There is nothing normal about the Fusion GPS dossier

There is nothing normal about the Fusion GPS dossier
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As if on cue, the work has begun to rehabilitate Fusion GPS’s image and normalize its dossier and its behavior. Axios wrote that this is all really normal, and that Glenn Simpson and others at Fusion GPS, many of whom are former senior Wall Street Journal reporters and editors, are just good old regular gumshoe ink-stained people trying to make a living.

Last week, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE went on "The Daily Show" to “explain” that it really was just opposition research. To be clear, there is neither anything normal about Fusion GPS's dossier nor about the way the firm goes about its business.

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The left’s talking points that the dossier was just opposition research and everyone does this in politics state the obvious: Yes, opposition research is part of campaigns. It’s just that Fusion GPS’s dossier was not opposition research.

 

Opposition research is based on fact, from voting records, court records and public statements, to tax returns and business relationships. Fusion GPS’s dossier, on the other hand, was misinformation. It was not opposition research because it was not based on fact.

According to multiple media reports, beyond an alphabet soup of unnamed Russian intelligence sources and spreading hearsay, the material is largely drawn from news clips and Google internet search materials and left-wing conspiracy sites. Given Fusion GPS’s dependence on Russian gossip spread by Vladimir Putin’s spies, there is a good case to be made that Fusion GPS more deeply colluded with the Russians than anyone else.

This isn't the first time Fusion GPS or its partners have been accused of using fictional misinformation. A decade ago, Simpson and company compiled a dossier for a sheik in the U.A.E. who toppled his uncle for the throne.  

Also, Fusion GPS reportedly spread propaganda in support of the Maduro regime in Venezuela for clients such as Derwick and Associates, a group of Venezuelan businessmen who have deeply questionable business practices. And let’s not forget Fusion’s work for Planned Parenthood to discredit David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP). In every case, little of what Fusion GPS proffered was accurate or based on fact, but all of it was used by pliant media, more often than not friends from Simpson & Co.’s days in legitimate journalism.

What else is not normal? Marc Elias, the lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, lying about any involvement with the dossier for more than a year with great sanctimony, as The New York Times pointed out.

If it were normal opposition research, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to lie about it, unless you know the work product is highly questionable and might actually raise questions as to why the Clinton campaign and the DNC were funding the spread of Kremlin-sourced misinformation.

Also not normal: the hiring of a foreign national, Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent, who readily admits he sought former contacts from his days working the Russia beat for Great Britain.

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Curiously, however, Steele filed documents this spring in British court stating that the Trump dossier was never to have been made public. Again, not “normal” for opposition research; the point is to make such information public, bringing facts from the past to remind people what someone said or did.

There are Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations on such matters, requiring financial disclosure for campaign research and accuracy of public statements in political ads and materials. Neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC disclosed any of the work Fusion GPS undertook on their behalf, and there are now FEC complaints filed on the matter.  

But in the end, the Fusion GPS dossier was not about playing fair or exposing the truth. It was the exact opposite. If this was “normal,” why did two Fusion GPS partners plead the Fifth to every question asked of them by the House Intelligence Committee?

Perhaps that’s why the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had the dossier long before it was known to exist publicly and used the dossier to launch its “Russian collusion” investigation, continues to block the testimony of two agents who used the document for such ends.

Maybe that’s why Hillary Clinton, her campaign chief, John Podesta, and her one-time head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have all become regular old Sergeant Schultzes when asked about their knowledge of the dossier’s creation and dissemination. 

In the past, the media and reporters would never have accepted such statements as truthful: Watergate, Abscam, Whitewater, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump’s first year in office was the year of the woman Can a president be impeached for non-criminal conduct? Dems search for winning playbook MORE campaign’s acceptance of foreign campaign cash.

Yet, the media appears more than willing to accept that senior people on a presidential campaign, including the candidate herself who made much of her “hands on” campaign management, and the man who wrote the checks, were unaware that upwards of $12 million was going out the door for unspecified reasons? They're either incompetent or they're lying. Given the results of the election and what we now know about Fusion GPS, perhaps they're just incompetent liars. 

And this is where the other part of this sordid tale stalls out. Because the media simply doesn’t want to dwell on its own role in this debacle. It’s now clear that for more than a year, the media was played. Played by the Clinton campaign. Played by Fusion GPS. Played by Putin’s minions.

But he’s an inconsequential puppet by comparison. No, The Washington Post, The New York Times, all of the TV networks and cable news channels bit hard on this scam. They treated Fusion GPS’s work as legitimate, never double-checking or even simply checking whether anything in it were true.

The press were facilitators of a great hoax that the duly elected president of the United States was a Putin puppet and traitor to his country. They took a Kremlin-sourced dossier, funded by the Democratic Party, legitimized by the Obama administration, spoon fed to them by Fusion, and put it on steroids because it fit their worldview, not because it was based on facts. 

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (R-Iowa) has been spending months peeling back the rotten onion that is Fusion GPS, and still has more work to be done. It appears that Robert Mueller, likewise, is now digging into the Fusion GPS mess.

The FEC will take up the complaints against the Clinton campaign’s spending. Here’s hoping the Department of Justice begins to take up the cause, as well. But more troubling than the facts as we know them today would indicate is that not a single journalistic enterprise has admitted its error in judgment. There is no hand-wringing over a year of rumor-mongering and playing party to perhaps the greatest Russian misinformation campaign ever undertaken.

The media is hoping their efforts serving as nothing more than Democrat Party operatives will go the way of other embarrassing stories they played party to. But we cannot allow that to happen. We want a free press in America. But we also need an honest press that is accountable and that can be trusted and we need one now more than ever, based on what we’ve seen over the last year. Until we get to the truth about Fusion GPS and its dossier, the jury is still out on that one.

Ned Ryun (@NedRyun) is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority.