‘Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year…’
Note: This is the third in a multi-part series examining Democrat attorney Marc Elias. This article covers Elias’ role as the middle man between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Fusion GPS firm in commissioning the infamous ‘Steele dossier’ in 2016. Other articles in the series explore Elias’ role in election recounts, ‘sue till blue’ redistricting and shielding politicians under investigation for financial improprieties.
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) For the past two decades, Marc Elias, the chief political law attorney at Perkins Coie, representing many top-level Democrats, has been directly implicated in nefarious election-related practices through redistricting and recounts.
However, in his capacity as official counsel for the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, Elias’ guiding hand in seemingly corrupting and politicizing the nation’s most trusted government institutions went beyond the courtroom and into the highest reaches of America’s law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering apparati.
Despite its failure to derail the candidacy and subsequent presidency of Donald Trump, the Steele dossier—in which Elias likely played a pivotal role—has proved a source of constant distraction and polarization during the first two years of Trump’s administration, while further eroding an already shaken public trust in the ethics, motives and allegiances of “deep state” bureaucratic officials.
As previously reported, Marc Elias has a long history of turning narrow losses for Democrats into victories—where questionable ballots appear after the race already has been all but certified.
Most recently, he has led the effort in Florida, where recounts are currently underway in both the Senate race between Democrat incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and in the gubernatorial race between Democrat Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.
Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
With Republicans still holding an edge early Monday, Broward County, which is notorious for election mismanagement and possible fraud, was continuing to find new votes, as Trump tweeted Monday:
The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018
In addition to having a hand in many such recount efforts—some giving Democrats in Congress a majority or supermajority—Elias also had a lead role, circumventing many state legislatures, in a redistricting push that targeted several tossup states.
Barring any court reversals, the results in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina and, of course, Florida will likely turn some of Trump’s key 2016 battleground victories into a solid blue in 2020.
Trump downplayed the possible implications in his own re-election efforts, expressing confidence that his margins of support would be strong enough to overcome the handicaps of a stacked deck.
In the 2016 Election I was winning by so much in Florida that Broward County, which was very late with vote tabulation and probably getting ready to do a “number,” couldn’t do it because not enough people live in Broward for them to falsify a victory!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
But there is plenty of reason for Trump to be worried as Elias played a part in launching the “witch hunt” that has become the single greatest headache of Trump’s presidency thus far: helping to commission a dubiously sourced, largely debunked piece of opposition research known as the Steele dossier.
Steele-ing the Presidency
British newspaper The Independent said that it was Elias, working on behalf of Clinton and the DNC, who in April 2016 retained Fusion GPS—the research firm that compiled information about the Trump campaign from ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
The reports and research Steele generated then were given directly to Elias during the course of the election.
The unverified claims, many of which eventually went public after leaking to the media, included not only the suggestion that Trump campaign officials had colluded with Russia to hack DNC servers, but also sordid and salacious rumors suggesting the Russians had compromising information to blackmail Trump.
All indications are that Elias’ law firm, Perkins Coie, helped funnel money from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to Fusion GPS. As Breitbart noted recently, that included a combined total of $9.2 million from Clinton and the DNC for “legal and compliance consulting” in the span from around November 2015 to December 2016.
In the course of doing his research, Steele, in turn, likely paid off several Kremlin-linked Russians to provide the suspect information, meaning the DNC may have been supporting the very same people who had hacked its servers in order to try to implicate Trump in the hacking.
It was no surprise he turned to Vogel, a sympathetic ear who, while operating as chief investigative reporter at Politico, showed a penchant for hounding conservative philanthropists Charles and David Koch. Prior to the 2016 election, Vogel was outed by Wikileaks and criticized by other media institutions for vetting his articles with the DNC before publication.
According to The Daily Caller, “Elias’ denial appears to have been intentionally misleading in light of new reporting … [that] Elias reportedly hired Fusion to dig up dirt on Trump as part of a project that became the Trump dossier.”
But even liberals’ vaunted Gray Lady knew it couldn’t maintain the ruse. Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted:
Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year https://t.co/vXKRV1wRJc
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 24, 2017
Reporting at the time claimed that the opposition research into Trump had originally begun during the Republican primary race, when an anonymous GOP donor had secured Fusion GPS.
Although those on the Left pointed to this as justification, suggesting it was about Trump’s character and not partisan politics, most of Trump’s main GOP contenders cast doubt on the claim, with The Washington Examiner‘s Byron York saying “GOP donor” was likely a case of semantic games.
“The reason it is not at all believable that a Republican was behind it is, nobody used [any information] from it,” Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Sen. Marco Rubio, told York. “Everybody was pretty damn desperate at the end. If someone had a kitchen sink, they would have thrown it.”
Only the Beginning…
Efforts to unravel the web of intrigue surrounding the source of the Steele dossier led Republicans in the House Oversight, Intelligence and Judiciary committees down a seemingly endless trail of rabbit holes, pointing toward a rogue’s gallery of leftist conspirators such as billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and unsavory Clinton associate Sidney Blumenthal.
But the smear attack that Elias helped orchestrate was merely the prelude to the real story, as Obama’s Justice Department and FBI soon took up the cause.
At the same time that the DNC and Clinton campaign discontinued their funding of the Fusion GPS research in October 2016, the FBI began making payments to Steele and Fusion GPS related to their investigations into the Russian conspiracy charges.
In May 2017, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed to lead an investigation into the claims. While it appears likely to conclude soon—either due to Mueller’s completion or due to pressure from acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker—the investigation continues to lend fuel to Democrats’ attacks on Trump.
Although no corroborating evidence has yet been presented publicly linking Trump with any collusion or campaign violations, as a result of the investigation that the Steele accusations spawned, several Trump associates have been prosecuted on unrelated white-collar charges. Some having struck plea deals with Mueller in return for lighter sentencing.
Meanwhile, Trump has succeeded in using the allegations to expose the corruption of several top-ranking “deep state” officials. Among the revelations are that:
- A top DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, functioned as a liaison between Steele and the law-enforcement agencies while his wife was working at Fusion GPS.
- The FBI continued to use the information from the dossier, despite a lack of corroborative evidence, to apply for multiple warrants through the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on the Trump campaign under false pretenses.
- The former FBI counterintelligence chief, Peter Strzok, was a vicious and remorseless partisan who not only pushed the Russia conspiracy in an effort to set up Trump, but simultaneously worked to actively suppress information implicating Hillary Clinton in an e-mail scandal that he also oversaw.
- Strzok exchanged many text messages expressing his intentions with his paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page, who was one of the initial investigators working for Mueller to investigate Trump’s involvement with Russia. The lovebirds’ actions were strongly repudiated in a report by the DOJ inspector general, despite claims that there was no political bias in the investigations.
- Strzok’s boss, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was married to Jill McCabe—a 2015 candidate for a Virginia state election who received $700,000 in campaign cash from a close Clinton ally and former fundraiser, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, while her husband was overseeing the investigation into Clinton. McCabe also was accused of using FBI resources to benefit his wife’s campaign.
- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took direct oversight of the Mueller investigation when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, was revealed to have had conversations with McCabe about wearing a wire in meetings with Trump in order to ensnare the president.
- Several high-ranking former FBI officials, including McCabe and former Director James Comey, likely used selective leaking of information to the media in order to extend their investigations and gain leverage with the FISA courts. One or the other—or both—then likely lied about doing so in testimony before Congress.
Whether Elias, as Clinton’s top campaign lawyer, was simply a cog in the machine or a ringleader in these efforts remains unknown.
While Trump attempted to declassify several crucial documents related to the Steele dossier, FISA applications and FBI investigation, the DOJ quickly tamped down his efforts to do so in September, despite Congressional calls for transparency.
With the House soon to hand over the reins to Democrats in the next Congress, the crucial questions are unlikely to soon be answered, though many more continue to be raised.