Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the House impeachment managers, argued Thursday that Democrats’ hiring of a former British spy to collect dirt from Russian sources about the Trump campaign does not constitute foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The New York congressman’s argument was based on the puzzling logic that Democrats paid for the information from the retired spy, Christopher Steele, rather than simply obtaining it.
“The analogy is not applicable to the present situation because first, to the extent that opposition research was obtained, it was opposition research that was purchased,” Jeffries said in response to a question from Sen. Richard Burr and a group of Republican senators. (RELATED: Media Attacks Trump For Foreign Oppo Comment, Downplays Origins Of Steele Dossier)
The Republicans had asked: “Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired a retired foreign spy to work with Russian contacts to build a dossier of opposition research against her political opponent, Donald Trump. Under the House managers’ standard would the dossier be considered as foreign interference in a U.S. election, a violation of the law, and/or an impeachable offense?”
The Clinton campaign and DNC, through their law firm, paid just over $1 million to opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Donald Trump and members of his campaign.
As part of the project, Fusion GPS hired Steele, a former British spy, to look into Trump’s ties to Russia. Steele relied on a network of sources to collect information from Russian government officials.
Steele provided the information to the FBI and members of the media.
Republicans have long cited Democrats’ hiring of Steele to rebut allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The special counsel’s investigation failed to establish that Trump or any of his associates conspired with Russians.
Jeffries’s claim prompted a sarcastic response from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow.
“So, I guess you could buy, this is what it sounds like, you can buy a foreign interference,” said Sekulow. “You can purchase, if you purchase it, you purchase their opposition research, I guess it’s okay.”
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