Trump dossier research triggered by website with GOP ties

Elias Hubbard
October 31, 2017

Martha MacCallum was reporting on new revelations that right-wing news outlet The Washington Free Beacon retained opposition research firm "Fusion GPS" to conduct probes into several GOP candidates, including President Trump.

The Free Beacon first retained Fusion to investigate Trump in the fall of 2015 and ended its relationship after Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination in late spring of 2016, according to a person close to Goldfarb, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private discussions.

The former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the dossier didn't exist as a formal document when the FBI began its investigation in July 2016, and wouldn't have been used as the sole basis to obtain eavesdropping warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Steele dossier has been repeatedly dismissed as fiction by Trump and his allies, but it has recently become an element in the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, two of the congressional probes into Russian election interference are becoming mired in partisan sniping as Republicans focus on the origin of the dossier, a thread the White House and its allies have used to try to shift the focus away from Trump.

Petkanas responded by claiming Caputo "worked for Vladimir Putin", apparently referring to reports that Caputo worked for the Russian "Gazprom" media holdings in 2000. When the Clinton campaign's connections to the Steele dossier became public this week, a Free Beacon reporter wrote that an "unknown GOP client" had initially funded Fusion GPS's work.

"A DNC spokeswoman said "[Chairman] Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in any decision-making regarding Fusion GPS, nor were they aware that Perkins Coie was working with the organization. He said the dossier was an anti-Trump "cartoon" driven by the left. "But let's be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian Federation, and the American public deserves to know what happened".

"I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid, but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent", he wrote in another tweet.

Perkins Coie engaged Fusion GPS in April 2016 "to perform a variety of research services during the 2016 election cycle", according to the letter. Other details, including the most sensational accusations, have not been verified and may never be. The Democrats paid for research, including by Fusion GPS, because of concerns that little was known about Trump and his business interests, according to the people familiar with the matter.

A former United States intelligence official has denied Republican suggestions that the dossier could have been been sufficient to justify surveillance as part of a U.S. investigation into Trump and his associates.

Some of Steele's allegations began circulating in Washington in the summer of 2016 as the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into possible connections between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

Congressional Republicans have tried to force Fusion GPS to identify the Democrat or group behind Steele's work, but the firm has said that it will not do so, citing confidentiality agreements with its clients. An associate of his told the newspaper that he was unaware of the dossier until it was published by BuzzFeed in January.

In a blog post late Thursday on the Lawfare blog, Robert Litt, who served as general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2009 until January, wrote that the Steele dossier played "absolutely no role" in the intelligence community's assessment that Russian Federation meddled in the election.

Last week, Fusion GPS executives invoked their constitutional right not to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee.

The website and its leaders have strong ties throughout the Republican establishment. The Washington Post first reported the arrangement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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