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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tracy Sefl's Oppo Experience Is a Lot Like Mine

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss opposition research.

Tracy Sefl at The Washington Post:
I confess I quickly learned that the day-to-day reality of opposition research wasn’t always quite that tidy. Here’s why: When people are invested in your candidate, they want to participate. They have ideas, suggestions, “hot tips.” Phone calls to the main line of the campaign get routed … to research. Generically addressed letters and emails get routed … to research. Friends of friends of your second cousin’s neighbor’s mail carrier somehow get your mobile number. (I never saw a serial killer-style missive written with letters cut from a magazine, but some came close.) However strange the source, everything was read, every voice mail listened to. Occasionally, a staffer might fall prey to a blocked number and be trapped listening to a long, fantastical story, offering only benign “mmhmm”s while colleagues offered sympathetic looks. You might even say researchers, however maligned, are unfailingly polite.
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As the extraordinary news unfolded this week of the meeting Trump Jr. had with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last June — and especially after he released the astonishing email chain showing that he agreed to the meeting after being told he could get documents that “would incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Trump’s father’s campaign — a friend and I checked our consciences. “If someone ever reached out to us like that, we’d have … called our lawyers. Called the FBI. Right?” “Without question.” The prospect of responding the way Trump Jr. did is out of the realm of possibility, improbable, absurd. Meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney for the purposes of receiving incriminating information about an opponent? Um, yes, that seems shady. It would never have happened in any campaign I’ve worked on, or any of the best ones I’ve worked against.