In social science, the law of unintended consequences is pretty well known. Popularized by 20th century sociologist Robert Merton, its underpinnings date back to at least Enlightenment philosopher John Locke and his economist follower, Adam Smith.
In political science we just got an eye-opening example of the law this week. The bombshell revelations that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for at least some of the infamous “dossier” on Donald J. Trump are a prime example of the law.
Democrats have for months been quietly pushing the dossier, which has been mostly characterized by two words: “salacious” and “unsubstantiated.” They’ve also been harping on “collusion” with the Russian government as Exhibit A of their case against President Donald Trump.
Now the shoe is on the other foot.
Here’s why: The Washington Post, not exactly either a right-wing publication or a Trump-supporting paper, disclosed that, in addition to still secret early Republican donors, both the Clinton campaign and her politically wholly owned subsidiary, the Democratic National Committee had poured millions into developing the dossier.
We’ve often invoked the Watergate-era admonition to “follow the money.” This is yet another instance where that’s good advice.
The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee allegedly paid millions of dollars to the law firm, Perkins Coie. The chair of their political law practice, Marc Elias, represented both the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
According to the Washington Post, Elias hired Fusion GPS, a shadowy Washington, D.C. firm, that worked for the Russian government and other dictators and allegedly advised corrupt Venezuelan officials accused of money laundering.
Fusion then paid a former spy, Christopher Steele, who allegedly bought salacious material from the Russians.
The conservative Washington Free Beacon website confirmed it originally retained Fusion GPS to scour Trump’s background for negative information. Leaders from the Free Beacon, which is funded largely by Republican billionaire Paul Singer, insisted none of the early material it collected appeared in the dossier.
Political research is conducted in every meaningful political contest. But when it involves getting so-called “intelligence” from hostile foreign governments, a lot of warning bells should sound.
That certainly was the case when cries went up about Donald J. Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with Russian lawyer, Natalie Velesnitskaya, who dangled political dirt on Hillary Clinton as the pretext for the meeting.
That meeting should never have been held. Even the prospect of getting that kind of information from a hostile foreign power should have triggered calls to the FBI, not a calendar confirmation.
Guess who else has worked with Velesnitskaya? Fusion GPS.
The irony of all this is so rich that it surpasses “unintended consequences.” Among Fusion’s Kremlin ties were its work to try to remove the sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act.
That’s the same plea for relief that Natalie Velesnitskaya made to Donald J. Trump, Jr. in their ill-fated meeting. Bill Browder, the major champion of Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who was tortured and killed in Russia, called the co-founder of Fusion, “a professional smear campaigner.”
After months of denials and misdirection by Hillary Clinton and her allies, the infamous dossier is now at her feet.
The real story is just beginning to unfold. The dossier formed the basis for many of the Clinton and Democrat talking points since Trump took office. It was much of the “The Russians stole our democracy” hype. It allegedly was the basis for Obama Justice Department FISA warrants. The line goes on and on.
So does the money trail. Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, who has birddogged the story for months says that the ultimate issue rests with the Fusion’s bank records. That is certainly where most money flows.
Who all got paid and where the money the Clinton’s and the DNC gave are questions yet to be answered. The answers are potentially both politically and legally explosive. There are all sorts of questions about whether federal election laws and other statutes were followed.
The current leadership of the Democratic National Committee is already running as fast as it can from this mess, pointing out in public statements that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was in charge when this mess began.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has a lot to account for. She’s always had trouble remembering things: Whitewater, sweetheart investments, Travelgate, Benghazi, e-mails, top security markings to name just a few.
The facts remain and they don’t lie. The unintended consequence of Clinton’s use of the Trump dossier lies at the end of the money trail.