Is it possible that the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee were unaware of the fact that the organizations they led paid for the infamous anti-Trump dossier?
John Podesta and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., both privately denied to congressional investigators that they had any knowledge of the hiring of Fusion GPS, the opposition-research firm that deployed former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile the salacious and largely debunked dossier, according to three sources familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN.
But the interviews of the two Democratic Party leaders took place prior to the bombshell report by the Washington Post revealing the role of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
As CNN put it: “Their remarks to congressional investigators raise the stakes in their assertion that they knew nothing about the funding because it’s against the law to make false statements to Congress.”
CNN sources further disclosed that sitting next to Podesta during the interview was his attorney, Marc Elias.
Elias was there in his capacity as Podesta’s lawyer, not as a witness. But the Post’s investigation identified Elias – the general counsel for the Clinton campaign – as the one who hired Fusion GPS to continue research on Trump on behalf of the campaign and DNC.
Two New York Times reporters already have accused the Clinton campaign – and Elias, specifically – of a cover-up.
Times reporter Kenneth Vogel tweeted that when he tried to report the Clinton campaign’s connection to the dossier, Elias “pushed back vigorously,” saying, “You (or your sources) are wrong.”
The White House correspondent for the Times, Maggie Haberman, tweeted: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
Late Wednesday, a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission charging Clinton’s campaign and the DNC violated campaign finance law by failing to disclose payments for the Trump dossier.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, on a tour to promote her book about the 2016 election, “What Happened,” hasn’t spoken on the record about the Post’s revelations.
Her former campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, however, has left open the possibility that she knew. Fallon told CNN on Wednesday: “She may have known, but the degree of exactly what she knew is beyond my knowledge.”
In an editorial Thursday, the Washington Examiner pointed out that Clinton wrote about the dossier in her new book.
She wrote that the intelligence community “took the dossier seriously enough that it briefed both President Obama and President Elect Trump on its contents before the inauguration.”
Clinton said the FBI “began investigating a dossier prepared by a well-respected former British spy that contained explosive and salacious allegations about compromising information the Russians had on Trump.”
The Examiner editorial board said that in “hindsight, how queer that Clinton should have written about and talked up this dossier as though she had been a mere observer of the events that led to its creation and use.”
But the paper said it’s “no surprise that Clinton or her staff would play dumb about this.”
More Podesta allegations
Tuesday night, a source claimed that the Podesta Group, run by John Podesta’s brother Tony, is a target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 election. Mueller isn’t focused on Trump but on former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group, the source said. NBC News reported Monday the Mueller probe had expanded to the Podesta Group.
The Podesta Group also has a tie to the Uranium One scandal – the deal approved by Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration that coincided with millions in donations from uranium interests flowing to the Clinton Foundation – which returned to news headlines last week. The Hill reported that before a government panel in which Hillary Clinton was a member approved the sale of a company controlling 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves, the FBI was sitting on evidence Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to expand Moscow’s nuclear business in the U.S.
The Podesta Group received $180,000 from Uranium One to lobby Hillary Clinton’s State Department, according to Open Secrets. Meanwhile, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported Monday the secretive, Kremlin-linked, green-energy company for which John Podesta served as a board member, Joule Unlimited, apparently met its demise because of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election loss.
WND reported last year that Joule received $35 million from a Putin-connected Russian government fund at the same time Hillary Clinton spearheaded the transfer of U.S. advanced technology, some with military uses, as part of her “reset” strategy with Russia.
Senate to further question Democrat leaders?
CNN said Thursday that Senate investigators could further question Podesta and Wasserman Schultz about the dossier.
In the interview with Podesta, in September – with Marc Elias at his side – the former Clinton campaign chief was asked whether or not the campaign had a contractual agreement with Fusion GPS, according to one of CNN’s sources Podesta
Much of the discussion, a source said, centered on how hackers got access to troves of his private emails, which were published by WikiLeaks during the campaign. Investigators brought up Fusion GPS toward the end of the interview, according to the source, who noted it was not a focus for the investigators.
Elias is a partner with Perkins Coie, the Seattle-based international law firm that hired Fusion GPS.
The funding disclosure was made in a letter filed in a court case Tuesday by Perkins Coie general counsel Matthew Gehringer.
CNN reported Fusion GPS is in a legal battle to prevent its bank from providing records sought by the House Intelligence Committee, which is seeking details about who paid for the research.
Perkins Coie said it is disclosing its role in hiring Fusion to aid the firm in its fight not to be forced to reveal its confidential list of clients.
CNN asked Wasserman Schultz about her interview with congressional investigators, which took place earlier this month, and she reiterated she had no awareness of the dossier.
“I didn’t have any awareness of the arrangement at all,” she told CNN. “I’m certainly not going to discuss with you what I talked to any committee about.”
Senate intelligence Chairman Richard Burr told CNN Wednesday that the disclosure that Fusion GPS had been paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC gives the panel “the ability to connect some dots that we couldn’t do before this.”
“And any investigation when you have a revelation this big, it begins to clarify some pictures that you were already trying to understand,” he said.
The new disclosures, Burr said, “will require us to dig a lot deeper in some areas that maybe a week ago we weren’t planning to.”