President Trump is clearly gleeful about reporting in The Washington Post and The New York Times that found that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded the infamous “pee tape” dossier, after the GOP donor who initially financed the oppo backed out when it was clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. “I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it’s turned out to be,” Trump told reporters. “This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election.” Trump also claimed that the Uranium One story, about a deal that gave Russia access to the U.S. uranium market that followed Russian-connected donations to the Clinton Foundation, was “Watergate, modern age.”
It’s not Watergate, modern age or otherwise. When it comes to influencing U.S. politics, the Uranium One story pales when compared to Russian interference in the 2016 election. So why are Republicans so excited about these revelations? Never mind that a Republican was the initial funder: If the dossier was used by the FBI to gain FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign officials, this line of reasoning goes, then those warrants should be reconsidered and possibly revoked, given their political origins. It’s a strange argument, because it conveniently ignores the substance of the Steele dossier, which is that Russia had been cultivating Trump and his inner circle for a while. That’s all that matters here.
It’s stranger still because opposition research often leads to congressional investigations. The Arkansas Project, which helped fuel the Whitewater investigation that culminated in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, was, in essence, opposition research.
So it should be clear that these arguments about the dossier’s funding are not being made in good faith. Instead, they merely represent a new, dangerous stage of the Russia investigation, in which Trump and congressional Republicans are resorting to whataboutism. They are obsessing over the Clinton campaign’s connection to Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier, and resuscitating the Uraniam One story yet again. That’s really all this is. What matters isn’t who funded the dossier—it’s the validity of the dossier itself. Also, the pee tape.