In an unexpected twist, it turns out a conservative publication launched the anti-Trump opposition research project that led to a dossier of unverified claims of ties between President Trump and Russia.
The Washington Free Beacon paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS in order to get information on Trump and several other Republican candidates, according to the Washington Examiner.
The publication’s lawyers revealed the information to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.
— Matthew Continetti (@continetti) October 27, 2017
The Free Beacon reportedly funded the project from the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2016. The Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign then picked up once the publication withdrew its funding.
Matthew Continetti, Editor in Chief of the Free Beacon, and Chairman Michael Goldfarb issued a note to readers explaining its connection to the research firm and denied any involvement with information on Russia or Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who compiled the anti-Trump dossier.
“During the 2016 election cycle we retained Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the Republican presidential primary, just as we retained other firms to assist in our research into Hillary Clinton. All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier,” the statement read.
“The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele. Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign,” the statement continued, also confirming the publication came forward to Congress.
According to the Washington Examiner:
The Free Beacon was founded in 2012. Its founders included Michael Goldfarb, who has moved back and forth between conservative journalism, politics, and activism. The Free Beacon was originally part of a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization called the Center for American Freedom, but in 2014 became a for-profit organization. It has never revealed its ownership.
Conservative billionaire Paul Singer, a major funder of the Free Beacon, strongly opposed Trump at the time of the opposition research project.
The Center for American Freedom’s original board of directors included William Kristol, the former editor of the Weekly Standard, a sister publication of the Washington Examiner and where both Goldfarb and Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti worked. Kristol is one of the nation’s most prominent “Never Trump” activists and during the Republican primary campaign worked to recruit a candidate to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination.
A report this week revealed research for the dossier, which alleged unverified ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, was paid for by Clinton’s campaign and the DNC.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) October 26, 2017
Clinton continued to maintain she knew nothing about the dossier at the time.
Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz called the news about the Washington Free Beacon an “extraordinary development,” criticizing the publication for acting like “political operatives.”
“This is pretty ‘fake’ in that it is not journalism,” Kurtz said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” on Friday. “Obviously some organizations were more interested in damaging certain candidates than trying to aggressively report on them.”
The Free Beacon said they “stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods,” in their statement.
“The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit, and we intend to continue doing just that as we have since the day we launched this project,” the statement read.
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