The Washington Post:
The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.
Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.
After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.
The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.
Fusion GPS gave Steele’s reports and other research documents to Elias, the people familiar with the matter said. It is unclear how or how much of that information was shared with the campaign and the DNC and who in those organizations was aware of the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. One person close to the matter said the campaign and the DNC were not informed by the law firm of Fusion GPS’s role.
The dossier has become a lightning rod amid the intensifying investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia. Some congressional Republican leaders have spent months trying to discredit Fusion GPS and Steele and tried to determine the identity of the Democrat or organization that paid for the dossier.
Trump tweeted as recently as Saturday that the Justice Department and FBI should “immediately release who paid for it.”
Elias and Fusion GPS declined to comment on the arrangement.
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. But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened.”
Brian Fallon, a former spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said he wasn’t aware of the hiring during the campaign.
“The first I learned of Christopher Steele or saw any dossier was after the election,” Fallon said. “But if I had gotten handed it last fall, I would have had no problem passing it along and urging reporters to look into it. Opposition research happens on every campaign, and here you had probably the most shadowy guy ever running for president, and the FBI certainly has seen fit to look into it. I probably would have volunteered to go to Europe myself to try and verify if it would have helped get more of this out there before the election.”
U.S. intelligence agencies later released a public assessment asserting that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to aid Trump. The FBI has been investigating whether Trump associates helped the Russians in that effort.
The Post’s Callum Borchers adds:
When BuzzFeed published that now-infamous dossier of unproven claims about Donald Trump and Russia, in January, former Hillary Clinton campaign aides expressed outrage that news outlets that had obtained the dossier before Election Day did not make its contents public in time to influence voters, and Clinton later aired the same grievance in her book about the presidential race.
It turns out that the reaction of the Democratic presidential nominee and her team was disingenuous. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday night that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the dossier, compiled by a former British intelligence officer, through a law firm hired to conduct opposition research.
The Clinton camp left out its own role in the dossier’s creation, as it ripped the media for sitting on information that journalists had been unable to verify. What Clinton and her advisers presented as their judgment that the media had made the wrong call was, in fact, their frustration at having failed to plant negative news reports before ballots were cast.
Recall that BuzzFeed published the dossier in full on Jan. 10, after CNN reported that the FBI had briefed President Barack Obama and then-President-elect Trump on its contents. Many journalists criticized BuzzFeed’s decision, arguing that news outlets should not spread claims they can’t corroborate, even if the FBI considers the claims significant enough to share with the president and his soon-to-be successor.
But Clinton press aides Brian Fallon and Nick Merrill contended, on Twitter, that the real journalistic malpractice was not publishing information contained in the dossier earlier.
Also that day, Mother Jones magazine reported that a “former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” had “provided the [FBI] with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump — and that the FBI requested more information from him.” The memos comprised the dossier that BuzzFeed later published.
Consistent with the Mother Jones report, the Times reported that “intelligence officials have said in interviews over the last six weeks that apparent connections between some of Mr. Trump’s aides and Moscow originally compelled them to open a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Republican presidential candidate.”
“Still,” the Times added, throwing the “cold water” Merrill spoke of, “they have said that Mr. Trump himself has not become a target. And no evidence has emerged that would link him or anyone else in his business or political circle directly to Russia’s election operations.”
Clinton complained about the Times report in her post-election book, “What Happened”:
In the summer of 2016, according to The Washington Post, the FBI convinced a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that there was probably cause to believe that Trump adviser Carter Page was acting as a Russian agent, and the received a warrant to monitor his communications. The FBI also began investigating a dossier prepared by a well-respected former British spy that contained explosive and salacious allegations about compromising information the Russians had on Trump. The intelligence community took the dossier seriously enough that it briefed both President Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents before the inauguration .. . .
Sources within the FBI also convinced the New York Times to run a story saying they saw “no clear link to Russia,” countering Franklin Foer’s scoop in Slate about unusual computer traffic between Trump Tower and a Russian bank.
Note that Clinton described the dossier only as having been “prepared by a well-respected former British spy” — as if the spy, Christopher Steele, had acted on his own. Clinton certainly gave no indication that her campaign helped finance his work.
There is a fundamental contradiction here: Clinton wanted the dossier to be viewed as credible yet she did not want to be connected to it. She hoped the media, before Election Day, would publish claims about Trump to which she was unwilling to attach her own name.