What’s Hiding Under the FEC Chair Oppo Research Rock?

 

Turns out there’s more to the whole opposition research thing than critics of President Trump’s remarks to George Stephanopoulos perhaps realized. I don’t expect George or colleagues like him to express much, if any, curiosity and go investigate, but here at Ricochet, we like to know what’s underneath the rocks.

Some background: As has been mentioned in other thread comments, Senator Mitt Romney in particular voiced strong criticism of President Trump’s saying he would listen to information (aka “dirt,” “oppo research”) provided by a foreign entity, though I have not seen in Romney’s comments acknowledgment of POTUS’ saying he would hand over something illegal to authorities. Seems to me if members of Congress like Pelosi, Schumer, Romney, et al., have major concerns about politicians accepting information from foreign entities they are the perfect individuals to take the perfect action to address the problem: pass a law. Be sure to include law firms acting on behalf of politicians, and policy-making committee members who meet with lobbyists on behalf of foreign governments and encourage off-line communications. (Note to White House and Capitol Hill: maybe y’all in Washington DC could start with an honest, adult conversation about the problems associated with constant campaigning y’all have?)

Back to the lead: Turns out FEC Chair Ms. Weintraub, who worked at the firm Perkins Coie before going to the FEC, has had a complaint received October 2017 against the DNC and HRC campaign for paying Perkins Coie millions marked as “legal services” which actually went to Fusion GPS for…drum roll…opposition research. Opposition research which its author claimed had foreign sources as Byron York recently reminded.

To recap: The head of the FEC has had a complaint for 20 months involving the firm she worked for laundering oppo research containing claims by foreigners. And she issued a statement aimed at condemning the opposing campaign which did not pay for opposition research in the 2016 campaign and has differentiated between garden variety oppo research and illegal activity.

The danger to our republic (not a democracy, Mitt) has not been from a president being corrupted by foreign intelligence, but corrupt government officials ignoring corrupt politicians committing corrupt acts to convince corrupt law enforcement officers to use corrupt oppo to corrupt Foreign Intelligence courts to subvert civil liberties granted to US citizens by the US Constitution.

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There are 9 comments.

  1. Larry3435 Member

    I can’t quite figure out why it would be either illegal or immoral to listen to a representative of a foreign government who had information about an opposing candidate, but let’s just pretend that it would. So isn’t the obvious answer for the foreign government to just print the information in its own media? If Putin wants to release damaging information about Hillary, he could just print it in Pravda. He doesn’t have to arrange covert meetings with the Trump campaign.

    So what is Trump supposed to do then? Not read the newspaper? Not mention the information, even though it’s out there and public? How far is the left willing to go (applying their usual double standard, of course) to cover up damaging information about their candidates when that information is in the hands of a foreign government? (Needless to say, damaging information about Republican candidates will be publicized non-stop in the lefty media, no matter where it came from.)

    • #1
    • June 17, 2019, at 3:25 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. DonG Coolidge

    Bottom line: all candidates must now report foreign derived opposition research (perhaps all foreign contacts) to the FBI, which Trump controls. This is most brilliant troll move ever. 

    • #2
    • June 17, 2019, at 5:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Mim526 Member
    Mim526 Post author

    Larry3435 (View Comment): I can’t quite figure out why it would be either illegal or immoral to listen to a representative of a foreign government who had information about an opposing candidate

    It was kind of a no win question for Trump. If he says no to information from foreign source, his hangs his son out to dry for the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian attorney. If he says yes to information, he gets the “POTUS does not know right from wrong” treatment. The answer he gave differentiating between standard oppo info and illegal activity to be reported to authorities was probably the best he could do.

    It’s unbelievable that anyone in DC could criticize Trump for his direct answers on the topic with the amount of foreign influence in that town. Except Robert Mueller, of course, who charged Trump associates with FARA violations not associated with the campaign.

    So isn’t the obvious answer for the foreign government to just print the information in its own media? If Putin wants to release damaging information about Hillary, he could just print it in Pravda. He doesn’t have to arrange covert meetings with the Trump campaign.

    Yes. I’m also thinking maybe foreign adversaries find it more useful for Americans to damage each other. In the case of Russia, Donald Trump is dangerous to their oil/gas profits, is insisting on greater engagement/involvement from NATO countries, etc. If the Left can remove him by painting him as a Russian apologist, they’re back to reset buttons and “tell Vladimir I’ll have more flexibility after the election” resolve levels from a US White House.

    • #3
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. EtCarter Listener

    ” The danger to our republic (not a democracy, Mitt) has not been from a president being corrupted by foreign intelligence, but corrupt government officials ignoring corrupt politicians committing corrupt acts to convince corrupt law enforcement officers to use corrupt oppo to corrupt Foreign Intelligence courts to subvert civil liberties granted to US citizens by the US Constitution.”

    @mim526, I can say (without irony) that the paragraph of yours (reproduced above) is a beautiful thing to behold in it’s concise efficiency. A gem of an axiom (and) an A+ on the Strunk and White scale. If I had the skill, I would stitch it on a pillow. (Then get rich selling them on the world-wi(d)e-web).

    Seriously, though: well said.

    et carter

    • #4
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:26 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. cdor Member

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    I can’t quite figure out why it would be either illegal or immoral to listen to a representative of a foreign government who had information about an opposing candidate,

    It is neither illegal, nor is it immoral. It is worse then either of those…it is Trump. Had anyone else replied to that question in the same way, no one would have given it a second thought. It is amazing, these 48 hour news cycles, how they pop up every week. And it is always another major disastrous Trump event that is. in reality, a non event that will be gone by Wednesday.

    • #5
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:58 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. EJHill Podcaster

    The FEC rule concerning foreigners is as clear as mud. There’s a deliberately vague phrase in the section that covers donations that says it also prohibits “anything of value.” When reviewing the Trump Tower meeting that Don Jr. was allegedly lured to get dirt on Hillary, Mueller punted on whether information that could be considered “oppo research” had “value.” 

    If it doesn’t have value, then why pay for it? 

    If you look at the bottom of the “reminder” Ms. Weintraub issued last week she cites the law 52 USC § 30121(a)(2). When you dig into it, there are two citations as who is considered a “foreigner” for the purposes of the prohibition. Quite simply, it’s anyone who is not a US citizen and who is not domiciled in the United States. (Liz Mair, who is a UK national has worked for the RNC and many Republican candidates. But she has permanent residence status and lives in Northern Virginia.) 

    So what of Christopher Steele? He obviously falls under the definition of a foreign national. The FEC website says that foreign nationals may offer personal services to campaigns provide they are “not compensated by anyone.” Well, what’s the definition of “anyone?” Anyone in a broad sense? Or anyone in a narrow sense, i.e., someone directly employed by the campaign or the campaign itself? My sense is that this has never really been questioned before.

    If it has to be directly tied to the campaign then what Perkins Coie and Fusion GPS were doing could be looked at as money laundering. Hillary pays Perkins, Perkins pays Fusion, Fusion pays Steele. And Steele has to know he’s working for a campaign no matter how he’s getting paid.

     

    • #6
    • June 17, 2019, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  7. DonG Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):
    The FEC rule concerning foreigners is as clear as mud. There’s a deliberately vague phrase in the section that covers donations that says it also prohibits “anything of value.” When reviewing the Trump Tower meeting that Don Jr. was allegedly lured to get dirt on Hillary, Mueller punted on whether information that could be considered “oppo research” had “value.” 

    This was all hashed out in 2016. According to federal law, value means established market value. Goods and services. Information would not could unless it was a good (like the information Facebook sells on people) or a service (consulting is purchased knowledge). 

    Here’s another question. If you pay someone to submit disinformation to the FBI is that conspiracy to commit fraud?

    • #7
    • June 17, 2019, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. EJHill Podcaster

    DonG : This was all hashed out in 2016.

    Then why was Mueller so confused? From that notorious right-wing rag, Vox:

    Mueller concluded in his report that “candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply,” but added that the issue hadn’t really been tested in court and could also have freedom of speech implications.

    For something that was “hashed out,” the Special Counsel doesn’t sound as sure as you do. 

    I think this is where I agree with Mueller. This is simply an issue that’s never come up before. I think he truly wanted to charge Don Jr with a crime and also knew that he had no idea what the possible outcome was. Better not to fight than to fight and lose, especially when you’ve stacked your office with partisans and you have that PR mess. (A mess of his own creation, but still a mess.) 

     

    • #8
    • June 17, 2019, at 12:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. DonG Coolidge

    EJHill (View Comment):

    DonG : This was all hashed out in 2016.

    Then why was Mueller so confused? From that notorious right-wing rag, Vox:

    Mueller concluded in his report that “candidate-related opposition research given to a campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply,” but added that the issue hadn’t really been tested in court and could also have freedom of speech implications.

    For something that was “hashed out,” the Special Counsel doesn’t sound as sure as you do.

    I think this is where I agree with Mueller. This is simply an issue that’s never come up before. I think he truly wanted to charge Don Jr with a crime and also knew that he had no idea what the possible outcome was. Better not to fight than to fight and lose, especially when you’ve stacked your office with partisans and you have that PR mess. (A mess of his own creation, but still a mess.)

    Mueller is a hack. I bet a box of donuts that “Manafort’s giving of inside polling information to Russia” actually consisted of this: Manafort to Russian dude, “Hi.” Russian dude, “How is the campaign going?” Manafort in reply, “Better than most people think.”

    I agree that there are no records of FEC fines or prosecutions, but it has probably happened a million times that a politician was given advice by a foreigner or a some American registered as a foreign agent. The Podesta Group was acting as a foreign agent and John was Hillary’s campaign manager! DC is full of people gossiping. Good luck trying to regulate that.

    • #9
    • June 17, 2019, at 9:59 PM PDT
    • 4 likes