Conservative Website Was First to Fund Research Leading to Trump-Russia Dossier
Conservative news outlet The Washington Free Beacon disclosed late Friday that, during the 2016 Presidential primary, it retained the research firm which would later produce the infamous 'Steele dossier' on then-candidate Donald Trump.
In its statement, however, the Free Beacon claimed that none of the research it directly commissioned appeared in the Steele dossier, which included claims that the Russian government had collected compromising material on Trump, including salacious sexual “kompromat.” The Free Beacon ended its relationship with Fusion GPS as it became clear that Trump would secure the Republican nomination.
Fusion GPS then reportedly approached the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Those groups appear to have funded Fusion's continued Trump research, in a deal brokered by an affiliated law firm, from April of 2016 until just before election day. Reports from Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled to dossier, began in June of 2016.
Get CEO Daily, Fortune's technology newsletter.
The Steele dossier has been repeatedly dismissed as fiction by Trump and his allies, but it has recently become an element in the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Both Steele and Fusion GPS representatives met with Congressional investigators in August. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller interviewed Steele in early October.
The Washington Free Beacon was founded in 2012 as a conservative answer to the liberal blogosphere. It has been previously faulted for retaining political research firms, which one left-wing media watchdog described as "dirt-digging operations disguised as journalism." In yesterday's statement, Free Beacon Editor in Chief Matthew Continetti wrote that "we stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods."
However, the Free Beacon has clearly been hesitant to disclose its role in seeding a research campaign that continues to provide ammunition to Trump's opponents. When the Clinton campaign's connections to the Steele dossier became public this week, a Free Beacon reporter wrote that an "unknown GOP client" had initially funded Fusion GPS's work. That “unknown” client, it now appears, was the Free Beacon itself.