The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Donald Trump as part of a project that led to the infamous dossier compiled by a former British spy.
According to a bombshell report from The Washington Post, Marc E. Elias, a lawyer for the Clinton campaign and DNC, and his law firm, Perkins Coie, hired Fusion GPS last April to investigate Trump.
Fusion, which was founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters, then hired former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to look into the former real estate baron’s activities in Russia.
Steele, who worked in Moscow during his days in British intelligence, would go on to produce a 35-page dossier consisting of 17 memos dated between June 20, 2016 and Dec. 13.
The Post report helps settle a central mystery that has lingered around the dossier since it was published by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10. Fusion has refused numerous requests from Congress and in lawsuits involving the dossier to reveal the identities of its clients. News reports about Fusion’s clients had been vague. The dossier financier was generally described as an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
One question that remains is who first hired Fusion to investigate Trump. A Republican donor who was vehemently opposed to Trump’s candidacy reportedly hired Fusion in Sept. 2015 to conduct routine opposition research.
According to The Post, the Clinton campaign and DNC paid Fusion through the end of Oct. 2016, just before the election. It is not entirely clear how much Fusion was paid for the project, but Federal Election Commission records show that the Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie a total of $5.6 million between June 2015 and Dec. 2016. The DNC has paid the firm $3.6 million since Nov. 2015.
The Post’s sources said that the Clinton campaign and DNC did not direct Steele’s research.
The surprise revelation that the Clinton campaign and DNC were directly connected to the dossier is sure to provide fodder for Republicans in Congress.
Republicans like Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have raised concerns about the political backing of the dossier because the Steele report was reportedly used by the FBI to form part of its investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
The FBI reportedly met with Steele multiple times during his investigation of Trump, first in July and then several months later. The bureau reportedly opened its investigation soon after meeting with Steele, though it is unclear if the dossier or the meeting with Steele is what prompted the investigation.
Steele’s report was also reportedly cited in an FBI application to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who is featured prominently in the dossier. Steele, citing unnamed sources, alleged that Page, an energy consultant, served as the Trump campaign’s liaison to the Kremlin. Page has denied the allegations, as has Trump.