‘They ALL do it!’ Trump and the Democrats go head-to-head on ‘oppo research’ from foreigners
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.”
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn't necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it." https://t.co/7gvoAViw9rpic.twitter.com/k5Yqd9YxdC— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) June 12, 2019
“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.”Also on rt.com ‘Russian trolls run Trump’s Twitter account?’ Moscow ridicules Bolton’s disinformation claims
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.
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.
Donald Trump Jr. says he's "not at all" worried about perjury after returning to testify on Capitol Hill: "I don't think I changed anything of what I said because there was nothing to change" https://t.co/W6ugwXlgz9pic.twitter.com/Mg9vXBPEGn— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 12, 2019
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?
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:
Hillary Clinton sought (dis)information on her opponent from a foreign governmentWhy didn't she call the FBI?Oh wait, she passed it around to the FBI (and the State Dept, CIA, DOJ, NSA) who all took the wild conspiracy theory and used it to spy on the Trump campaign!— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) June 13, 2019
Hillary + DNC actually funded a Kremlin-sourced dossier.Comey’s FBI used it to spy on @realDonaldTrump’s campaign.Bernie literally paid fines for colluding with the Australian Labor Party.Where's the media concern about foreign assistance that actually exists?— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) June 13, 2019
The Hillary Clinton campaign paid a foreign intelligence operative to gather damaging information on their opponent -- but you know, whatever— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) June 12, 2019
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.
....which he is a member. When @RepAdamSchiff took calls from another person, also very successfully purporting to be a Russian Operative, did he call the FBI, or even think to call the FBI? NO! The fact is that the phony Witch Hunt is a giant scam where Democrats,...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2019
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.
Sorry, Mr. President, wrong again. You eagerly took foreign help in the 2016 election and want it again.When a foreign national offered info relevant to our investigation — not election — we informed the FBI before and after the call.It’s called ethics. You should try it. https://t.co/xdwxgL2Zth— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 13, 2019
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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