Reasons Why Dems Have Been Fucking Stupid on the Steele Dossier: a Long Essay

Let me start this post by reposting in full my explanation of why Trump opponents are idiots for clinging to the Steele dossier, so I can add to that with an explanation of why the disclosure that Marc Elias paid for the dossier on behalf of Hillary and the DNC makes it far, far worse.

I have zero doubt that the Russians attempted to influence the election. I think it likely Robert Mueller will eventually show evidence that senior people in Trump’s camp attempted to and may have coordinated with people working for Russia, and people more tangential to the campaign sought out Russians for help. I think if the full story of the Russian involvement in the election comes out, it will be worse than what people currently imagine.

I also think Trump opponents have made a really grave error in investing so much in the Steele dossier. That’s true because, from the start, there were some real provenance questions about it, as leaked. Those questions have only grown, as I’ll explain below. The dossier was always way behind ongoing reporting on the hack-and-leak, meaning it is utterly useless for one of the most important parts of last year’s tampering. The dossier provides Trump officials a really easy way to rebut claims of involvement, even when (such as with Michael Cohen) there is ample other evidence to suggest inappropriate ties with Russia. Most importantly, the dossier is not needed for the most common reason people cling to it, to provide a framework to understand Trump’s compromise by Russia. By late January, WaPo’s reporting did a far better job of that, with the advantage that it generally proceeded from events with more public demonstrable proof. And (again, given the abundance of other evidence) there’s no reason to believe the Mueller investigation depends on it.

But because Trump opponents have clung to the damn dossier for months, like a baby’s blanket, hoping for a pee tape, it allows Trump, Republicans, and Russians to engage in lawfare and other means to discredit the dossier as if discrediting the dossier will make the pile of other incriminating evidence disappear.

So let’s see how the Marc Elias disclosure makes this far, far worse.

The WaPo reports that Elias’ firm, Perkins Coie, acting on behalf of both Hillary and the DNC, paid Fusion GPS. And they did so much earlier than previously reported, starting in April.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

Given the numbering of the dossier, the April date makes far better sense than the June date. In fact, on January 13, I said, “It must have started sometime in April.” Yay me — that’s the one piece of prescience I’ll write about here I’m happy about.

The news comes as Fusion has been digging itself deeper and deeper into a perjury hole in an effort to protect Elias and the Democrats, just as they would have had to release financial documents showing Perkins Coie’s involvement in any case (I’ll do a follow-up to show that Fusion seems to have been using a cute definition of “client” in its sworn legal declarations about the dossier).

Some of the details are included in a Tuesday letter sent by Perkins Coie to a lawyer representing Fusion GPS, telling the research firm that it was released from a ­client-confidentiality obligation. The letter was prompted by a legal fight over a subpoena for Fusion GPS’s bank records.

As the WaPo and an army of Dem flacks have noted since this story broke, it is totally normal to pay oppo research firms for dirt on opponents.

It is!!

Which ought to raise really big questions why Elias didn’t come forward before now to simply admit that Hillary and the Dems — rather than some unnamed big donor as has always been intimated — were doing what every campaign normally does.

And there are several likely reasons for that.

First, consider what position this puts the FBI in. Steele started sharing his information with the FBI during the summer, possibly before the FBI opened an investigation into Trump’s Russian ties (though the CIA claims to have had a report in June about such ties, so the investigation doesn’t derive exclusively from the dossier). It’s still unclear — not even given Steele’s legal statements on this fact — whether Steele shared the information on his own, or whether Fusion permitted him to share. It’s also not clear whether Steele disclosed to FBI who was paying for his work (or even if he actually knew). But it is qualitatively different for the FBI to accept and respond to information from a political party than it is to respond to information paid for by — say — a rich private person like George Soros. That is, admittedly, how the Whitewater investigation got started (so I can appreciate the irony), but it was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

Note, this detail also provides a much better explanation for why the FBI backed out of its planned relationship with Steele in October, one that matches my supposition. As soon as it became clear Elias was leaking the dossier all over as oppo research, the FBI realized how inappropriate it was to use the information themselves, no matter how credible Steele is. This also likely explains why FBI seeded a story with NYT, one Democrats have complained about incessantly since, reporting “none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.” Ham-handed? Sure. But in the wake of Harry Reid and David Corn’s attempts to force FBI to reveal what Democratic oppo research had handed to FBI, the FBI needed to distance themselves from the oppo research, and make sure they didn’t become part of it. Particularly if Steele was not fully forthcoming about who was paying him, the FBI was fucked.

And consider what Hillary and the DNC did. Back when the June 9 Trump Tower meeting first broke, I warned Democrats who were screaming that this was proof of collusion to be very careful of how they defined it.

[T]hus far, it is not evidence of collusion, contrary to what a lot of people are saying.

That’s true, most obviously, because we only have the implicit offer of a quid pro quo: dirt on Hillary — the source of which is unknown — in exchange for sanctions relief. We don’t (yet) have evidence that Don Jr and his co-conspirators acted on that quid pro quo.

But it’s also true because if that’s the standard for collusion, then Hillary’s campaign is in trouble for doing the same.

Remember: A supporter of Hillary Clinton paid an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, to hire a British spy who in turn paid money to Russians — including people even closer to the Kremlin than Veselnitskaya — for Russia-related dirt on Don Jr’s dad.

Yes, the Clinton campaign was full of adults, and so kept their Russian-paying oppo research far better removed from the key players on the campaign than Trump’s campaign, which was run by incompetents. But if obtaining dirt from Russians — even paying Russians to obtain dirt — is collusion, then a whole bunch of people colluded with Russians (and a bunch of other foreign entities, I’m sure), including whatever Republican originally paid Fusion for dirt on Trump.

Breaking: Our political process is sleazy as fuck (but then, so are most of our politicians).

I assumed at the time that Democrats were adults and provided Hillary some plausible deniability and distance from the payments to ex-spooks who in turn paid Russian spies.

Serves me right for underestimating, yet again, Hillary’s ability to score own goals, because Nope! They’re not that adult! And so while it pains me greatly to have to say this, the Dems who screamed “COLLUSION!!!!!!!!” after evidence of a meeting but not payment have earned this attack from Ari Fleischer, accusing them of colluding, because that’s the standard they adopted at the time.

Finally, there’s the most interesting thing implicated by the disclosure that Perkins Coie partner Marc Elias paid for the dossier.

As noted, the WaPo explains Elias started to do so in April, which makes far more sense given the numbering of the dossier. But Steele, we know, was brought in in June; his first report, about whether Russia had kompromat on Hillary, was June 20. That means Steele’s involvement, paid for by Perkins Coie, postdates the involvement of Perkins Coie partner (and former DOJ prosecutor who should have known better than to do this) Michael Sussman in the DNC’s response to learning they were hacked by Russia, starting around April 29.

“Not sure it is related to what the F.B.I. has been noticing,” said one internal D.N.C. email sent on April 29. “The D.N.C. may have been hacked in a serious way this week, with password theft, etc.”

No one knew just how bad the breach was — but it was clear that a lot more than a single filing cabinet worth of materials might have been taken. A secret committee was immediately created, including Ms. Dacey, Ms. Wasserman Schultz, Mr. Brown and Michael Sussmann, a former cybercrimes prosecutor at the Department of Justice who now works at Perkins Coie, the Washington law firm that handles D.N.C. political matters.

“Three most important questions,” Mr. Sussmann wrote to his clients the night the break-in was confirmed. “1) What data was accessed? 2) How was it done? 3) How do we stop it?”

It also means that Steele’s involvement — paid for by Perkins Coie — roughly coincides with the time Democrats and Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussman first sat down with the FBI and pushed the FBI to “tell the American public that” Russia had attacked the Democrats.

The D.N.C. executives and their lawyer had their first formal meeting with senior F.B.I. officials in mid-June, nine months after the bureau’s first call to the tech-support contractor. Among the early requests at that meeting, according to participants: that the federal government make a quick “attribution” formally blaming actors with ties to Russian government for the attack to make clear that it was not routine hacking but foreign espionage.

“You have a presidential election underway here and you know that the Russians have hacked into the D.N.C.,” Mr. Sussmann said, recalling the message to the F.B.I. “We need to tell the American public that. And soon.”

Shortly thereafter, Steele, paid for by Perkins Coie, started sharing reports with the FBI, with as yet unknown disclosure to them about who was paying his bills. Do you see why this is a problem yet?

Note, too, the irony. The DNC was unwilling to share their server directly with the FBI. But they were willing to launder their intelligence to it.

Not cool, Democrats. Also, not smart.

Now, add to this massive own goal the Democrats have scored on themselves. The second report in the released dossier, is dated July 26, released four days after WikiLeaks started releasing the DNC emails, making it clear the Democrats had a far bigger hack-and-leak problem on their hands than they had let on in a June 14 story to the WaPo. It is an incredibly back-assward report on Russian hacking that proved unaware of the most basic publicly known details about Russia’s hacking (the Democrats would have been better served reading this report that had been released ten months before, which is almost certainly what FBI was trying to point them to when they first warned of the hack in September). That is, in the wake of the DNC hack, the Democrats’ lawyer paid for private intelligence about Russian involvement with Trump, and they ended up paying someone whose sources (because Steele is a follow-the-money guy, not a follow-the-packets guy) consistently were months and months behind the public knowledge on the hack.


Finally, one more point. It has been clear for some time that Steele’s reports had some kind of feedback loop, responding to information the Democrats got. That was most obvious with respect to the September 14 Alfa Bank report, which was obviously written after first news of the Alfa Bank/Trump Tower story, which was pushed by Democratic partisans. Particularly given that we know the released report is a selective release of just some reports from the dossier, the inclusion of Alfa Bank in that release makes no sense. Even if reports about old corrupt ties between Alfa and Putin are true (as if Democratic politicians and corrupt American banks never have old ties), the inclusion of the Alfa report in the dossier on Trump made zero sense.

Which is why Alfa Bank decided — after consulting with big Republican lawyers like Viet Dinh and soon-to-be DOJ Criminal Division Chief Brian Benczkowski — to sue for defamation. Now I understand why (particularly given that Republicans seem to have known who paid for the dossier for some time). I’m not sure Alfa Bank executives pass the bar for defamation here (though the publication of a report that misspelled Alfa’s name is pretty damning), but the fact that Elias paid for this dossier on behalf of the Democrats is going to make that defamation case far more explosive (and I’ll be surprised if Elias doesn’t get added into the mix).

As I said when I began this: I have no doubt Russia tampered with the election, and if the full truth comes out I think it will be more damning than people now imagine.

But the Democrats have really really really fucked things up with their failures to maintain better ethical distance between the candidate and the dossier, and between the party and the FBI sharing. They’ve made things worse by waiting so long to reveal this, rather that pitching it as normal sleazy political oppo research a year ago.

The case of Russian preference for Trump is solid. The evidence his top aides were happy to serve as Russian agents is strong.

But rather than let FBI make the case for that, Democrats instead tried to make their own case, and they did in such a way as to make the very solid case against Trump dependent on their defense of the dosser, rather than on better backed claims released since then.

Boy it seems sadly familiar, Democrats committing own goals like this. And all that’s before where the lawfare on this dossier is going to go.

Update, 12/6/17: This, from April, is a really interesting claim by claim debunking of the dossier.

93 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    There doesn’t seem to be any real news here.  David Corn had reported most of this a full year ago.

    Also, as noted by TPM, the FBI on its own continued to fund Steele until his name went public.  There is no tie-in to the HRC campaign with the FBI, indeed quite the opposite especially in Rudy’s NYC turf.

    However, I do agree with the concept that making it much easier for the Trumpists to say “both sides do it” is mind-numbing stupidity and an outgrowth of “Third Way” thinking.  The Ds don’t realize that now is the time to draw a clear distinction between them and the GOP.  Stand up Ds.

    On the topic of “standing up” we had Trump critics Collins, Murkowski, Flake and Corker all agree to remove the class action protection (Pence cast the tiebreaker vote) rule by the CFPB that was really the sole reason we found out about the (at least) 3.5 million phony accounts created by Wells Fargo to meet unrealistic sales quotas.  I’ve noted this disconnect before, where GOP politicos harrumph over “concerns” and being “troubled” but will not do anything to stop the Kaiser’s agenda.  This also includes investigations since apparently the SJC GOP bypassed the Ds on some invitation letters is a breach of protocol )that would ruffle feathers when the shoe was on the other foot) which forced the Ds to go on their own.  The House for its part is investigating HRC (again) to distract attention away from the ongoing conflicts of interest and general maladministration by the Kaiser and his minions.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    No wonder Hillary has gone to such Trumpian lengths to blame others for her loss to Trump. I thought this sort of thing happened only in English Premier League football.

    Would that this sort of incompetence and shortsightedness would convince Democrats to embrace their progressive wing rather than continue to follow their neoliberal wing, like lemmings, off the cliff.

    • lefty665 says:

      Unfortunately, the lemmings were still firmly in the driver’s seat last week at the DNC convention in Vegas.

      • J-Mann says:

        Still ranting and raving at Daily Kos, too.

        “Who cares if Dems paid for the dossier?!?!  He peed!  He peed!”


  3. lefty665 says:

    Thanks Marcy for continuing to bring facts, sense and insight to these (and many other) issues.

    To their detriment the Dems and their supporters have neglected the old adage about glass houses and the inadvisability of throwing stones. That would qualify as unfortunate if it had not clearly been their intent.

      • lefty665 says:

        While it never occurred to me that Marcy might pick sides among us miscreants here in the peanut gallery, she and I both favor facts, sense and insight as I hope you do too. Have a nice day.

        • J-Mann says:

          Partisan scrubs often muck around in the mud of distraction and disruption.  Hence WW’s brilliant analysis and thoughtful additions to the discourse…


  4. orionATL says:

    e. w. :

    1. “Let me start this post by reposting in full my explanation of why Trump opponents are idiots for clinging to the Steele dossier…”

    this seems a straw man e. w.

    who are the folks (idiots), presumably some dems and other anti-trump, who are clinging to steele’s trump dossier in october 2017 with all that’s been learned since dec, 2016 ? who? got some important names maybe?

    2. e.w.: “… why the disclosure that Marc Elias paid for the dossier on behalf of Hillary and the DNC makes it far, far worse…”

    why would a voluntary disclosure made by the law firm that paid gps fusion be a bad thing?

    there was never any holding this info back. it was always a case of when.

    now we just need to know who initially hired gps fusion (allegedly republican oppo opportunity :) ) and we have the genesis of the research that resulted in the dossier by steele.

    the rightwing propaganda machine will, naturally, go ape. that’s their political function. but that was always going to happen.

  5. orionATL says:

    e. w.

    “… But the Democrats have really really really fucked things up with their failures to maintain better ethical distance between the candidate and the dossier, and between the party and the FBI sharing. They’re made things worse by waiting so long to reveal this, rather that pitching it as normal sleazy political oppo research a year  ago… ”

    so, as you see it, this is, in summary, a matter of the drms not being really slick enough and having, say, a cutout to fusion.

    and they should have acknowledged they paid fusion even though the fact that some dem or another paid fusion has been known around d. c. probably for a year.

    thus, it seems you are saying, this is now a p. r. disaster.

    well yes if the dems run for shelter (the current dnc had nothing to do with this, honest! ) rather than fight back:

    – there is no reason to not do oppo research.

    – there is no reason not to do oppo on trump and russia.

    – there is no reason not to suspect russians and e-mail thefts of campaign material.

    – there is no readon not to suspect collusion between trump and the russian government.

    -there is no reason dems should not have used a law firm to hire fusion (that is a cutout, right? ).

  6. orionATL says:

    “… [dem] failures to maintain better ethical distance between the candidate and the dossier,…”

    this is an “ethical” problem?

    really? in contemporary american politics? hiding all info about your oppo research from the other party or the public is “unethical”?

    does that imply that the trumpsters have a reciprocal obligation to tell us about their oppo and its funding and provenance?

  7. Desack says:

    Great analysis. My only problem is the part about letting the FBI make the case for that. They never would have done it. They were feeding Rudy BS, and were strongly anti-Clinton. They leaked about her nonstop yet the leak went Donald Jr and Ivanka never came out until much later. If this doc wasn’t released I think this stays a relatively unknown issue for the most part, and they’re certainly isn’t a Mueller investigation

  8. Avattoir says:

    This comment goes to a narrow point in Ms. Wheeler’s argument: Marc Elias “lying”, per Vogel & Haggerman, to news reporters.

    This issue of attorneys lying comes up more in practice than I expect the public knows about, but there are actually rules & standards involved which MOST legal practice licensing authorities (very often bar associations) codify & enforce.

    In almost all but the most arcane of instances, legal counsel are forbidden to lie to judges in the context of court proceedings. There’s also other consequences to that, like being criminally answerable for contempt of court and for perjury involved. But in addition, and even where those others aren’t pursued, or technically fail (say, with perjury charges at least, because of the difference between court-admissible proof, the standard of proof in court cases involving criminal charges, and the magic thinking of jury panels), licensing authorities / bar associations typically are very aggressive in pursuing complaints of such incidents. And their investigations and proceedings tend not be bound by the standards of civil practice in federal or state courts, let alone in criminal cases.

    Attorneys lying to other attorneys can be a bit different and more narrowly pursued, but practice discipline committees & investigators on behalf of attorney licensing authorities tend to be highly aggressive, also highly successful, in cases where some form of trust relationship has been activated. Indeed, by far the most cases where attorneys face challenges to their licenses, including not just discipline but disbarment, arise from complaints involving attorneys “misleading” other attorneys in real estate cases, that is, real estate property transfers & development deals – where the money involved often runs into the millions & not uncommonly into the billions.

    Then there’s complaints of attorneys lying TO their own clients. My sense has been (I’ve seen stats that seem to support this.) most of those tend not to get very far, as a high % involve billing disputes & clients whose perspectives have been affected by disappointing  outcomes. But for those complaints that get past the threshold where most of these typically most prosaic of clients’ complaints are dismissed, the consequences can kill the practices of the subject attorneys as readily as lying to judges or other attorneys.

    Then there’s the rest: the far, far broader category of lying to everyone who does NOT fall within those first 3 categories. It’d be wasteful effort to list here all who fall within ‘everyone else’, but consider the case under consideration here: Marc Elias talking with Haggerman or Vogel.

    I’m not about to pretend to examine whether or not Elias did ‘in fact’ lie to them, or did so ‘in effect’, or ‘in essence’, or whatever; for present purposes, I assume he did.

    Now, pretty obviously there are consequences to Elias involved here – we’re seeing them play out on cable TV news shows, front pages of major newspapers, & in interest blogs up & down any scale of depth or reliability one might wish to set – PLUS consequences (potentially at least) to the DNC, to Dem party candidates’ electoral chances, and more generally to the country’s fate in these dire times (butterflies flapping, etc.). But typically those hold no interest at all to legal practice licensing authorities.

    Moreover, it’s worth considering that – again, we’re in a thought experiment where we’re assuming Elias lied to reporters – legal counsel in the position Elias found himself in, face competing demands on the ethical discharge of their duties. That is, if Elias were to be concerned that a certain answer to, say, Vogel (who, to me anyway, impresses as the more ethical, perspicacious & precise of the 2 reporters) would, or even could, risk doing harm to Elias’ clients, Elias would be facing a dilemma (though one easily answered by references to his DUTIES) of preferring his relationship with Vogel, or Vogel’s employer, or the press more generally, or the public, over his DUTIES to his clients, including to avoid harm to them directly or indirectly (e.g. their standing in the community), and to advance their legitimate causes where he reasonably can … etc.

    Now, it may occur to some that there are alternatives to providing an answer that’s amounts to a clear lie. That might well be so in this case; but I don’t know that, & I’m sure no one else here knows either.

    I feel I should add that I’ve run into Elias, once, in one fairly narrow context. I’m certainly not remotely a friend, & it’d be a stretch to say we have any ‘relationship’. That said, nothing about that contact, or what little else I know of him or his practice standards, impressed me that he’s any sort of serially prevaricating shield (Marc Kasowitz) or reflexive shill (Ben Ginsburg) for his clients, or that he has unusual or suspicious ethical standards.

    • PG says:

      Avattoir, may I ask you if it’s likely that Elias would instruct Fusion GPS to disseminate the dossier (or parts of it) to news organizations without his clients knowledge and approval?

    • emptywheel says:

      Because it wasn’t a clusterfuck at that stage and didn’t include the RU component?


      That was easy.

      • J-Mann says:

        Marcy #ForTheWin

        Again  :  )

        Breaking news on msnbc 5pm Central:  Trump Wikilieaks Russia SOMETHING!!!


        Fox is covering this Fusion/DNC/Steele clusterfuck. Dems Fallon & DWS say “I know nothing!”

  9. orionATL says:

    e. w. from the 2nd para of her post within a post:

    “I also think Trump opponents have made a really grave error in investing so much in the Steele dossier…”

    there are two themes e. w. persues that i question.

    one is this business of “trump opponents”, presumably including some dem bigwigs, “investing so much” in the steele dossier.

    who are they? congressmen/women? dnc officials? former and present dem politicos? dem-favoring news reporters/teevee reporters? media columnists? intelligence community types? wealthy dem backers? who have i forgotten?

    i just haven’t picked up a sense of slavish devotion, or even much publiic conversation, about the steele dossier after a month or two post its public appearance.

    who are these trump opponents?

    the second theme has to do with “ethical” failures of dnc or clinton campaign. ethical failures? to fail to hide stuff more cleverely is an ethical failure?

  10. Rugger9 says:

    OT but only slightly, waiting on the next Niger post.  Like Benghazi, it seems the GOP cut the budget for security in a trouble spot only to have it backfire with dead Americans (that part makes me angry).  Unlike Benghazi, they will have a hard time blaming HRC for this and so have resorted to distractions like this “new story” that isn’t “new” at all.

  11. michael says:

    On one hand Dems ‘colluded’ by hiring a guy to look into Trump’s connections with Russia in a way that involved asking Russians for information. On the other hand the Trump campaign employed a campaign director with direct ties to the Russian government, cheered for and benefited from and likely coordinated Russian sponsored cyberattacks. Will republicans be mad about this and use it to dismiss real charges? Of course. They’d do the same thing regardless. Suggesting “wait and let the FBI handle this” as the appropriate alternative is silly on its face given how easily the FBI was played by Republican partisans and yes the Russians.

  12. lefty665 says:

    Several of the usual suspects have shown up to illustrate what the meaning of Dems being fucking stupid is. Way to go guys. Y’all going to keep it up, or is there hope you will come to your senses?

    • orionATL says:

      lefty, you really are remarkably arrogant.

      furthermore, you are the last person in the world with any credible claim to being able to predict the future of the democratic party.

      • lefty665 says:

        Thank you us#1, right on schedule. Figured I could count on you.

        Never occurred to me I could predict the future of the Dem Party, but I can, and do, hope for better, and I work to help it get there.

        One way I do that is by helping misguided Dems see the error of their ways. It is called being “rehab ready”. You’re familiar with that term aren’t you?

        First step is to acknowledge there is a problem.

        Second step is to encourage them to reject the greed, corruption, elite, neolib, and neocon ways that have brought the Party (and the country) to its lowest ebb in 100 years. The hysteria, hate and anger need to go too.

        Third step is to turn them to working for reform that makes the Party, the country and its workers better.

        Ready to take the first step grasshopper?

        • orionATL says:

          like i said, lefty, you are remarkably arrogant.

          nothing demonstrates that better than the above silliness in which you condescendingly pretend that you are a master teacher and dem savant.

        • J-Mann says:

          Simple question: do you think Dems are screwing the pooch up, down and sideways at every level (see: elections, 2016) or not?

          I do.  I was a simple, NPR-Dem.  Then I started seeing through the repeated #Fails, #KeepingPowderDry and #Fumbles during Bush & Obama years.

          This amount of losing can not be simple bad luck and incompetence.  It’s more.  Like lefty above, I think Dems need a white-hot intervention.  Nothing else will effect a change in course.

          What do you believe?

        • orionATL says:

          what a bright, insightful lad you are.

          where have you been all this time.

          only you and lefty have the wisdom to guide the dem party.

        • J-Mann says:

          So you won’t answer the simple question.  How brave of you.

          Do you have time to sit in on a Rachel Maddow panel?  She can always use another slippery, partisan Dem apologist.

          Partisan Dems: Whistling past the graveyard since PPACA process clusterfuck in early fall 2009.

        • orionATL says:

          sure i’ll answer your question.

          first, stop copying others inarticulate slang!

          if you have a question, ask it in straightforward, simple english.

          but don’t fancy yourself that inarticulate questions involving slang terms like “screwing the pooch” are worth answering.

          as for watching rachel maddow, dope, i do not watch teevee at all.

        • bell says:

          j-manns question seemed simple enough to me… here it is again

          “Simple question: do you think Dems are screwing the pooch up, down and sideways at every level (see: elections, 2016) or not?”


        • orionATL says:

          like it said, knucklehead, quit usuing inarticulate slang. i’ll add, quit aping lefty’s bitter commentary.

          i don’t do reply on demand.

          and “bell” – where have i run across that moniker before? what context?

        • bell says:

          orion – i used to post at emptywheel many years ago.. i find your posts very polarizing and hostile…  this will be the last comment i direct to you..

  13. scribe says:

    I have to say:  when I saw the headline “DNC and Clinton campaign paid for dossier” roll across the bottom of my TV news early this morning, I couldn’t help thinking that Trump had had a sleepless night and cranked up his twitter early.  In other words, no professionals that high up in the political world could be that stupid and it was just another of the stories bearing only passing resemblence to the truth emanating from the Trump White House.  Not “real” news.  Nooo.

    2.  The Democrats in general, and HRC and Perkins Coie in specific, have now pretty much guaranteed a Trump re-election victory.

    3.  I happen to agree with EW’s take on the Russian involvement and how bad it is.  But, unfortunately, that story will never get the traction (particularly out in voter-land) of “Hillary paid for the [false] story of the pee tape.”  That will drown out everything else.

    4.  My money is on a Friend of Jeb having bought the dossier in the first place.  But Jebbie is looking more and more like the Fredo Corleone of the Bush Dynasty.  Unlike his dad (innumerable examples) and his younger brother (spiking McCain in SC with the “has a black child” story), Jebbie can’t handle the kill shot intelligence sometimes provides.  Fredo fumbled his gun and almost got his dad killed.  Jebbie couldn’t put away Trump.  Oh, well.  So long as he doesn’t drag Jeter and the rest of the Marlins ownership group down with him.

    5.  And now, I’m going to go off, laughing, into the afternoon asking only one thing:  please open the Trash Bin on Saturday, so we can have real-time-ish trash about both the college and pro games.

    • Willis Warren says:

      Is there a 1 here, you seem to start at 2.

      And, I don’t buy your analysis that Trump will be reelected.  I don’t think this alleviates any of his Russia problems

  14. pseudonymous in nc says:

    The scuttlebutt was that the original hire was by a Jeb! donor, yes? [ETA: Mike Murphy says that Right to Rise didn’t pay Fusion GPS, and he only knew about the dossier when its existence was made public. No reason to doubt him.]

    The optics are what they are.

    I suppose what’s interesting about today’s stories is that you had two parallel oppo tracks — the quest for the 33,000 deleted HRC emails bringing in Peter Smith, Cambridge Analytica, who knows else, with outreach to Wikileaks and people like Matt Tait, and the Steele pursuit of more old-school financial murk and dirty backroom deals — while the action appears to have been taking place with hacked servers and dark social media targeting.

    “What was believed to be known (or knowable)” in the middle of 2016 is still up in the air.

  15. Rugger9 says:

    I think Scribe is on to something with item #4. I would look at the list of Jeb! supporters that had to pivot to the Kaiser once Jeb! folded his cards. IIRC wasn’t one of those Adelson?

    I don’t think however that this guarantees the re-election of the Kaiser, since he has to make it through the first term without any more disasters, and the GOP plans are garbage and they know it. Their only hope is Kobach’s voter suppression commission.

  16. Bay State Librul says:

    As with any investigation, it has twists and turns, turns and twists.

    We are sitting here without knowledge of what Mueller has.

    Look, the Dems are not smart.

    They are also not mean like Gowdy, Nunes, Grassley,

    I’m banking on Sheldon Whitehouse, Franken, and the two senators from the Nutmeg State to carry the pigskin………..

    Scribe thinks it was Jeb Bush. My vote is for Ted Cruz………..

    • Rugger9 says:

      Cruz is mean enough and remember how Ted didn’t kiss Trump’s ring at the convention.  Good choice.

  17. Rugger9 says:

    Re-electing the Kaiser would mean some of his jobs promises would have to come true in coal and steel.  Well, maybe not steel since the foreign share has drastically risen and two deadlines in June and July to fix things have come and gone with no action.

    Face it, red state rubes, you’ve been had even though I think most of you meant well in supporting the Kaiser.

  18. Rapier says:

    RE: “Not cool, Democrats. Also, not smart. Now, add to this massive own goal the Democrats have scored on themselves.”

    Using the term “Democrats” loosely, or is it the opposite, very very specifically, the permanent government players Linkedin to everybody that is anybody. Anybody, but you know, actual people, and who have cast themselves as the Democratic Party.

  19. Patrick says:

    1) It seems like the worst thing the Clinton campaign did here was fail to maintain an ethical distance from the dossier payments to let the FBI do its investigative work impartially. This seems minor.

    2) Maybe the Clinton campaign “colluded” with Russian intel to nail Trump on something, but … they obviously didn’t assist RU’s election ratfcking. They gave the right wing a rhetorical opening here? So what?

  20. sapaterson says:

    What a strange world we live in, where candidate research must be paid for out of the pockets of concerned parties rather than the corporate media. Once that information is discovered ad time must be bought from the media to convey it to the public, only to be diluted by a twenty-four seven news cycle that reports on every megalomaniac twitter that one candidate makes.

    Let’s say that the Republican Party is crushed in the next cycle and the Democrats oust all the crooks through impeachment and President Pelosi runs the country. We will still be at the mercy of the Redstones and the Murdochs who profit from disfunction of the privately owned news.

    • orionATL says:

      yes – the redstones, the murdochs, the mercers, the newly enlarged sinclair teevee broadcasting octopus, clear channel radio. who else?

      lots of corporations willing to exploit our inner political demons.

      not to mention facebook, google, and twitter who do not themselves exploit but are happy to take the shillings of those secret** political groups who do.

      ** secret because facebook, google, and twitter insist on keeping them secret. see current lobbying campaign before congress to fight public identification.

    • matt says:

      …exactly! why do we have to settle for Hillary? Both parties have the same problem- the need for “new blood,” not entrenched in Washington, that actually represent the interests of the American People…

  21. Desider says:

    Wow, the lunatic fringe wants to offer up the Democratic candidate to make the problem go away. I hope you fuckers are getting paid beaucoup rubles, because otherwise you’re dumber than wall studs.

    • orionATL says:


      nothing like a little impending faux outrage from fox or breibart to get weak dems (or anti-clinton dems) bowels’ roiled.

      • J-Mann says:

        Compared to collective Dem 24/7 outrage turned up to 11 since Nov 9, 2016?  Has Rep Waters ranted about the Kremlin lately?


        As others have noted, the standard GOP agenda (fucking education, fucking govt regulations/oversight, cutting Medicare/Medicaid, bluster at Axis of Evil, cutting taxes) is moving right along.  It would be the same if Christie or Walker or Cruz were the distracting figurehead.  Dems react to the distraction while losing the war.  Again.

        In fact, Lakoff was just on CNN or MSNBC tonight pointing out how Dems – by focusing on Trump – are losing the battle for ideas.  Again.

        Good thing you’re here winning the battle for hearts and minds…

        • orionATL says:

          george lakof has a nice academic c. v.

          his persistent advice to dems about the speech they “should” use is often cited by rubes like you as “what the dems should do”. it is silly advice unless you like dems doing what repubs do – manipulated emotions using “values” statements – no child left behind, usa freedom act, patriot act, american health care act,…..

          the central speech problem dems face is they cannot bring themselves to criticize republican policy consistently nor to speak out strongly and eloquently about what is going wrong in this country – socially, politically, and economically.

          lakoff has nothing to offer for that deficiency. he taught republicans how to be effective political liars.

        • orionATL says:

          lakoff has great power to draw needy (of a quote) journalists to him.

          you might be better advised to read another academic, drew westen’s, “political brain”.

          but most likely facebook’s capacity to allow its paying clients, with its staff’s help, to manipulate citizen information and opinion, and thus control decision making by voters, will render lakoff and westen obsolete.

          not to mention google, twitter, sinclair broadcasting, murdoch’s fox media (20th century fox), cambridge analytica, and innumerable political action committees whose donors are hidden from us.

        • lefty665 says:

          Lakoff is an interesting guy and his concept of framing for effective communications is very real. He is also wonderful on the differences between how Repubs and Dems think and react, and why Dems so often fail to communicate with repubs.
          Blowing him off is just one more way some Dems have been fucking stupid.

        • orionATL says:

          you know, lefty, you are not a democrat. you have already told us that. you left the party years ago.

          so your perpetual harsh criticism of the democratic party raises the question:

          are you a republican in troll? your covert support for trump and your extraordinary contempt for clinton certainly suggest that. others here may be astonished at the question, but once they look back on your extraordinary history of criticising the democratic, i think they may want to reconsider.

          your prescriptions for the party are always strongly colored with harshness and anger. very strange behavior from one who professes concern.

  22. Bay State Librul says:

    Yes. They want to impeach Hillary and she’s not even the President or is she? Question: Can Nunes an others be cited for obstruction of justice?
    Maybe things are getting hot as Mueller is close to indictments

  23. matt says:

    Lunatic fringe? Whoa… The Occupy liberals, Greens, and Bernie supporters (future of the Left) are trying to tell the Establishment Democratic Party something…

    1) NO! to Wall. St (very happy today- no class action recourse against CC companies, banks, and credit agencies & Obama let the 2008 banker criminals walk, while retaining Goldman-Sachs in the Treasury)

    2) NO! to American Imperialism (Bill, Hillary and Obama were indistinguishable from the Bush/Neocon foreign policy)

    3) NO! to trade “liberalization” and deregulation (NAFTA, Enron, Glass-Steagall, TTIP-almost)

    4) NO! to Israel (I can both love Jews and hate the politics of their extremists)

    5) NO! to wars for OIL & gas in the Middle East

    … the last real Democrat was John F. Kennedy…  we’ve been fucked ever since…

    • orionATL says:

      yeah. it’s sardonic and informative and insightful about the current hypocrisy espoused by both teaparty dems and teaparty repubs.

      “..This is why it set off Maggie Haberman of The New York Times on the electric Twitter machine Tuesday night; she tweeted darkly about Certain Someones who had lied to her about this “with sanctimony.” (On the same platform, back on January 21, Ms. Haberman earlier demurred from using the word “lie” in connection with the newly inaugurated president*.) My pearls are now dust from the clutching….”

      ms. haberman knew hillary clinton was lying because clinton had said she had not seen the dossier. more nytimes magic with facts.

    • emptywheel says:

      A fair piece except I don’t think we can connect the timing of this to the investigation per se. As noted, it arises directly of the lawfare surrounding the dossier. It’s possible Nunes decided to push his own lawfare to accelerate that process because of the investigation, but that would still make this a secondary effect.

  24. PG says:

    The Clinton campaign and DNC paid Kremlin “insiders” for dirt on Trump’s Kremlin connections.  And this is politics-as-usual, normal run-of-mill opposition research?  Fusion GPS, Steele and their clients would be aware that the Kremlin might make use of their project, too, would they not?  Clusterfuck is right.

  25. Desider says:

    Marcy, this post is rather beneath your standards. The illegal circumventing of US sanctions has been front and center in the definition of collusion from the beginning, at least among the “adults”, and there are more of them than children on the Dem side. The focus has always been an *illegal* quid pro quo, not simply getting favors from the Russians. Thus the continued focus by Seth Abramson and others on those early Trump Tower/Mayflower meetings to *illegally* circumvent Magnitsky sanctions et al. Not to mention trading in stolen goods, violations of campaign disclosures & contribution limits, and a general conspiracy to broadly hack into state and federal systems to support this *illegal* effort. We’re not talking about hiring a British marketing agency for advice. We’re talking about hiring a much broader plumber team than G. Gordon Liddy had available to him, funded to the tune of $1 billion+ if you add up its different facets. Yes, it’s possible that the fake black krews and other misleading misrepresentation in social media doesn’t rise to the level of collusion in that it might be dirty tricks but not illegal. So goes it. But that’s just one of 50 shades of rather black-and-white conspiracy to commit serioius crimes and misdemeanors, not just traditional Republican ratf*cking, including Manafort’s and SCL’s neck-deep history in election toppling. And that’s before we get into the side issues – but still illegal – of Trump team’s money laundering, et al. So please spare the scolding – our definition of collusion has been accurate enough all along, and the evidence keeps on growing to support that definition.

    • Desider says:

      And to be clear, most of us didn’t assume that the Steele Dossier was 100% golden or even more than 50% verifiable – even 20% true would be enough for a serious scandal, though we know how this works – Bush’s guys set up a fake outrage over kerning & font type in discussing his going AWOL, and instead of legitimate questions being answered, Dan Rather’s career was in the toilet.

      So did Michael Cohen go to Prague? I don’t give a fuck. I care that the increased attention pulls out that he’s been flipping properties anonymously for 5x their worth, among other dubious behavior. These aren’t add-on charges of flings with floozies like the Lewinsky scandal – this is a pile of sewage to deconstruct, and it all stinks badly on multiple levels. 13-dimension collusion. When in the end we only need 1 or 2 for the desired result.

  26. matt says:

    In the public’s eyes after yesterday’s news, both Donald and Hillary have the same amount of mud on their faces… I wish even 10% of American’s could sort facts like *Decider*

    I wonder if Mueller already has all the evidence and such and is just waiting for the right time (if any) to release it.  As the most politically charged issue of our Nation now, I’ll bet they’d be too afraid of domestic turmoil to let the American People know ALL the facts.

    I mean, we can’t even handle all the JFK files from 50 years ago (due for release today) according the the FBI/CIA counselors to the POTUS.

    • bmaz says:

      Man, this is a WILDLY out there comment. By everything I have seen, so far, if there are to be Mueller shop indictments, they are not for anything directly tied to the election, and, even at that, they are not that imminent.

      Mueller et al. may get there, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

  27. orionATL says:

    e. w. feels there is an ethical issue at stake here. maybe so, but, this being american politics, i am not sure where.

    my view of ethics in general is that charges of unethical conduct are often the last refuge of scoundrels (ew notably excepted of course).

    maybe ew thinks it is here:

    “… But it is qualitatively different for the FBI to accept and respond to information from a political party than it is to respond to information paid for by — say — a rich private person like George Soros. That is, admittedly, how the Whitewater investigation got started (so I can appreciate the irony), but it was wrong then and it’s wrong now… ”

    the snide comment about whitewater is not trivial, it sets an emotional context to the quote.

    there may be an ethical problem, but i don’t see it.

    whether or not one believes ethics is involved, how to think about this matter of the fbi being offered information about a political opponent resulting from an oppo operation?

    first, choose some serious illegal behavior discovered during the fourse of the oppo. we could use murder, or the doj’s favorite, child pornography, or maybe drug dealing, or something pedestrian like insider trading, or money laundering.

    1. suppose the illegality is peripheral to the investigation. should the campaign offer or should the fbi accept the proferred oppo info about the illegality?

    2.suppose the illegity involved the subject – a candidate – of the oppo? should the campaign offer? should the fbi reject?

    now take the case of the fbi and fusion gps or the dem lawfirm.

    what, if anything, got given to the fbi and when.

    do we know the date of the first info exchange? did it involve steele directly? did it involve fusion gps directly? did it involve the dem law firm directly.

    what would have to be given, in terms of being a potentially illegal matter the fbi would normally be informed about, for the exchange of info to be “ok”, “legit”, or “ethical”? or should no info be exchanged between the campaign oppo and the fbi, no matter what?

    there are so many threads to this steele dossier story; it is good to be sceptical of all. nonetheless, somehow, the fbi got wind of some of steele’s findings about russian intentions about helping trump. one story is the sen. mccain was given info to give to the fbi. true? i don’t know. what are others?

    one useful date would be the first contact between fbi and dem oppo or dem lawyer, or fusion gps. when was that? what was exchanged? who within the fbi was the first contact; this is a very important piece of info.

    all of thevoppo conduct involvingvdems can now be bracketed with dates. maybe april, 2016 when dems may have taken over the trump oppo from repubs. or was it june, 2016. or maybe later.

    • orionATL says:

      ethics aside for the moment, there are a couple of fbi actions that might be related to the dem party organizations’ lawyer, sussman, talking with the fbi:

      1. the comey systement clearing clinton but adding an inappropriate (for fbi director) harsh scolding of clinton.

      2. the fbi’s long reluctance to join the in with the rest of the intelligence community to give a high rating to its belief russians were involved in election.

      in both cases i will take an uninformed guess and say that it is possible that both of these actions arose out of a) comey knowing the fbi had accepted and reviewed reports from steele and b) comey wanting to protect his institution from an aggressive republican congress.

      protecting your institution is smart in washington; that’s what i think comey was doing in the famous hospital episode.

      now back to ethics:

      i really cannot see what could be unethical about the dnc and clinton campaign realizing in april that trump would be nominee, then going to their legal firm and saying get us some oppo on trump, then legal firm retains fusion gps, then fusion gps retains steele, then law partner sussman goes to fbi and talks national security (russians mucking with election/democratic party). perkins coie seems like precisely the distance one would want to maintain between party organization and oppo.

      i’m not asking this rhetorically. i’m (possibly) oblivious to proper political ethics. can ew or maybe some lawyer here tell me what i’m missing. are we really talking about ethics here, or are we just talking about appearances.

      a seperate point, ew’s argument does not seem to give due weight to national security issues, assuming one agrees there are some when russians diddle in american presidential politics. so let’s here an argument for a more “ethical” way to get oppo research suggesting russian involvement to the fbi.

    • orionATL says:

      orion wrote:

      “… one useful date would be the first contact between fbi and dem oppo or dem lawyer, or fusion gps. when was that? what was exchanged? who within the fbi was the first contact; this is a very important piece of info…”

      not surprisingly, the (approximate) dates are all in ew’s essay:

      – “… As noted, the WaPo explains Elias started to do so in April,… But Steele, we know, was brought in in June; his first report, about whether Russia had kompromat on Hillary, was June 20. That means Steele’s involvement, paid for by Perkins Coie, postdates the involvement of Perkins Coie partner (and former DOJ prosecutor who should have known better than to do this) Michael Sussman in the DNC’s response to learning they were hacked by Russia, starting around April…”

      – “… also means that Steele’s involvement — paid for by Perkins Coie — roughly coincides with the time Democrats and Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussman first sat down with the FBI and pushed the FBI to “tell the American public that” Russia had attacked the Democrats… ”

      – “…shortly thereafter, Steele, paid for by Perkins Coie, started sharing reports with the FBI, with as yet unknown disclosure to them about who was paying his bills. Do you see why this is a problem yet?…”

      – “… now, add to this massive own goal the Democrats have scored on themselves. The second report in the released dossier, is dated July 26, released four days after WikiLeaks started releasing the DNC emails, making it clear the Democrats had a far bigger hack-and-leak problem on their hands than they had let on in a June 14 story to the WaPo… ”

      o. k. i’m really tired of thumbing my way up and down this long, long set of post&comments. :))

  28. Bay State Librul says:


    Do you have an estimated date.
    So, you don’t think this “play” by Fox has any relevance?
    Okay, I may be ahead of the game but time is of the essence, in my view.
    We saw in real time the firing of Comey which was so blatantly obstruction, that anything goes, especially with a person with a mental illness

    • bmaz says:

      No, no estimate. If they are to come, think they will be against Flynn and Manafort initially. From what is public, I think Mueller has solid cases against both right now. Maybe Page too. Kushner clearly could be indicted for false statements, but due to the nature of his position, that would only come later. But that does not mean any filing is imminent, Mueller doesn’t want to create waves while still working. He appears nowhere close to being done working.

  29. Desider says:

    @bmaz I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection…
    Yeah, when ranting on a smartphone, you lose track of presentation…. memo to self: breath, punctuate…

  30. orionATL says:

    great news. now we have the beginnings, on both sides, of the fusion gps “studies” of el chapo trump:

    funded by a billionaire, naturally; they own our political system now.

    the republican side retained f-gps until may, 2016. the dems independently (maybe) retained f-gps from april 2016.

    so when will the media invigle for us what the republican oppo found out about el chapo?

  31. Bay State Librul says:

    How about a Saturday Night Special Cocktail.
    Trump is mentally imbalanced and it might send him off the deep end.

  32. Bay State Librul says:

    The only newspaper that has confirmed the indictments is WSJ

    “At least one person was charged Friday in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.”

    It was a CNN scoop, NYT and MSNBC are working overtime to confirm the obvious

  33. Bay State Librul says:

    The Newspaper business:

    “Dreiser liked newsmen. He appreciated their cynical dissent from prevailing pieties. “One can always talk to a newspaper man,” Dreiser would write, “with the full confidence that one is talking to a man who is at least free of moralistic mush.”

    Hannity is no reporter, he is a swarmy fucker.

    The editorial Board of the WSJ is in fantasy land.

    Trump will continue the firing and the firing………..

    The 4th estate and Mueller are leading the charge

    Congress needs to impeach

  34. Mark S. says:

    It seems to me a mistake to characterize the Steele hiring as ‘oppo research’. Fusion is also a distraction, as is the prior Republican funding of what was obviously something different.

    On your own showing what happened is that Elias/Dems hired a Russian desk British spy to get dirt from Kremlin habitués. /He then shopped stuff to the FBI./


    Motive: to mirror the Clinton investigation, or whatever it was, which was then still on-going.

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