White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday suggested a recent news story about President Trump and his advisers meeting last summer with a Russian lawyer is part of a large political smear campaign orchestrated by a group that pushed out the largely discredited “Steele dossier.”
“The individual who set up the meeting may have been affiliated with Fusion GPS, which is an opposition research firm that is being subpoenaed and talked to by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.”
Priebus was responding to a story posted Saturday afternoon by The New York Times about the June 2016 meeting, shortly before Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, between a Russian lawyer and Trump, Jared Kushner and political adviser Paul Manafort.
The story is among many attempting to connect the Trump presidential campaign to Russia meddling in the 2016 White House race.
The possible connection between the meeting and Fusion GPS was reported first by Circa.com.
Circa reported Saturday that the president’s legal team thinks the meeting may have been “part of a larger election-year opposition effort aimed at creating the appearance of improper connections between Trump family members and Russia that also included a now-discredited intelligence dossier produced by a former British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele who worked for a U.S. political firm known as Fusion GPS.”
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, told Circa that lawyers have learned that “the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm that according to public reports was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the president and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier.”
Priebus said Sunday that the Senate committee is questioning Fusion GPS about its role in “putting together that phony dossier.”
“So, this is a developing story,” he continued. “I don’t know much about it other than it seems to be on the end of the Trump individuals, a big nothing burger but may spin out of control for the (Democratic National Committee) and the Democrats.”
Fusion GPS is reportedly run by three former Wall Street Journal reporters and has helped Planned Parenthood.
The dossier largely included reports of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The news media began reporting widely on the dossier in fall 2016, the homestretch of the White House race, but the unverified reports have since largely been dismissed as “fake news.”