DNC chair: Rot went all the way to the top in Trump campaign
Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller had discovered clear evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians and that the “rot went all the way to the top.”
Speaking at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Perez, a former civil rights attorney at the Justice Department, said Mueller’s findings “cannot be overstated.”
He lashed out at “the appalling silence from Republican leaders” and said that if Clinton had won the election and had been accused of the same thing, Republicans would have impeached her immediately.
“It’s clear the Russians were trying to traffic in the emails and present them to the Trump campaign to help get him elected,” Perez said. “You see with the indictments of [campaign chairman Paul] Manafort and [his business associate Richard] Gates that the rot went all the way to the top of the campaign. It’s clear the investigation will continue. It’s not the end of the criminal charges moving forward.”
Mueller on Monday unsealed indictments against Manafort and Gates. They are accused of illegal foreign lobbying, tax evasion and fraud, although the indictment does not mention President Trump or his campaign.
The Justice Department also revealed that a low-level campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, pled guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with Russians. He is believed to be cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian collusion.
Perez said it is incumbent upon Republicans to demand answers.
“You look at the history of Watergate — it took way too long for Republicans to recognize they need to put country over party,” he said. “You look at the deafening silence from McConnell and Ryan — it’s unfortunate.”
Perez dodged, however, on the DNC’s role in an explosive opposition research dossier it helped pay for.
The law firm used by the Clinton campaign and the DNC contracted the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which hired a British spy to put the document together.
“I was unaware of Fusion GPS until 48 hours or so before it was released,” Perez said. “My number one concern is what happened during the election. Did the Russians and Trump administration collude to affect the election. That to me is the issue at hand.”
The unverified memo was published online and may have been used by federal investigators looking into the allegations against the Trump campaign.
The White House and Republicans are furious and demanding answers about how the opposition research may have been used against them. They say it’s evidence the Clinton campaign and Democrats colluded with a foreign national during the election.
Perez was not chairman during the campaign and noted that the memo was funded under the previous leadership of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). Wasserman Schultz has denied knowledge of the memo, as has Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Perez would not say whether he had asked DNC officials to look into the matter or discuss any details about the national party’s involvement. He said that the opposition research was justified because Trump didn’t disclose his tax returns and had a “very shady relationship with Russian authorities.”
“I don’t know how much of the opposition research was Fusion, I haven not aggregated that amount,” Perez said. “But the issue at hand is whether Trump campaign and Russians were conspiring to affect this election.”