Hillary Clinton appeared on The Daily Show Wednesday night to promote her book. During the interview, host Trevor Noah asked Hillary about the Russia dossier. “Is there a difference between your team paying for this opposition-research and Donald Trump’s people working with the Russians to influence the election?” Noah asked.
Before we get to Clinton’s answer, let’s first note that this a loaded and misleading question. As of this moment, there is still no evidence that Trump’s people were “working with the Russians.” There is evidence that George Papadopolous met with Russians and tried to set up a meeting with Trump, one which apparently didn’t happen. We also know that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer. What we don’t know is that anything came of this that would constitute working together. Sen. Collins said last week she still hasn’t seen evidence of the kind of collusion Trevor Noah’s question seems to take for granted.
As Ed noted previously, Clinton’s answer starts with the misleading claim that the dossier was a continuation of Republican oppo-research. That’s simply not true but no surprise that Clinton is saying whatever she can to deflect here whether or not it’s true.
But the rest of her answer is also very misleading. “You know from my perspective, it didn’t come out before the election as we all know,” Hillary said. She added, “You try to make sure that anything you put out in the public arena is accurate. So this thing didn’t come out until after the election and it’s still being evaluated.”
Hillary is talking about the Russia dossier. It’s strictly true that it didn’t come out in full until after the election, but that overlooks the fact that a story describing the dossier, including quotes from the document and its author Christopher Steele, appeared in print a week before the election. Mother Jones Oct. 31 story was headlined, “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.” Reading the story now, it was clearly an attempt to to put a focus on the FBI’s interest in the Trump campaign prior to the election:
Last month, Yahoo News reported that US intelligence officials were probing the links between Page and senior Russian officials. (Page has called accusations against him “garbage.”) On Monday, NBC News reported that the FBI has mounted a preliminary inquiry into the foreign business ties of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chief. But Reid’s recent note hinted at more than the Page or Manafort affairs. And a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.
Does this mean the FBI is investigating whether Russian intelligence has attempted to develop a secret relationship with Trump or cultivate him as an asset?
A couple paragraphs later, author David Corn suggests the answer to this question is yes. Corn says he has reviewed the “memos” and offers direct quotes from them along with commentary from Steele (who is described but not named):
Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”
The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.”
Again, it’s true that the full dossier wasn’t released until Buzzfeed dumped it online in January. But its existence, its authorship by a former spy, the thrust of the content, even the fact that the FBI was looking into it was all published prior to the election. It’s odd that Hillary seems to have any recall of this now.
What’s more, we know that Fusion GPS shopped this story around to several outlets including the NY Times prior to the election, all with the approval of Hillary’s general counsel. Mother Jones was the outlet that was willing to run with it. As I’ve suggested before, it strains credulity that Hillary was completely unaware that her campaign’s attorney was attempting to set up a major October surprise without her awareness or consent.
It would have been great if Trevor Noah had asked Hillary about the Mother Jones story and the fact that the dossier and its author were being shopped to other outlets by her people prior to the election. But of course, Noah isn’t there to ask real questions. He’s there to toss softballs and give Hillary a fist bump. Meanwhile, she’s there to mislead people and sell books. It would be great if, at some point during this endless book tour, someone in the media would ask the shadow president some real questions about her involvement in all of this.