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July 17, 2017

Quotes, votes and anecdotes: What is “opposition research”?


  • President Trump’s son, Donald J. Trump Jr., released an email exchange between him and a publicist, who informed him that a Russian lawyer could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The information was said to be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
  • Trump Jr. later met with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, along with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
  • Trump Jr. has defended himself by saying that the meeting was standard “opposition research.”
  • According to Christina Reynolds, a former Hillary Clinton campaign official, opposition research consists of gathering public information about another candidate such as vote history, tax records and personal stories. She and Tim Miller, a former campaign official for Jeb Bush, agreed that there are legal and ethical boundaries to opposition research. Information must be publicly available and trustworthy, for example.
  • Reynolds said, “You certainly don’t do something with a hostile government…you make sure that you trust the veracity of the information and the source,” she said. Miller said, “[Russia] was a country that is out there to undermine our interests on the world stage.”

  1. Essential question: What do the terms “ethical” and “fair” mean in the context of a presidential election campaign?
  2. Why is it a violation of campaign law for a campaign to accept a “thing of value” from a foreign government? Does information qualify as “of value?”
  3. Do you think that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government? Explain your answer.

Key Term:

Collusion: secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially with an intent to deceive others


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