We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
They knew it was illegal or they wouldn't have paid an attorney to hire Fusion GPS. They would've just contracted directly with Fusion GPS. And why wouldn't they? If Fusion GPS does 'opposition research,' why would it be a big deal to admit to it and pay them directly? Because the DNC and HRC (and Obama who paid the same attorney almost $1M in 2016) KNEW it was illegal.
There is NO other explanation I can think of for paying an attorney, labeling it as 'legal services' and then having him pay Fusion for the work.
Well, Occam might say that not having the dirty tricks traced back to her campaign would be a pretty good reason. Yes, everybody does opposition research and presents what they find in the worst possible perspective, but this certainly seems to reach beyond research to actively constructing a defamatory narrative. To say it's criminal, however, seems a bit of a stretch. That appears to depend largely on if and how the information was (mis)used by the FBI to obtain FISA warrants against Trump or his campaign principals, or by the Obama administration to justify unmasking people associated with Trump.