A legal group called out White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Monday for apparently getting the law wrong. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that describes itself as nonpartisan, said she insinuated Democrats broke the law by funding the research leading to a salacious dossier on Donald Trump. In fact, they said, it’s more likely that the Trump campaign violated a campaign finance statute.
Sanders attacked Dems Monday, and compared it to Donald Trump Jr‘s infamous 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.
“The big difference here is you have a meeting that took place versus millions of dollars being sent to create fake information to actually influence the election,” Sanders said. “If you compare those two, those are apples and oranges. What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did, was actually exchange money. They [Trump Jr. and others] took a meeting. Those are far different.”
But Democrats didn’t break the law this way, said the CLC.
“Opposition research is a central element of modern political campaigning,” said Adav Noti, the CLC’s senior director of trial litigation. “Candidates from both parties legally pay millions of dollars every cycle for opposition research. However, if a campaign solicits or accepts opposition research without paying for it, the value of that research constitutes a solicitation for, or an in-kind contribution to, the campaign.”
If the Dems broke the law, it’s because the campaign didn’t report their payments for research firm Fusion GPS, said the CLC. (The legal group filed a complaint last week over this. A law firm that represented the Clinton campaign retained Fusion GPS, who in turn hired the ex-British intel officer who created the dossier.)
As for the Trump campaign, they have to worry about the 2016 meeting between the president’s son and a Russian lawyer. Trump Jr. attended the meeting to get dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Trump team downplayed the incident, but the CLC, who filed a complaint about this in July, doesn’t buy that.
From their statement:
The difference is Trump campaign solicited opposition research from Russia without paying for it. We now know that the Trump campaign learned in April 2016 that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” and in June 2016 Trump Jr. agreed to a meeting with a Russian government lawyer with the apparent expectation that this research would be turned over. The solicitation of that opposition research was illegal. Foreign nationals are prohibited from giving a contribution to a campaign; in the form of money, or in the form of an “in-kind contribution” like services or information. Just as it’s illegal for a foreign national to give a $100,000 check as a contribution to a politician, it is also illegal for a foreign national to give $100,000 worth of free services as a contribution to the politician.
George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump, pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to lying to FBI agents. He talked to Russians about “thousands of emails” and “dirt” on Clinton.
The Dem’s opposition research led to a salacious, unverified dossier, which claimed Moscow had kompromat on Trump. A special counsel is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin’s interference efforts in the 2016 election. The president and his allies have denied allegations, with POTUS calling it a “witch hunt” started by Democrats.
[Screengrab via NBC]