July 29, 2017

WELL IF THEIR GOAL WAS SOWING CHAOS, THEY’VE CERTAINLY HAD A LOT OF HELP FROM THE MEDIA AND THE “RESISTANCE.” BUT I REPEAT MYSELF. Were The Russians Playing Both Sides?

It is now widely known that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to weaken Hillary Clinton, both by hacking and releasing emails and by spreading disinformation on social media and state-funded news outlets.

But yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearings suggest that this may not be the whole story.

In the clip below, Senator Lindsay Graham asks Bill Browder—American businessman who has successfully lobbied for sanctions against Russia after his attorney was abused and likely murdered in a Moscow jail—about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Browder notes that Fusion GPS—the opposition research behind the infamous “pee tape” dossier about Donald Trump—was at the time being paid by Russians to produce opposition research about him and undermine support for the Magnitsky Act, the bill Browder backed that froze the assets of a few dozen Russian oligarchs.

Fusion GPS is relevant to the Russia investigation for two reasons. First, as Browder says above, it was under contract by Russian oligarchs at the same time that it produced “dirt” on Trump. Second, Christopher Steele—the British former spy who produced the dossier on Fusion’s behalf—gathered much of his information from Russians.

The web of connections involved in this whole affair can get convoluted (if you want to be more confused, recall that the Russian firm that hired Fusion GPS, Prevezon Holdings, also retained Natalia Veselnitskaya—the lawyer who met with Don Jr. in Trump Tower last July). But the information we have now at least raises the possibility that powerful Russians were involved—as sources of information or money or both—in the creation of the Steele Dossier, perhaps the most influential piece of opposition research in history. . . .

As Graham says, it’s quite possible that the Russians were collecting dirt on both sides in a bid to sow chaos above all else. We are likely to learn more as the Congressional investigations proceed.

Oh, I hope so.

Related: Kimberley Strassel: Who Paid for the ‘Trump Dossier’? Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.

It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.

Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?

Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson also was supposed to testify at the Grassley hearing, where he might have been asked in public to reveal who hired him to put together the hit job on Mr. Trump, which was based largely on anonymous Russian sources. Turns out Democrats are willing to give up just about anything—including their Manafort moment—to protect Mr. Simpson from having to answer that question.

Make him talk. Under oath. “What if, all this time, Washington and the media have had the Russia collusion story backward? What if it wasn’t the Trump campaign playing footsie with the Vladimir Putin regime, but Democrats? The more we learn about Fusion, the more this seems a possibility.”