House impeachment manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told the Senate on Thursday that the so-called “Steele dossier” paid for by Democrats against then-candidate Donald Trump was not improper foreign interference in the 2016 election because they “purchased” it.
Jeffries was responding to a question from Republicans about Democrats’ argument that the president had invited improper foreign interference in U.S. elections by seeking, or being willing to accept, information from abroad on a potential political opponent.
The question asked: “Under the House managers’ standard, would the Steele dossier be considered as foreign interference in a U.S. election, a violation of the law, and/or an impeachable offense?”
Jeffries replied: “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.”
He also referred to allegations about the dossier as a “conspiracy theory.”
The “dossier” was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, using a variety of foreign sources, including sources allegedly close to the Russian government.
A recent Department of Justice Inspector General report noted the FBI had found that the “Steele dossier” was false — but kept referring to it as legitimate in applications for renewals of surveillance warrants.
Steele had been working for the opposition firm Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS was initially paid by a Republican source who wanted to stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination, but the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee later paid the firm, funneling money through the Perkins Coie law firm.
Earlier in the day, the second of two full days of questions and answers with House managers and White House lawyers, Jeffries had falsely accused White House lawyers of condoning foreign interference in U.S. elections, misquoting an answer from Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin from the night before.
All Philbin had done was quote the law, which is that accepting mere information is not a violation of campaign finance law.
White House lawyer Jay Sekulow pounced: “So — I guess you could buy? — this is what it sounds like — you can buy a foreign interference, if you purchase their opposition research, I guess it’s OK.”
He also said that the story of the “dossier” was not a conspiracy theory, but a true one — and that the dossier led to improper surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.