Trump, Republicans try to flip the script on Russia collusion

WH, reporter spar over Russia question
WH, reporter spar over Russia question

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WH, reporter spar over Russia question 02:39

Story highlights

  • Trump and his allies in Washington are seizing on a pair of revelations about Hillary Clinton
  • The offensive is an attempt to regain control of the narrative

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and his allies in Washington are seizing on a pair of revelations about his former rival Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party aiming to flip the months-long narrative about potential Russian collusion.

Republicans this week launched a multi-pronged attack -- from the White House, Capitol Hill and politicos around town -- on Democrats and their former nominee after reports revealed that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee helped fund an opposition research effort that produced a controversial dossier that made allegations (including many salacious and unverified ones) about Trump and his Russian ties; and as new questions surfaced about the circumstances surrounding the sale of a Canadian-based uranium mining company during Clinton's time leading the State Department.
Court documents connected with the case reviewed do not reference donations to the Clinton Foundation, nor attempts by US or Russian interests to influence the Uranium One deal decision.
    Since these allegations have resurfaced in the wake of recent reporting, Clinton and members of her staff have disputed accusations that anything improper occurred surrounding the approval of the Uranium One deal.
    Clinton said in an interview with C-SPAN this week that any accusations that she was bribed to approve the deal were "baloney" and that they had been "debunked repeatedly."
    The reaction from Trump and his Republican allies was swift and synchronized, serving to muddy the waters and draw attention away from the investigations and allegations the President and his allies still face.
    "It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!" Trump tweeted, referring to Clinton.
    On Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans opened two fresh Clinton-related investigations into the uranium sale and the decision by the FBI not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton over her private email use.
    And throughout the week, Republican political operations from the RNC to Trump-aligned surrogates flooded the airwaves and reporters' inboxes with allegations that the real tale of collusion was on the other side of the aisle.
    Republicans, who have spent months on defense amid allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, jumped back into an attack posture.
    "This is a major development and one of the first openings we've had on this issue in months," said an RNC official, who requested anonymity to candidly discuss the Republican strategy.
    The RNC official and a senior White House official said the revelations gave Republicans and the White House an opportunity to go on the offensive and divert attention from the investigations facing the President.
    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did just that on Friday as she took to the White House podium and claimed: "All the things that the Democrats have accused the President of doing, they are actually guilty of themselves."
    "If any collusion took place, it would be between the DNC and the Clintons," Sanders said.
    A White House official said Sanders was referring to the Democratic-funded dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official, which leveled allegations about Trump and his associates' ties to Russia as well as to months-old allegations that a DNC contractor met with Ukrainian officials offering information that could be damaging to Trump's campaign. The DNC has vehemently denied any collusion with the Ukrainian government.
    The White House and its allies' argument: that the dossier -- initially funded by still-undisclosed Republicans during the 2016 primary campaign -- amounts to collusion because it included information sourced to Russian intelligence sources.
    The allegation is hardly as hard-hitting as those Trump and his allies have faced, particularly given that the federal investigation and the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling and allegations of collusion were not triggered by the dossier.
    Trump, meanwhile, still faces the scrutiny of public investigators for his firing of FBI director James Comey -- which Trump has said was because of "this Russia thing" -- his campaign associates' meetings with Russian officials, including most notably his eldest son's meeting with a Russian lawyer he believed would furnish the Trump campaign with incriminating information on Clinton from the Russian government.
    The Daily Beast revealed earlier this week, and CNN confirmed, that the head of a data firm employed by the Trump campaign emailed WikiLeaks head Julian Assange hoping to gain access to 33,000 emails that had been on Clinton's server. US intelligence officials believe many of the hacked emails Assange released were obtained as part of a Russian hacking campaign.
    News of the email exchange comes amid federal investigations into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign's digital director, was interviewed Tuesday by the House intelligence committee as part of that inquiry.
    But the allegations Trump and his allies are now lobbing at Democrats don't have to pan out to be effective.
    A senior White House official said the allegations would at a minimum "demonstrate that this is a far more complicated matter than people lead on."
    The allegations and attacks against Clinton mark a return to the tried-and-true GOP attack playbook of raising suspicion about Clinton's actions.
    "The news about Hillary Clinton and the DNC paying for the research behind the Russia dossier raises a lot of questions that I think are fair to ask from the RNC and from other groups," an RNC official said. "There's at least a perception that Democrats and the Clinton campaign lied about this -- that this is very Clinton-esque."