When shady sources offered Gore dirt on Bush, his campaign told the FBI

Donald Trump is doubling down on the idea that his son, campaign chairman, and campaign adviser soliciting dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government is normal “politics!” I suspect Al Gore and George Bush might disagree. When the Gore presidential campaign received an anonymous package in 2000 allegedly containing Bush debate preparation materials, it immediately contacted reporters and the FBI.

From The New York Times’ original report:

A close adviser to Vice President Al Gore said he had received an anonymously mailed package today that involved material designed to prepare Gov. George W. Bush for his debates with Mr. Gore.

The adviser, former Representative Tom Downey of Long Island, N.Y., said he examined the materials briefly before giving them to his lawyer, who turned them over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation this afternoon. Mr. Downey, who has been helping Mr. Gore prepare for the Bush debates and was standing in for Mr. Bush in mock debates, also said he would recuse himself from any further debate preparation.

Campaign officials said they did not know if the materials sent to Mr. Downey had been stolen from the Bush campaign or were meant to trap the Gore adviser in some sort of dirty trick. Mr. Downey’s lawyer, Marc Miller, said the material — a videotape and a sheaf of papers — arrived in an envelope postmarked Austin, Tex., where the Bush campaign has its headquarters.

The Gore campaign was eager to dissociate itself quickly from the incident. After Mr. Miller called the F.B.I., campaign officials alerted The Associated Press that the packet had arrived and provided a detailed time line of Mr. Downey’s actions.

Sounds like everyone was pretty concerned about the implications of using shady opposition research. Downey was particularly cautious. When he told campaign strategist Carter Eskew and campaign chairman Bill Daley about the package, he refused to divulge any information contained therein for risk of tainting their own reputations.

The FBI opened an investigation into the incident that hung over the weeks leading up to the first debate. The Bureau ultimately indicted an aide working at a media firm contracted by the Bush campaign on counts of mail fraud, making false statements to the FBI and perjury before a grand jury. She was sentenced to a year in prison, $3000 in fines, and three years on probation.

On Thursday, Eskew described the incident as “relatively innocent high-jinks” compared to the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016. “Many things in today’s politics seem tolerated that would have been ruinous 17 years ago,” he wrote. “Is the same true of our political justice system, or has it maintained its standards?”

Guess we’ll find out.

[photo: Getty]