Fusion GPS, the liberal opposition research firm that funded and distributed the anti-Trump dossier, has paid three journalists for work related to Congress’ Russia probe, according to court filings.
Lawyers representing the House Intelligence Committee made the assertion in a bid to force Fusion to turn over additional bank transactions involving reporters, law firms and a media company.
“The committee seeks transactions related to three individual journalists,” stated the House general counsel court filing, “each of whom have reported on and/or been quoted in articles regarding topics related to the committee’s investigation.”
The journalists’ names are blacked out in the court filing. Documents list 10 House-demanded bank transactions from Fusion or its conduits to journalists.
Fusion’s two law firms — Cunningham Levy Muse, and Zuckerman Spaeder — are asking a U.S. District Court judge to block access.
The court battle unfolded this way:
Congressional committees are conducting broad probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump and his associates colluded with Russian operatives.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, signed a subpoena for Fusion’s bank records. He wanted to determine who bankrolled a partisan unproven dossier that has become such a large part of the FBI’s, Congress’ and journalists’ investigations.
The Nunes subpoena forced the law firm Perkins Coie to admit that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid the bills. The money went from Democrats to Perkins Coie to Fusion to British ex-spy Christopher Steele, who then paid Kremlin sources for dirt on Mr. Trump.
None of Mr. Steele’s core charges of collusion has been publicly confirmed.
Fusion and the House at first worked out a deal for relevant banks records. But House lawyers say they learned that Fusion withheld 112 transactions pertinent to the probe.
The suspect transactions, House lawyers say, deal with two Russia issues. One is the dossier. The other is Fusion’s payments from another law firm, BakerHostetler. That money came from the Russian firm Prevezon Holdings, which is lobbying Washington to repeal a law that brought stiff economic sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
In that vein, the House committee wants copies of Fusion bank transfers with other law firms in addition to Perkins Coie and Hostetler.
“Fusion has established a pattern and practice of using law firms as intermediaries to mask the true beneficiaries of its research,” the House filing says.
In addition, the committee wants transactions related to the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news website funded by GOP megadonor Paul Singer. The Beacon first hired Fusion in 2015 to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump, an anathema to many D.C. establishment Republicans.
The Free Beacon says the payments stopped in April 2016. Fusion then sought funds from the Democrats. After the DNC announced on June 14, 2016, that Russia had hacked its computer network, Fusion hired Mr. Steele to prove there was a Trump-Putin conspiracy.
“The committee has a clear investigative interest in scrutinizing Beacon’s public claims regarding its relationship with Fusion GPS,” the House filings states.
Fusion’s attorneys did not hide their disapproval of what they called Mr. Nunes’ “fishing expedition” and “McCarthy-like” tactics.
If they had not filed suit, the said, “the committee would have happily prowled through all of [Fusion’s] banking records and used them for no purpose other than to inflict harm … We respectfully submit that [committee Republicans are] using these overbroad demands to punish [Fusion] for having investigated Mr. Trump.”
The attorneys asserted that Fusion enjoys “a First Amendment right to associate freely with clients and contractors on political and other matters and a First Amendment right to engage in those client activities when they further political and commercial speech.”
House attorneys argued Fusion has no such rights.
“It is instead a profit-maximizing hired gun, selling its investigative services to the highest bidder,” they said. “[Fusion’s] goal — to be highly compensated for its work — is not protected associational interest.”
Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, had Mr. Steele brief a number of liberal press in Washington during the election.
The House court filings mentioned two who wrote stories on dossier dirt — Yahoo News and Mother Jones.
“Fusion’s specialty is seeding its opposition research into news stories, a modus operandi highlighted by a 2011 interview with co-founder Peter Fritsch,” the House attorneys said.
Mr. Fritsch is also a former Wall Street Journal reporter.
BuzzFeed posted the entire 35-page dossier in January. House Intelligence Committee Democrats have used the document to recite unverified allegations against Mr. Trump and his team.