Did Hillary know about Fusion GPS and the Russia dossier prior to the election?
Friday night the Washington Post published in which an anonymous spokesperson for Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign, claims he hired Fusion GPS using money over which he had sole discretion. The source claims Elias was briefed on the contents of the dossier but never received a copy:
When Marc Elias, general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, hired a private research firm in the spring of 2016 to investigate Donald Trump, he drew from funds he was authorized to spend without oversight by campaign officials, according to a spokesperson for his law firm.
The firm hired by Elias, Fusion GPS, produced research that resulted a dossier detailing alleged connections between Trump and Russia. While the funding for the work came from the campaign and the Democratic National Committee, Elias kept the information about the investigation closely held as he advised the campaign on its strategy, according to the spokesperson, who requested anonymity to discuss the internal dynamics…
It is unclear who else was familiar with the arrangement, or who knew that Fusion GPS hired a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier…
Elias himself did not receive the dossier but was briefed on some of the information in it, according to his firm’s spokesperson.
Notice what is not included in this excerpt (because it is not included in the story): A denial that the campaign (or Hillary specifically) knew about Fusion GPS. The suggestion made in the opening paragraph is that Elias had discretionary funds, meaning he didn’t have to tell anyone what he was doing with this money. Then the story says Elias kept the information “closely held” as he advised the campaign. Again, that’s not a denial that any specific person knew only that he didn’t tell a lot of people.
At nearly the same time the Washington Post published this story last night, the New York Post published an alternative take by former Clinton adviser Doug Schoen and former president of the New York City Council Andrew Stein:
With both of us having extensive experience in campaign budgetary decision making, the suggestion that top officials in the Clinton campaign, including Clinton herself, and the DNC weren’t fully aware of the research that their general counsel was commissioning strains credulity.
With more than 380 payments from the Clinton campaign and the DNC being made to Perkins Coie, it is seemingly impossible that the candidate herself would not have direct knowledge of the purpose of those payments or any earmarks being made, especially those for Fusion GPS.
Again, we have both operated in campaign settings of this nature before as strategists and as candidates, and for this significant amount of money, the candidate would fully understand its use and must authorize its purpose.
In short, campaigns don’t spend millions without having some idea where that money is going.
It seems obvious that the design of this arrangement was always intended to insulate the candidate from ever having to explain what she knew about the oppo-research she was paying for. By making her attorney the conduit for that information, she ensures no one can demand answers about any discussions they had. Hillary set up a similar arrangement with the sorting and deleting of her emails, having her attorneys handle the details so that it’s impossible to find out what she actually knew about the process.
The purpose of the oppo research generated by Fusion GPS was to use it against Trump in the election. Toward that end, Elias authorized Fusion GPS to shop this material to news outlets in the hope that one of them would bite on it. And one did. Mother Jones published a story including quotes from Christopher Steele about a week before the election.
Does it seem plausible Elias would have set all of this up without talking to the campaign about it? Did he have that much independence from the campaign that he could attempt to set up what was clearly intended as an October surprise without even mentioning it to the campaign? This strikes me as very unlikely. But again, the whole design of this arrangement was to ensure we could never really know if Hillary is lying or telling the truth about what she knew and when she knew it.