One of the arguments Trump and his supporters have made repeatedly is that the entire Mueller investigation began with John McCain turning over the Steele dossier to the FBI. This is, of course, a lie, one that he has gotten Fox News to repeat so often that vast numbers of people now believe it.
We’ve known since December 2017 that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign began in July 2016 — months before the FBI was even alerted to the existence of the Steele dossier.
The inciting incident, according to Sharon LaFraniere, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo at the New York Times, had to do with WikiLeaks, which published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July 2016. Those emails prompted Australia’s top diplomat in Britain to inform his American counterparts about a conversation he had two months earlier with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
During a night of heavy drinking in London, Papadopoulos bragged to the Australian about his knowledge that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign,” as the Times put it…
You don’t have to take the Times’s word for it. Even the so-called “Nunes memo,” prepared by then-House Intelligence Committee chair and staunch Trump ally Devin Nunes (R-CA) and released about a year ago, acknowledges that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign was “triggered” by evidence presented to American officials about Papadopoulos having secretive contacts with Kremlin agents when it was released about a year ago.
In short, the Russia investigation would have existed even if the Steele dossier never did. But Trump and Fox News are not about to let the facts get in the way of their preferred narrative.
Of course not. They never have. And there’s more than just the Papadopoulos aspect. Remember that our FBI’s counter-intel team had intercepted phone calls between Trump campaign associates and Russians, phone calls they lied about and denied having. And that only got worse at the end of 2016 and early 2017, when Trump’s people denied having hundreds of such contacts, leaving them off their disclosure forms when they were required to reveal them. It would have been incredibly irresponsible for the FBI not to open an investigation at that point to find out why they were having such contacts and why they were trying so hard to cover it up.
What this lie allows Trump to do now is to claim to be the victim in all of this. It was all a frame job by Hillary Clinton! She paid for the Steele dossier in order to use it to get Trump removed in case she lost the election! It’s all a coup! All of this is utter nonsense, but it’s a very politically useful lie. And it’s going to work with far too many people.