Both campaigns sought Russian dirt. Clinton's way was legal.

The other answer is more subtle. Adav Noti, who served as a Federal Election Commission lawyer between 2007 and 2017, told me that all of this goes back to the ban on contributions and donations from foreign governments or foreign nationals in federal elections. The law has been on the books since the 1970s, and he said it applies to promises of deleted emails and other kinds of opposition research.

“There is a real meaningful distinction,” said Noti, who is now senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that monitors election law. “The Clinton campaign, based on what has been reported, paid for opposition research, which included paying people to dig up dirt in foreign countries.” Unsavory? Perhaps. But not illegal.

Compare that to what we know about George Papadopoulos, a low-level Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser, who has pled guilty to lying to the FBI. The plea agreement, released Monday by Mueller, says Papadopoulos emailed a Russian professor and another Russian contact who promised to turn over Clinton’s emails free of charge.

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