DNC, Wasserman Schultz say they were unaware of dossier payments

Current and past leaders of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) say they had no knowledge that the national party was helping to fund a dossier compiled by a British spy that contained scandalous accusations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE’s campaign and the DNC paid millions to the law firm Perkins Coie, where Democratic lawyer Marc Elias worked with the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to construct the memo, which was compiled by British spy Christopher Steele.

The memo is at the center of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and it may have been used by the FBI as part of its investigation into allegations that Trump campaign officials had improper contacts with Russian officials. Former FBI Director James Comey has said none of the allegations in the memo have been verified.

The bombshell report from The Washington Post has emboldened President Trump, who on Wednesday lashed out at the “fake dossier” and described it as the cornerstone of “the whole Russia hoax.” 

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DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa said chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, who only became the Democratic leader in April, had nothing to do with the arrangement. The law firm Perkins Coie handles a range of issues for the DNC.

“Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in any decision-making regarding Fusion GPS, nor were they aware that Perkins Coie was working with the organization,” Hinojosa said. “But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened.”

Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonOvernight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements House Dems launching Medicare for All Caucus Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE (D-Minn.), the DNC’s deputy chairman, emphasized that both he and Perez came to the DNC long after the contract with Fusion GPS had ended. 

“Tom and me, we weren’t even there at the time,” Ellison told The Hill. “I know as much about it as you guys who have reported it.”

A spokesman for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was forced out as DNC chairwoman at the party’s national convention in 2016, also denied knowing about the arrangement.

“She was not aware of anything related to this research arrangement,” spokesman David Damron said.

Democratic officials said that the national party was not empowered to make campaign decisions, particularly at a time when it was racked by controversy over leaked emails and while its chairwoman was being forced out.

“I doubt that any of the leadership at the DNC was even aware,” a Democratic official said.

The denials are likely to increase focus on the Clinton campaign.

Former Clinton officials kicked back at the controversy via Twitter and cable news on Wednesday, arguing that compiling opposition research is standard for all political campaigns.

Former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on CNN on Wednesday that Clinton “may have known” about the dossier, but “the degree of exactly what she knew is beyond my knowledge."

He also downplayed the significance of the memo. 


Republicans fired back, noting that the Clinton campaign paid a foreign spy for opposition research that got published online, while Donald Trump Jr. has been at the center of controversy for trying and failing to get opposition research from a Russian lawyer.