The contentious 2016 presidential election is back in the spotlight, as new reports shed light on opposition research gathered by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded the now-infamous “Trump dossier,” which alleges that the president colluded with Russia. According to the Post:

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day. …

Some of Steele’s allegations began circulating in Washington in the summer of 2016 as the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into possible connections between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Around that time, Steele shared some of his findings with the FBI.

After the election, the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue gathering intelligence about Trump and Russia, but the bureau pulled out of the arrangement after Steele was publicly identified in news reports.

Some members of the DNC and Clinton’s campaign have since spoken up, saying that they were unaware of the hiring of Fusion GPS. Elias and Fusion GPS refused to comment on the story.

Trump, who has repeatedly denied the connections to Russia alleged in the dossier, cited a Fox News report that labeled him a “victim” in the breaking story:

He later called the news a “disgrace,” saying the “fake dossier” was “made up.” According to Politico on Wednesday afternoon:

“I understand they paid a tremendous amount of money,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “And Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And now, only because it’s gonna come out in a court case, they said yes, they did it. They admitted it, and they’re embarrassed by it. But I think it’s a disgrace. It’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country.”

Before a lawyer representing Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion GPS to conduct the research in April 2016, a Republican client funded the venture. Trump suggested he knew who that person was, though he would not share a name.

“If I were to guess, I have one name in mind,” Trump said. “It’ll probably be revealed. I’d rather not say, but you’ll be surprised. You’ll be surprised.”

While the Post’s report is fueling anti-Clinton and anti-DNC sentiment online, some say that this type of opposition research is not unusual. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald writes:

However, the BBC notes that there is something “unusual” about the Post’s discovery: the fact that “after the election, once Hillary Clinton was defeated, the FBI would pick up funding for this investigation.”

The BBC continues:

A topic as sensitive as this—allegations of foreign influence on a presidential campaign—doesn’t seem like something the US government should be outsourcing.

There have been plenty of accusations, on both sides of ideological divide, that the FBI has become politicised. Stories like this won’t help diminish those concerns.

In fact, they will almost certainly be cited to undermine the results of ongoing inquiries into Mr Trump’s possible Russia ties, whether or not the eventual findings have a connection to this now-infamous dossier.

As pundits continued to wrap their heads around this explosive story on Wednesday, The Daily Beast published a report that sheds light on the Trump campaign’s opposition research. The Hill summarizes:

The head of a data analytics firm that worked for President Trump’s campaign reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about locating Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday.

Alexander Nix, who leads Cambridge Analytica, reportedly told a third party that he reached out to Assange to see if Nix’s firm could help Assange release Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails. Assange reportedly told Nix he preferred to do the work on his own.

After the report was published, Assange confirmed to The Daily Beast that Cambridge Analytica approached WikiLeaks, but said the site rejected the firm.

The House Intelligence Committee earlier this month requested information from Cambridge Analytica about its work from Trump’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election.

It’s no secret that both campaigns engaged in intense efforts to uncover material that could be used against their opponents during the election—but as Vox notes, opposition research shouldn’t be assumed to be true.

“[There is] the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia,” it says. “After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try to deliver, even if what it turns up is dubious or thinly sourced.”


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