The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign helped pay for opposition research that resulted in the salacious intelligence dossier that contained allegations about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the firm paid to conduct the research was retained in April 2016 by Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The firm, Fusion GPS, hired a former British spy with ties to the FBI to conduct the research. The spy Christopher Steele, eventually shared some of his findings with the FBI after the bureau began probing possible connections between Trump associates and the Russian government.
Lingering questions about who paid for the dossier have sparked a partisan battle as lawmakers investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any possible coordination with members of the Trump campaign.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, noting the development, said on Twitter, “The real Russia scandal? Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier, then lied about it & covered it up.”
DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement, “Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in the decision-making regarding Fusion GPS, nor were they aware that Perkins Coie was working with the organization.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was chair of the DNC at the time.
“But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia,” Ms. Hinojosa said, “and the American public deserves to know what happened.”
Katrina Pierson, who served as spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, said on Twitter, “W/all this BREAKING Russia Clinton corruption NEWS, it now makes sense that Hillary deleted 30k emails & took hammers to blackberries.”
House Democrats have said efforts to discredit Mr. Steele and the dossier are part of an effort to distract focus from the broader Russia probe. But Republicans have said it’s important to find out who paid for the opposition research as well as how heavily the FBI relied on the information in it as agents pursued their own investigations. Some have expressed concern that opposition research was used as the basis for a foreign surveillance order
Reports indicate that Fusion GPS was commissioned by a third-party to conduct political opposition research on Mr. Trump in the fall of 2015, but that the party withdrew from the contract in the spring of 2016. The Post report indicates that’s when Mr. Elias got involved.
Mr. Comey briefed Mr. Trump on the dossier following an intelligence briefing in January.
Buzzfeed News later published the 35-page document.
The president’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., called the Dossier story “interesting.”
“You know if the Washington Post can’t sweep this under the rug it’s a big deal,” he tweeted.
The House Intelligence Committee is currently embroiled in a legal battle over records that could provide further information about who originally financed the dossier investigation. The committee subpoenaed Fusion’s bank records in an effort to learn who paid for the research. A federal judge has pushed back the subpoena compliance date until Friday.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.