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‘They ALL do it!’ Trump and the Democrats go head-to-head on ‘oppo research’ from foreigners

‘They ALL do it!’ Trump and the Democrats go head-to-head on ‘oppo research’ from foreigners
With the liberal media excoriating President Donald Trump for admitting that he’d listen if foreigners dug up dirt on his opponents, the president did openly reveal one of Washington’s dirty secrets: everyone’s doing it.

Asked by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos whether his 2020 campaign would accept damaging information on its opponents from a foreign power or hand that information over to the FBI, Trump said on Wednesday “I think maybe you do both.”

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [saying] ‘we have information on your opponent’...oh, I think I'd want to hear it.”

The president’s comments caused a flurry of angry responses. Democrats proclaimed them “stunning” and said they were evidence that he “is willing to put himself in debt to a foreign power.” The mainstream media acted equally gobsmacked, with CNN calling the interview a “stark expression of nonchalance...over foreign efforts to influence US politics” and MSNBC decrying Trump’s "offensive and cynical” stance on the issue.

However, Trump then delivered a home truth overlooked by the flabbergasted media.

“When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.”

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Opposition research is part and parcel of Washington politicking. Entire media outlets like Media Matters for America even exist to pick through the public statements of ideological opponents looking for nuggets of salacious and newsworthy dirt.

However, digging through the dirty laundry of every sitting congressman and senator would fill volumes, and Stephanopoulos was specifically questioning Trump with regard to next year’s presidential election – a higher-stakes game altogether. For anyone doubting whether “they all do it,” a simple glance back to 2016 reveals the truth in Trump’s words.

Trump/Russia 2016

Despite the bloviations of the most hardened ‘Russiagaters’ in politics and on television, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report found that Trump did not collude with Russia to swing the 2016 election. However, the report did detail alleged offers of assistance from a rotating cast of Russian-linked individuals, which the Trump campaign ignored or rebuffed.

One offer in particular has been dissected endlessly by Democrats: Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. Expecting to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump Jr. attended the meeting, before walking out when Veselnitskaya didn’t deliver the goods. After a grilling before the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, Trump Jr. was once again summoned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where he told reporters there was “nothing to change” in his testimony.

Between the Trump Tower meeting, former advisor Roger Stone’s alleged attempts to solicit dirt, and even Trump’s joking plea to Russia to “find the 30,000 emails” supposedly deleted by Hillary Clinton, one would be forgiven for thinking that opposition research was the domain of the Trump campaign in 2016. But what about the Democrats’ efforts?

Team Hillary

The Clinton campaign solicited gossip of its own in 2016, contracting opposition research firm Fusion GPS to compile a dossier of dirt on Trump. Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to gather the material, which he did with the aid of a scatter of Russian sources. The end result was the now infamous ‘Steele Dossier,’ a folder of scandal that was shown to the FBI, albeit to kickstart its surveillance of the Trump campaign and launch an investigation into non-existent ‘Russian collusion.’

Some Republicans and commenters rushed to point out the apparent double standard at play:

Seething at the reaction to his interview, Trump unloaded on Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-California), both of whom had blasted the president for his statements.

According to Fox News, Warner attempted to set up a private meeting with Christopher Steele in 2017 in London to avoid leaving a “paper trail.” Schiff, on the other hand, took a phone call from a pair of Russian comedians promising the California congressman naked blackmail pictures of Trump. Although Trump claimed otherwise on Thursday, Schiff insists he informed the FBI about the call.

With more Democrats clamoring for impeachment after Trump’s interview, it’s worth bearing in mind that political dirty tricks are par for the course in Washington. They only make the news when it’s politically expedient for them to.

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