The conservative website the Washington Free Beacon triggered the research into then-candidate Donald Trump by Fusion GPS that eventually led to the now-infamous Trump "dossier," the publication's editor-in-chief and chairman acknowledged in a statement Friday night.
The research effort was known to have been supported by Republican allies before the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign , but the original funder of the research was unknown until now. The resulting dossier was compiled by former British spy Michael Steele and contained unsubstantiated allegations about then-candidate Trump's connections to Russia. Mr. Trump has denied the allegations.
The Free Beacon's connection to the dossier was first reported by the Washington Examiner's Byron York Friday night.
The site began as a non-profit entity before becoming a for-profit enterprise several years ago. It has never disclosed its owners or financial backers, but the New York Times reports hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer provides a large amount of its funding. The site covers national security issues, politics, culture and media criticism, among other topics.
The Free Beacon says Steele was not involved in the research at the time of its involvement, and "none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier." The Free Beacon also said it had no knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the DNC or Clinton campaign. The Free Beacon has retained third-party firms since its launch in 2012, the statement says.
In the statement, editor-in-chief Matthew Continetti and chairman Michael Goldfarb said that the publication 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." The statement said representatives of his publication approached the House Intelligence Committee Friday and offered to answer questions.
"But to be clear: We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods," Continetti and Goldfarb wrote.
Here is the full statement from the Free Beacon:
Since its launch in February of 2012, the Washington Free Beacon has retained third party firms to conduct research on many individuals and institutions of interest to us and our readers. In that capacity, 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 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.
Representatives of the Free Beacon approached the House Intelligence Committee today and offered to answer what questions we can in their ongoing probe of Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier. But to be clear: We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods. We consider it our duty to report verifiable information, not falsehoods or slander, and we believe that commitment has been well demonstrated by the quality of the journalism that we produce. 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.
Editor in Chief