In an exclusive report, The Washington Post is reporting that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee allegedly “helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier” that lobbed salacious allegations about President Donald Trump, Russia, and even so-called “golden showers” into the public debate. Trump has denied the allegations, and the firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, has steadfastly refused to release details of its funding sources.
Citing anonymous people familiar with the situation, The Post exclusive reported that “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 the people. Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”
However, the Post added that one source said that Clinton’s campaign and the DNC may not have been aware of the Fusion GPS role although the newspaper alleges that Elias received the Steele report. The newspaper added, “At no point, these people said, did the Clinton campaign or the DNC direct Steele’s activities. They described him as a Fusion GPS subcontractor.” Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, shared the Post bombshell story and wrote on Twitter, “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
New York Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel wrote on Twitter that Elias had denied involvement.
The DNC responded by saying its new leadership had no involvement, while not addressing the old.
The Fusion GPS firm’s involvement in the infamous “dossier” of unverified and scandalous Trump allegations peddled by a British spy was previously revealed, but its funding sources were not. The larger-than-life characters associated with the dossier included Steele, its purported author, who is a former British intelligence author who was based in Russia in the 1990s. The dossier alleged, without offering concrete evidence, that Russian officials have blackmail on Trump, and that his campaign staff maintained close ties with Russian connections during the election. Steele shared the dossier with the FBI and, reports CNN, the Justice Department relied on parts of it to obtain a FISA warrant to “to conduct surveillance on Trump associate Carter Page.” (Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is now investigating former Trump campaign officials, and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.)
Just days before the Post report, Trump wrote on Twitter that the Justice Department and the FBI should “immediately release who paid for it,” after “Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch and partner Thomas Catan last week invoked the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which protects Americans against self-incrimination. The two men had been subpoenaed to appear in a closed-door session before the House Intelligence Committee but refused to speak at every turn,” reported Daily Mail.
Brian Fallon, who was a Clinton spokesman, downplayed the revelation on Twitter.
A spokesman for the president’s legal team also previously accused the firm of being associated with the Russian lawyer who held a controversial meeting with Donald Trump Jr. The lawyer implied that Trump Jr. was set up, although Fusion GPS says it didn’t know about the meeting. The president’s son says he thought the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was going to provide the Trump campaign with information damaging to Hillary Clinton, but instead she focused on the Magnitsky Act, which slaps Russians with sanctions for human rights abuse and deals with Russian adoption issues.
The disclosure by the Post is bound to raise new questions about Russia and the election. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump critic, previously asked ousted FBI Director James Comey about Fusion GPS and what Graham called “the Russian intelligence apparatus.” The Federalist described their Q and A this way:
Graham: Are you familiar with Fusion?
Comey: I know the name.
Graham: Are they part of the Russian intelligence apparatus?
Comey: I can’t say.
Graham: Do you agree with me that if Fusion was involved in preparing a dossier against Donald Trump, that would be interfering in our election by the Russians?
Comey: I don’t want to say.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, previously wrote the Justice Department: “Fusion GPS is the company behind the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and Russia. It is highly troubling that Fusion GPS appears to have been working with someone with ties to Russian intelligence –let alone someone alleged to have conducted political disinformation campaigns– as part of a pro-Russia lobbying effort while also simultaneously overseeing the creation of the Trump/Russia dossier.”
Fusion GPS and Republicans in Congress have been tangling over the dossier and Russia for months. Fox News is reporting that Senate Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver July 26 “to cut short a high-profile hearing, where a key witness was set to testify on Russia’s misdeeds” and allegations against Fusion GPS. Grassley wants the firm to register as a foreign agent, for Russia. The firm denies needing to register.
On the right, the firm has become continuous fodder for those seeking to counter criticism of Donald Trump and his son over Russia. CNN reported previously that President Barack Obama was briefed on the Steele dossier because of concerns that the allegations in it could open up Trump to blackmail; the Russian government has denied the dossier’s accuracy. The 35-page dossier was written by Steele based on memos he compiled from June through December 2016. However, Fusion GPS’ research into Trump was initially funded by a Republican, it was previously revealed.
Before the Steele dossier came into play, according to Vanity Fair, one of Fusion GPS’ founders, Glenn Simpson, was hired “to compile an opposition-research dossier on Donald Trump.” Although Simpson wouldn’t say who funded that quest, Vanity Fair alleges through a friend of his that it was a “never Trump Republican.” That person’s name has never been released, and, although it was revealed previously that Democrats then became the funding source, the Post story is the first to specifically allege that the money trail leads directly to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC (The New York Times previously reported that Fusion GPS’ Steele effort was funded by “Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton” whose identities are not clear.)
The founders of Fusion GPS started out working in investigative journalism for prominent American and British news outlets. A Vanity Fair story on the Christopher Steele dossier reports that Fusion GPS was founded by Simpson, a former investigative reporter with The Wall Street Journal known for his “tenacity, meticulousness, cynicism…obsession with operational secrecy.”
The article reports that Simpson left journalism after nearly “14 years doing political and financial investigations” at the Journal and, in 2011, “along with two other former Journal reporters, launched Fusion GPS, in Washington, D.C.” Simpson also founded a company called SNS Global with Journal colleague Sue Schmidt, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her Washington Post stories into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to The Hill.
The Hill reported that, while at The Wall Street Journal for just over 13 years, Simpson focused his energy on financial investigations: “He investigated ties between Riggs Bank and dictators like Augusto Pinochet of Chile and accounting fraud at failed insurance giant AIG. His work also helped the Journal win several libel cases brought in European court by groups suspected of financing Islamic terrorism.” Simpson is co-author of the book “Dirty Little Secrets: The Persistence of Corruption in American Politics,” which alleged “widespread use of fraudulent absentee ballots and the buying of votes,” NPR reported.
On Linkedin, Simpson describes himself as the chief executive of Fusion GPS and a partner in SNS. He is also a fellow at the International Assessment & Strategy Center focusing on corruption and transnational crime. A graduate of George Washington University, he was also a reporter for Roll Call. Fusion GPS’ extremely simple website reads only, “Fusion GPS is based in Washington, DC and provides premium research, strategic intelligence, and due diligence services to corporations, law firms, and investors worldwide. We offer a cross-disciplinary approach with expertise in media, politics, regulation, national security, and global markets.”
You can read more about Fusion GPS here.