That’s certainly one theory of electoral practice, but Hakeem Jeffries himself doesn’t appear anxious to explain it in detail. When asked by Republicans how the accusation against Donald Trump differs from Hillary Clinton’s decision to hire a British ex-spy to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, using his intel contacts in Russia. Jeffries claims that Hillary had only “purchased” Steele’s services for oppo research, but quickly moves off of that claim to spend the rest of his response attacking Republicans for pursuing those issues.
“This is the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Jeffries exclaims at the end, “and all you offer us is conspiracy theories?”
Stick around for Jay Sekulow’s response in the same clip below, which is devastating:
Jeffries, a Democratic impeachment manager, was responding to a question posed by Sen. Richard Burr, who noted Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired Christopher Steele — a former British spy — to work with contacts abroad and compile the salacious dossier.
“The analogy is not applicable to the present situation because first, to the extent that opposition research was obtained, it was opposition research that was purchased,” Jeffries responded to the question.
He then accused the president and Republican senators of pushing conspiracy theories and the “avoidance of facts.”
“If you purchase foreign interference,” Sekulow replied, “I guess it’s okay?” Sekulow then dismantles the idea that the Steele dossier is a conspiracy theory. Sekulow ties it to Bruce and Nellie Ohr, the FBI, and the FISA court warrant, noting that these are all well-established facts and not at all a conspiracy theory. “It sounds like one,” Sekulow said with a laugh, “except it’s real.”
Afterward, Patrick Philbin also addressed the idea that foreign interference from Ukraine in the 2016 election is a conspiracy theory. Not only has that been established as fact, Philbin argues, but a “star witness” of House Democrats’ impeachment hearings testified to it on the record:
PHILBIN: I’d like to address a couple of other points while I’m here and I have the time, and we’ve gone back and forth on this and I don’t know why I have to say it again. The House managers keep coming up here and saying and acting as if — if you mention Ukraine in connection with election interference, you even mention it, you’re a pawn of Vladimir Putin. Because only the Russians interfered in
the election, and there’s not any evidence in the record, they say, that the Ukrainians did anything.
I read it before, I’ll read it again. One of their star witnesses, Fiona Hill, said that some Ukrainian officials, quote, “bet on Hillary Clinton winning the election,” end quote, so it was, quote unquote, “quite evident that they were trying to curry favor with the Clinton campaign including by trying to collect information on Mr. Manafort and on other people as well.” So that was Fiona Hill. There was also the evidence in the record from a Politico article in 2017 that listed a whole bunch of Ukrainian officials who had done things to try to
help the Clinton campaign and the DNC and to harm the Trump campaign.
In addition, two news organizations — both Politico and the Financial Times — did their own investigative reporting. And the Financial Times concluded that the opposition to President Trump led Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before: to intervene, however indirectly, in a US election. That’s the Financial Times. So the idea that there is no evidence whatsoever of Ukrainians doing anything to interfere in any way
is just not true. They come up here and say it again and again, it’s just not true.
This is less about Jeffries’ strange notion that purchasing interference is somewhat less culpable than just arranging for it pro bono, and more about establishing Trump’s motives for pressing Ukraine for investigations into interference. There is more than enough evidence of the latter to have a reasonable suspicion it was taking place, even if the Russians were also conducting their own operations at the same time (and were much more effective). If Trump thought that Ukraine’s interference also needed investigating, then that explains his conversation with Zelensky — or at least provides the defense with a legitimate alternate theory of the case. And, as Philbin points out, this isn’t just speculation; House Democrats provided evidence of this as part of their own case.
If that’s a conspiracy theory, then so is the House case against Trump. Perhaps we’d all be better off putting aside our hysteria over small-scale foreign interference and focus more on protecting our servers against phishing expeditions — and our institutions from fishing expeditions like the one on which the House wasted the last year.