A conservative publication said Friday it paid a Washington research firm to start probing Donald Trump’s background — a move that set in motion a chain of events leading to an explosive dossier alleging ties between Trump associates and Russia.
In a statement, the Washington Free Beacon said it retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential election. Two people familiar with billionaire GOP donor Paul Singer said he provides financial support to the publication.
But the Free Beacon said its research ended before Fusion GPS hired a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to produce a series of reports alleging links between Russia and those close to Trump.
“None of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier,’’ said the statement from Free Beacon editor in chief Mathew Continetti and chairman Michael Goldfarb. “We stand by our reporting and we do not apologize for our methods.’’
The Free Beacon’s lawyers notified the House Intelligence Committee of its role in the matter Friday.
After the Free Beacon stopped paying Fusion GPS, the research firm offered in April 2016 to continue researching Trump for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That work came to include hiring Steele to probe Trump’s possible ties to the Kremlin.
The Free Beacon said it did not know at the time that the Clinton campaign and the DNC hired Fusion GPS later to continue the work.
The dossier — a collection of reports compiled by Steele that began in mid-2016 and continued after the election — cited sources familiar with the inner workings of the Kremlin, who said Russia had obtained compromising information about Trump, including lurid alleged details of his 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. The Steele reports also alleged Russia had been working with Trump associates to help him with the election.
Trump has denied those charges, and called subsequent probes by the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III a witchhunt. Officials have said that the FBI has confirmed some of the information in the dossier. Other details, including the most sensational accusations, have not been verified and may never be.
U.S. intelligence agencies later released a public assessment, which concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to aid Trump. The FBI has been investigating whether any Trump associates helped the Russians.
For months, House Republicans have been pressuring Fusion GPS to identify who paid for the dossier. While that question has now been answered, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are still pressing to find out how much Fusion GPS was paid, and how much, in turn, that firm paid Steele.