The Corner

Politics & Policy

When Scandals Collide

As Rich noted last night, we have learned finally, courtesy of the Washington Post, that Fusion GPS, the research firm that produced the notorious “Trump Dossier,” was funded by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Of course, the Clinton campaign and the DNC always want layers of deniability and obfuscation – and let’s note that it has served them well – so they hire lawyers to do the icky stuff rather than doing it directly. Then, when the you-know-what hits the fan, outfits like Fusion GPS try to claim that they can’t share critical information with investigators because of (among other things) attorney-client confidentiality concerns.

Here, the Clinton campaign and the DNC retained the law firm of Perkins Coie; in turn, one of its partners, Marc E. Elias, retained Fusion GPS. We don’t know how much Fusion GPS was paid, but the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid $9.1 million to Perkins Coie during the 2016 campaign (i.e., between mid-2015 and late 2016).

A friend draws my attention to an intriguing coincidence.

In its capacity as attorney for the DNC, Perkins Coie – through another of its partners, Michael Sussman – is also the law firm that retained CrowdStrike, the cyber security outfit, upon learning in April 2016 that the DNC’s servers had been hacked.

Interesting: Despite the patent importance of the physical server system to the FBI and Intelligence-Community investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the Bureau never examined the DNC servers. Evidently, the DNC declined to cooperate to that degree, and the Obama Justice Department decided not to issue a subpoena to demand that the servers be turned over (just like the Obama Justice Department decided not to issue subpoenas to demand the surrender of critical physical evidence in the Clinton e-mails investigation).

Instead, the conclusion that Russia is responsible for the invasion of the DNC servers rests on the forensic analysis conducted by CrowdStrike. Rather than do its own investigation, the FBI relied on a contractor retained by the DNC’s lawyers.

The most significant pressing question about the so-called Trump Dossier is whether it was used by the FBI and the Obama Justice Department to get a warrant from the FISA court to conduct national-security surveillance on people connected to the Trump campaign. As I have previously pointed out, this would not be as scandalous as it sounds if (a) the Justice Department had a good faith basis to believe the people the Bureau wanted to surveil were acting as agents of Russia, and (b) the FBI first corroborated whatever information it took from the dossier before presenting it to the FISA court.

But it certainly is interesting that we are once again, in a case involving alleged Russian espionage, reviewing a situation in which the FBI relied on a contractor retained by the DNC’s and the Clinton campaign’s lawyers at Perkins Coie.

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