idea that Democrats produced them all is as unsupported as anything in the Dossier itself.
As for the DNC, well — it now has something to deal with that’s a bit more pressing than the question of exactly how many former Clinton and Sanders supporters sit on various committees.