The hearings of the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6th riot have featured a number of Republican lawyers, including former Attorney General Bill Barr, who opposed efforts to challenge the election after finding no support for the widespread election fraud claims of former President Donald Trump. The media called them “Team Normal.” That does not sit well with the most rabid activists who spent years demonizing Barr and others. Yet, the most ironic dissenting voice is that of former Clinton campaign General Counsel Marc Elias, who just ran a vehement column “Calling B.S. On Trump’s ‘Team Normal.'” Elias is a lawyer previously sanctioned in court and accused of lying about the hidden funding of the Steele Dossier by the Clinton campaign.
Elias objects to the praise given to these lawyers who stood up to a president at the risk of their own positions and future. He objects that they supported Trump when he “continued to lie about the election. They protected his fragile ego and damaged our democracy. This may be “normal” for those in Trump’s orbit. I suspect it is. But in reality, it is shameful and despicable. Calling it anything else is bullshit.”
Just as a reminder, Elias, a former partner at the firm Perkins Coie, has been accused of lying to conceal the campaign’s funding of the infamous Steele Dossier. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for violating election rules in hiding that funding. Elias has previously been sanctioned for his conduct in litigation and recently lost an effort to gerrymander the Maryland voting districts. The alleged Elias’ lies would ordinarily seem a professional liability for any attorney but they seem an actual professional attraction for Elias.
Elias has featured prominently in the filings of Special Counsel John Durham. The key to many of these operations is someone referred to by Durham as “Campaign Lawyer-1,” who is now known to be Elias.
It was Elias who reportedly made the key funding available to Fusion GPS, which in turn enlisted Steele to produce his now discredited dossier on Trump and his campaign. As with the Alfa Bank allegations pushed by his co-counsel, Michael Sussmann, the Russian collusion claims were quickly discredited. Indeed, the dossier was viewed by American intelligence as containing likely disinformation from Russian intelligence services.
During the campaign, a few reporters did ask about the possible connection to the campaign, but Clinton campaign officials denied any involvement. It was only weeks after the election that journalists discovered that the Clinton campaign hid payments for the Steele dossier as “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to Perkins Coie.
New York Times reporter Ken Vogel said at the time that Elias denied involvement in the anti-Trump dossier. When Vogel tried to report the story, he said, Elias “pushed back vigorously, saying ‘You (or your sources) are wrong.’” Times reporter Maggie Haberman declared, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
“It was not just reporters who asked the Clinton campaign about its role in the Steele dossier. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, was questioned by Congress and denied categorically any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who reportedly said nothing to correct the misleading information given to Congress.”
Elias also was the subject of intense criticism after a tweet that some have called inherently racist. Democrats used the recent Georgia election law as a rallying cry for federalizing elections by labelling the law, as described by President Biden, “Jim Crow on steroids.” Elias argued that Georgia voters could not be expected to be able to read their driver’s licenses correctly — a statement that seemed to refer to minority voters who would be disproportionately impacted by such a requirement.
Elias was back in the news on another defeat in court recently. He filed in support of an abusive gerrymandering of the election districts in Maryland that a court found violated not only Maryland law but the state constitution’s equal protection, free speech and free elections clauses. The court found that the map pushed by Elias “subverts the will of those governed.”
Elias has been accused of making millions from gerrymandering and challenging election victories by Republicans (while condemning such actions by Republicans as “anti-Democratic”). He was involved in the New York redistricting that was ridiculed as not only ignoring the express will of the voters to end such gerrymandering but effectively negating the votes of Republican voters.
These lawyers showed the integrity that Elias failed to demonstrate in his past controversies. Despite their strong political ties to the President, these lawyers refused to be conduits or promoters of claims that they considered false or unsupported. That was hardly the profile of courage that emerged from the Clinton campaign. Even when Hillary Clinton and her adviser Jake Sullivan were pretending that the Alfa Bank story (manufactured through the campaign) was surprising news to them, Elias remained mum and, according to media, denied funding allegations on the Steele dossier.
Calling it otherwise is …. well … what Elias said.