Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was accused of breaking election rules Wednesday as she and fellow Democrats faced fallout from the disclosure that her campaign and party operatives paid for research used in a salacious anti-Trump dossier.
President Trump called the revelation “a disgrace,” and the head of the House investigative committee said he wants to know whether the FBI relied on the dossier in its counterintelligence work.
“It’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “The Democrats always denied it. Hillary Clinton always denied it. I think it’s a disgrace. It’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country.”
The dossier, first reported on late in the presidential campaign and eventually published in its entirety by BuzzFeed after the election, contained a series of unsubstantiated and often salacious accusations against Mr. Trump, including supposed contacts between his associates and Russian officials.
The 35-page document was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by research firm Fusion GPS.
Law firm Perkins Coie, which handled legal work for the Clinton campaign, admitted Tuesday that it paid Fusion “to perform a variety of research services” as part of its work for Mrs. Clinton.
SEE ALSO: Trump says Clinton, Democrats were ‘disgrace’ to pay for dossier
The Campaign Legal Center said those payments broke the law, and the nonpartisan election watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
“The DNC and Hillary for America reported dozens of payments totaling millions of dollars to the law firm Perkins Coie with the purpose described as ‘Legal Services’ or ‘Legal and Compliance Consulting,’ when in reality, at least some of those payments were earmarked for the firm Fusion GPS, with the purpose of conducting opposition research on Donald Trump,” the Campaign Legal Center said in the complaint. “By failing to file accurate reports, the DNC and Hillary for America undermined the vital public information role that reporting is intended to serve.”
Former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, who is now a contributor to CNN, said it’s likely a small group of people at the campaign knew. He said he learned just this weekend in preparation for the news report.
“I’m sure that there was a small group of folks that were aware of the nature of the decision to hire Fusion back in the spring of 2016, but it was kept, for reasons that I can understand, to a very select group, given the sensitive nature of who they hired: a former MI-6 agent,” Mr. Fallon told the network Wednesday.
He said Mrs. Clinton may have known about hiring the firm for opposition research, but he wasn’t sure.
He said Fusion GPS came to the Clinton campaign and “pitched us” because it already had been commissioned to conduct anti-Trump research during the Republican primary race.
SEE ALSO: Democrats spread false Russian information on Trump, campaign aides
“I suspect we’re going to learn in the next day or two who the funder of it was during the Republican primary,” Mr. Fallon said.
He was referring to a deadline for a subpoena issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The panel demanded that Fusion’s bank turn over financial records that would show who paid for the research.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has delayed the subpoena’s compliance date until 9 a.m. Friday, noting that “the parties have informed the court that they are endeavoring to reach a mutually agreeable solution to this litigation.” The parties are expected to inform the judge by 3 p.m. Thursday whether they have negotiated a solution.
Operatives for Mr. Trump’s chief opponents during the Republican primary have denied involvement in the dossier, but Mr. Trump said it was a possibility.
“Yes, it might have started with the Republicans early on in the primaries. I think I would know, but let’s find out who it is,” he told reporters. “If I were to guess, I have one name in mind.”
But given the revelations about Democrats’ involvement and fresh investigations into a uranium deal with a Russian firm approved by the Obama administration, Mr. Trump said the Russia controversy has “turned around” on the Democrats.
“This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election. They lost it very badly,” he said. “They didn’t know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it’s turning out that the whole hoax is turned around.”
Xochitl Hinojosa, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that current Chairman Tom Perez and the new leadership of the Democratic Party “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 leading the DNC at the time.
A source with knowledge of the situation said Perkins Coie lawyer Marc Elias, who was representing the Clinton campaign, didn’t have a copy of the 35-page dossier published by Buzzfeed, nor did he pitch it to reporters.
He was, however, familiar with some of the research conducted to compile the document as well as some of the accusations detailed in the document.
Lawmakers expressed annoyance that information about who paid for the dossier was leaked to the media before it was handed over to congressional committees that have been pursuing it for months.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, accused the executive branch of stonewalling Congress from obtaining documents related to the Trump dossier. He said the FBI and Justice Department have not complied with requests from congressional members for documents related to the dossier.
“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to learn through the media information that Congress has been requesting for months,” Mr. Ryan said at a Reuters event. “We’ve had these document requests out there for some time.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said his main concern is learning whether the FBI used the dossier information as the basis for launching a counterintelligence information.
“I think the FBI is very interested in preserving its reputation, and frankly I am too. I want them to be well-regarded,” Mr. Gowdy told Fox News. “But they can make mistakes like everyone else, and if they relied upon an unsourced, unvetted document to launch a really important investigation and used it in court filings, then I think our country is big enough to handle that truth. But they need to share that truth.”
Also Wednesday, the head of a data analytics firm that worked for the Trump campaign said he tried to coordinate with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to help locate Mrs. Clinton’s missing emails, according to the Daily Beast.
Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reached out to Mr. Assange in an attempt to recover and release about 33,000 emails that were erased from Mrs. Clinton’s private email server from when she was secretary of state, the Daily Beast reported.
Contact between Mr. Nix and Mr. Assange would be the closest interaction between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which published DNC and Clinton campaign email believed to have been hacked by Russia.
While not directly denying the charge, the Trump campaign said it relied exclusively on Republican National Committee data analytics.
“We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false,” said Michael S. Glassner, executive director of the Trump campaign.
• S.A. Miller and Sally Persons contributed to this report.