Democrats and their operatives sought foreign help for anti-Trump dirt on a number of occasions during the 2016 election and afterward, including the infamous Kremlin-sourced dossier and Rep. Adam B. Schiff’s attempt to obtain from Russians supposed photos of a naked Donald Trump.
Republicans believe the Ukrainian intervention, which is now under Justice Department investigation, included the creation of a bogus “black ledger” whose disclosure felled former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Today, Democrats are moving to impeach Mr. Trump. They say he violated the law by urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to contact Attorney General William Barr. The subject was former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s role in his son’s lucrative connection to a Ukrainian natural gas firm.
Mr. Biden is the front-runner of the Democratic presidential candidates. Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of seeking foreign intervention in the 2020 election.
Though the circumstances are not exactly the same — Democratic activists compared with a president’s conversation with a world leader — Democrats have been more than willing to seek and accept foreign information when it harmed Mr. Trump.
“It’s a reliable rule of thumb in these information operations that whatever the Democrats accuse you of doing, they’re doing themselves,” said Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The dossier was written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele. He was handled by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and he gained his anti-Trump material from Kremlin intelligence agents.
Clinton operatives paid for and spread the unverified material to the Justice Department, the FBI, the State Department, the Obama White House and a dozen news media outlets — all in an effort to destroy candidate Trump, then President Trump.
The FBI relied on the opposition research dossier to obtain at least one wiretap on a Trump associate — a move that former FBI officials say was unprecedented.
Mr. Schiff has rejected any criticism of the dossier, telling The Washington Examiner there was not “any equivalence” in Democrats paying for Kremlin dirt to influence the election.
“I think this is an illustration of a tactic that the administration and its allies often use — which is the argument of false equivalence,” the California Democrat said. “I think this is yet another effort to deflect and blur the distinctions and say, ‘Well, everybody does it.’”
In the end, none of Mr. Steele’s conspiracy charges proved true. Former special counsel Robert Mueller found no such election conspiracy and shot down most, if not all, of Mr. Steele’s allegations.
“The evidence we obtained did not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” Mr. Mueller said.
Here are examples of Democrats seeking or using foreign sources to interfere in the 2016 election and U.S. political process:
The dossier: Mr. Schiff championed the Russian-sourced document in 2017, reading aloud from it at a nationally televised March hearing. He vouched for Mr. Steele, as did other committee Democrats, who gave the ex-spy credit for first reporting events that previously had appeared on the internet.
In reading the dossier, Mr. Schiff was reciting election-year information from the Kremlin in his probe into Russian interference in the election.
Naked photos: Two Russian comedians, one of whom posing as Andriy Parubiy, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, recorded Mr. Schiff in a prank phone call. During the eight-minute call, the imposter said he could obtain from naked photographs of Mr. Trump in Moscow from Russian sources.
Mr. Schiff was fully onboard, telling the caller his staff would be in contact, which they were.
“Obviously we would welcome the chance to get copies,” he told the supposed Ukrainian.
The prankster/comedians provided emails to The Daily Mail to show that Mr. Schiff took the call seriously and wanted the photos.
The emails showed that Rheanne Wirkkala, now the House Intelligence Committee’s deputy director of investigations and then a professional staff member, contacted the real Mr. Parubiy, after the prank call. She asked when he planned to deliver “some materials” to the embassy in Washington.
“I understand Mr. Schiff had a productive call with Mr. Parubiy, and that Mr. Parubiy would like to make some materials available to Mr. Schiff through your embassy,” Ms. Wirkkala wrote in April 2017. “Please let me know how best to arrange pick-up of those materials from your embassy here in Washington D.C.”
The Steele dossier said Mr. Trump engaged the services of sex workers while in Moscow in 2013 — a lurid allegation also read by Intelligence Committee Democrats at the hearing. The sex worker story remains unconfirmed and Mr. Trump has denied it a number of times.
Ukraine: Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clinton’s opposition research firm, didn’t just collect dirt from the Kremlin, via Mr. Steele, during the election. It also obtained anti-Trump information from Ukraine via Nellie Ohr, an employee.
Mrs. Ohr is married to Bruce Ohr, who was the Justice Department’s fourth-highest official in 2016. He also was the main messenger for taking Fusion’s dirt and spreading it around Justice and the FBI.
Part of Mrs. Ohr’s research took her to a Fusion source — Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption figure in Ukraine, according to her October 2018 testimony to a joint House task force.
She didn’t say what Mr. Leshchenko provided. But her research was delivered by her husband to the FBI in a thumb drive, marking another example of Democratic operatives using foreign-sourced material in the election.
Manafort was a political consultant for Ukraine’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, collecting millions of dollars in fees. Post-election, he was convicted of tax evasion and is now serving his prison sentence. Mr. Mueller didn’t accuse him of election conspiracy with Moscow.
The Hill reported in May that the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. said that a Democratic contractor in 2016 pressed the embassy for smut on Mr. Trump.
Politico reported in January 2017, as Mr. Trump prepared to take office: “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election.”
Black ledger: Three months before Election Day, the disclosure of a “black ledger” appeared in U.S. media. The storyline was that it showed secret illegal cash payments from the Party of Regions to Manafort. He denied receiving such payments but was booted by the Trump campaign nonetheless.
Republicans believe the document is a hoax obtained by Democratic operatives and leaked to media. Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorney, told The Washington Times that a signature in the black ledger purported to be Manafort’s is a forgery.
Mr. Mueller brought no charges related to the black ledger and only briefly mentioned it in his report.
“As strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine, we believe that our cooperation should extend to such legal matters, regardless of politics,” said the letter from Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont.
Republicans say that seeking legal cooperation with Ukraine is what Mr. Trump was doing when he spoke by phone with Mr. Zelensky. He asked Mr. Zelensky to cooperate with the Justice Department probe into Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.
John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, has been assigned the task by Attorney General William P. Barr. He is investigating how the Obama Justice Department opened the probe into Mr. Trump, to include the Democratic Party dossier and Ukraine’s involvement in helping Mrs. Clinton.
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