Someone Is Really Worried About the Trump/Russia Investigation

Donald Trump’s response to the investigation into how Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election has always sounded like someone who is guilty and wants to cover that up. But in the last week, stories have begun to pile up indicating that there is a deep concern brewing about the result of Mueller’s investigation into the whole affair.

First was the PR stunt orchestrated by Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, to not only subpoena Fusion GPS (the firm that hired Christopher Steele to produce the dossier), but to force them to come before the committee and publicly state that they were pleading the fifth. That was followed the next day by this tweet from Trump:

Notice the question (and suggested answer) about who paid for the dossier. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

Next came all of the reporting from John Solomon, resurrecting the whole faux Clinton scandal about the Russian uranium deal. The purpose of that was twofold: (1) It provides Trump and his supporters with the ability to point to Clinton and Obama (his two favorite targets) as the real offenders who had shady dealings with Russia and (2) It provides them with the opportunity to attack the people who have been conducting the Trump/Russia investigation (i.e., Mueller, Comey, Rosenstein)

Then last night the Washington Post published an article titled “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier,” in which they report that Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, hired Fusion GPS to conduct the research that led to the Steele dossier. Let’s discuss that revelation for just a minute.

First of all, not mentioned in the headline or until the fourth paragraph in the story is this:

Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

Since David Corn first broke this story a year ago we’ve known that it was a Republican who first hired this company during the presidential primary and that a Democrat continued to fund it during the general election. What’s interesting about this latest story from the Washington Post is that their sources—identified as “people familiar with the matter”—named the Democrat involved, but not the Republican. Why would they do that do you suppose? It got them the exact headline they wanted.

What is also important to notice is Trump’s reaction to the PR stunt Nunes pulled last week. Why did he all of the sudden jump to the question of who paid for the dossier, something that hasn’t been discussed that much because all that was missing were the individual names? Did he know this story was coming shortly? Has this roll-out of events been planned? That’s sure how it looks.

It’s also important to note that, in that tweet above, Trump attacked the FBI. With that, he might have signaled what’s next. Take a look at what Byron York wrote about that today.

But knowing that the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and Perkins Coie supported the dossier is not the end of the story. The most important next step is the FBI.

Sometime in October 2016 — that is, at the height of the presidential campaign — Christopher Steele, the foreign agent hired by Fusion GPS to compile the Trump dossier, approached the FBI with information he had gleaned during the project. According to a February report in the Washington Post, Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.”

It was an astonishing turn: the nation’s top federal law enforcement agency agreeing to fund an ongoing opposition research project being conducted by one of the candidates in the midst of a presidential election. “The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” wrote Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

In the end, according to reports, the FBI did not pay Steele. But the dossier did not go away. Indeed, in January 2017, Comey briefed President-elect Trump (and President Obama) on the dossier’s contents.

Mueller’s team has been pretty disciplined, so we’re not getting the kind of leaks about the investigation that were happening previously. What we do know is that his investigators not only interviewed Michael Steele recently, they’ve also questioned current and former members of the White House staff and subpoenaed records. That might be giving the Trump administration some clues about where all of this is headed. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s clear that someone is pretty nervous and therefore, we’re witnessing a massive attempt to lie, distract and blame.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.