SSCI’s Asymmetric Interest in Partisan Use of Oppo Research

As I’ve said in past post, the SSCI Report on Russia is better than I expected, but it has some significant gaps (which I’ll discuss in more detail once I’m done reading the whole thing). One fairly inexcusable asymmetry in the committee’s interests, however, pertains to how the two parties dealt with the oppo research floating around in the summer of 2016.

Here’s some of the discussion of SSCI’s effort to figure out how much of Steele’s information got back to both the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

(U) Simpson implied in his interview with the Committee-but would not state outright-that Perkins Coie knew he had hired a subcontractor, along with pursuing other overseas iines of inquiry. 5722 In his book, Simpson said that Elias “had never even heard of Steele. While Elias was aware that Fusion had engaged someone outside the United States to gather information on Trump’s ties to Russia, he did not ask who it was or what the person’s credentials were.”5723 –

(U) Elias represented that the charges associated with Fusion GPS were around $60,000 per month, unevenly split between the Clinton Campaign and the DNC, including the $10,000 per-month fee paid to Perkins Coie.5724

(U) The Committee was unable to fully establish how much of the Steele information was actually transferred to the DNC and the Clinton Campaign. As a general practice, Fusion GPS passed research back to Elias weekly, sending both original source materials and summary documents.5725 Simpson would not say whether or when he gave the memos to Perkins Coie.5726 Elias, through counsel, did not provide details on what information he provided to the DNC or the Clinton Campaign, citing attorney-client privilege. His attorneys conveyed that he provided “advice on communications strategies and the information from.Fusion when warranted. Such information was infrequent, provided orally, and given to both the Clinton Campaign and the DNC.”s121

(U) Robby Mook told the Committee that counsel starting in the summer had briefed him, Podesta, Clinton Campaign Communications Director Jen Palmieri, Jake Sullivan, and Glenn Caplan (a communications staffer) on “pieces of the reporting” in the dossier.5728 The briefings were oral, generally, but Mook remembered one paper memo that counsel distributed then retrieved at the end of the meeting.5729 Palmieri told the Committee she never saw the dossier during the campaign, but she also recalled the Elias briefings: “I don’t recall the term ‘dossier’ being used. He had reports. Some of the things … that I know are in the dossier. Some of the things that I have read are in the dossier I had heard about from Marc, including the famous encounter at the hotel.”573° Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the Committee she had no awareness of the dossier, Steele, or Simpson, until the dossier and those names appeared in the press.5731

(U) The Committee also asked Mook whether he fourid the briefings by Elias to be alarming enough to warrant sharing the information with law enforcement. Mook said “No, I don’t recall ever feeling like we had sufficient evidence to go to law enforcement with anything. “5732

SSCI not only interviewed key people from both the campaign and the party (elsewhere, the report also describes what Donna Brazile and John Podesta knew, when), but it tried to understand the communication between them, even though that communication was attorney-client privileged in the same way coordinated attempts to doctor statements to the committee were privileged.

Here is the extent of SSCI’s curiosity in response to learning, from Rick Gates’ 302s and the Mueller Report, that the Trump campaign was working with the RNC to optimize WikiLeaks releases.

(U) Nonetheless, a possible WikiLeaks release appeared central to the Campaign’s · strategic focus. For example, after the June 12 announcement by Assange, Gates described learning from Manafort that the RNC was “energized” by the potential of a WikiLeaks release. Further, Manafort told Gates that the RNC was going to “run the WikiLeaks issue to ground.”1492 Trump and Kushner were reportedly willing to “cooperate” with the RNC’s efforts on this front, overcoming their earlier skepticism of working with the RNC, and demonstrating that both were focused on the possibility of WikiLeaks. releasing Clinton documents. 1493

1492 (U) FBI, FD-302, Gates 4/10/2018. Gates also said that the RNC “indicated they knew the timing of the upcoming releases,” but did not convey who specifically had this information, how it was acquired, or when. The RNC has denied that it had advance knowledge of the timing of WikiLeaks releases.

1493 (U) Ibid It is not clear to the Committee exactly when the notion of cooperation between the RNC and the Campaign arose, and Kushner never mentioned it in any interviews with the Committee. However, the context of these statements suggests that this was in response to early warnings about a pending WikiLeaks d9cument dump and before the July 22 release occurred. The Committee did not examine the RNC’s activity or its interactions with the Campaign on this topic. [my emphasis]

This is supposed to be a counterintelligence investigation of the ways that dalliances with foreign actors might compromise American security. RNC efforts to maximize the impact of documents stolen by Russia had just as much a possibility of compromising those involved as Trump’s own efforts.

And yet, SSCI was far more concerned about Democratic awareness of a report that — the SSCI report makes clear — was done by a guy (Steele) described as having no partisan leanings besides being anti-Putin working for a guy (Glenn Simpson) who didn’t much care for the Clintons but who wanted to make a buck off research already completed.

16 replies
  1. ec says:

    So much we don’t know yet! It’s discouraging to think there are startling revelations shrouded by counter-intel secrecy concerns (a la Nixon “monkey wrenching” peace talks on eve of ’68 election: ). This RNC lead, the continuing redactions in Mueller Report, redactions in SSCI report…etc. Yes, there is a need to protect sources and methods and such judgement calls are tough. But looking back (always easy, of course) is the threat of letting the South Vietnamese know the NSA was listening outweigh covering up a major party candidate soliciting help from a foreign nation? Is this why the Logan Act has ‘never been enforced’ ? … which then becomes justification for not starting to enforce it now? Sorry to ramble a bit but just wondering what else could be out there that would help protect our democracy now. Thanks to you, Marcy, and everyone else who comments … I learn lots every day from you!

  2. DAT says:

    OT but, were the Postal Service inspectors involved in the Bannon arrest because SDNY doesn’t trust the New York office of the FBI?

    • viget says:

      My thoughts exactly. Have any of the SDNY indictments touching on the Trump campaign been investigated by NYFO? Most were Mueller referrals, no?

      Parnas’ indictment was NYFO, but then again he was somewhat removed from Trump. And Giuliani wasn’t implicated….

  3. BobCon says:

    I am really curious whether the GOP’s dark arts club will finally get the investigation it needs if Biden wins.

    It’s true that there could be some collateral damage to the reputations of figures in the Democratic establishment, but the imbalance both in terms of the scope and malignancy of the operations aimed at Democrats is staggering. And unless the Democrats take action against the specific people involved, all of the policy goaks for 2021 are going to be sidelined by dirty pool players.

    • Rugger9 says:

      It would be surprising that it doesn’t come out, just like when RoJo and Lindsey reopened their investigations there was no way to stop the Ds from asking inconvenient questions.

    • Curveball says:

      Congress could enact legislation for a National Commission on Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections. (Sad that this is necessary.) Big-name, serious, respected person for chair and as commissioners five Democrats five Republicans, all of substance (yeah, I know). Be nice if the statute specifically called for “no loudmouth hacks.” An aside: Sickening today listening to Republicans in the House questioning DeJoy and repeating the Russian Hoax mantra, as if SSCI Vol. 5 wasn’t published last week. The Commission could rub some noses in their own poo on newspapers spread on the floor.

      • Silly but True says:

        This is what Mueller investigation _should have been_, but was not. Now with House’s shenanigans, SSCI, Comey/Rosenstein/Barr, Horowitz, Huber, Durham, et. al., still no one knows what all happened.

        This should have been initiated May, 2017 at the latest.

  4. Rugger9 says:

    OT, but I’m wondering what Michael Cohen was doing for Hannity, and hoping his book fleshes that out. The revelation was too early for Cohen to be Hannity’s divorce attorney since that was a year or so later IIRC (although we know from Hannity that he was separated about a yea prior to announcing). It would be the kind of thing that would explain why Hannity claimed ignorance of being Mikey’s client when Cohen had his fall.

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Wasn’t it “real estate investments”? I assume that he wanted to get into money laundering as well, or was making the right noises to keep Trump happy.

    • Geoguy says:

      There was an article in The Guardian on April 23, 2018 by Jon Swaine titled “Michael Cohen case shines light on Sean Hannity’s property empire.” When Hannity interviewed Ben Carson he didn’t disclose that he had business before HUD with Cohen (I think) representing him.

      • vvv says:

        FWIW, just saw Cohen and Maddow both tweet he is about to be interviewed, so maybe we’ll get some hints …

    • PieIsDamnGood says:

      Suspect it is strategy for future appeals, showing that he is operating in good faith throughout the process. No chance we saw them before the election anyway.

  5. Molly Pitcher says:

    I wish I could say that the asymmetry of the RNC is surprising, but …RNC. I was surprised that we got to see this before the election as it is. Maybe they thought that the firehose approach would overwhelm the media and it would get only cursory coverage.

  6. Savage Librarian says:


    We’ll bounce Donald on the upbeat,
    “We the People,” an epic span,
    We’ll work to never have a repeat
    of the bunko, “I alone can.”

    He’ll watch the Secret Service fleet,
    as he wonders if a van
    will roll across his little feet,
    Or expel exhaust on his fake tan.

    He’ll remind us of a bus seat,
    But there is another plan,
    He’ll be flown by BLM street,
    to become the guy who also ran.

    He’ll gaze down on the concrete,
    ranting in his scan,
    Wishing he could press delete,
    he’ll pretend to see a fan.

    We yanked away the white sheet
    that personifies his clan,
    We can hardly wait for time to greet
    Joe Biden, he’s our man.

  7. Coyle says:

    The Steele dossier is just about all Trump and the GOP have left at this point. By contrast, the Mueller investigation and now the SSCI report have established a staggering trail of corruption, conspiracy and collusion on the part of Trump and his minions. So, yeah, no surprise that a GOP-led committee would focus on the small-bore shortcomings of the Steele dossier. But when you look at the big picture, the asymmetry — and the criminality — is almost all running in the opposite direction.

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