Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee were among those who paid a firm for research that led to a dossier of unverified allegations about President Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Marc Elias, a partner at law firm Perkins Coie who was paid by both the campaign and the DNC, hired the research firm, Fusion GPS, in April 2016 and concluded the contract before the election, the person said.
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Fusion GPS had been conducting research on Mr. Trump before then, funded by at least one Republican donor, according to a letter dated Tuesday from Perkins Coie to a Fusion lawyer that was filed in court on Tuesday. In March 2016, as the Republican presidential primary was winding down, Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie about continuing the research. The firm hired Fusion GPS a month later to “perform a variety of research services,” the letter said.
The letter describing the Clinton campaign and the DNC’s role was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday by Fusion GPS, which is fighting a subpoena of its banking records from congressional investigators seeking the identities of the donors who funded the firm’s research.
It is common for campaigns and political parties to pay outside firms to seek potentially damaging background material to use against their political opponents.
In the letter, Perkins Coie general counsel Matthew Gehringer authorized Fusion GPS to release the law firm’s identity.
“We recognize the importance principle of client confidentiality, and we appreciate your efforts to fulfill your obligation to maintain client confidentiality,” he wrote. “In the circumstances, however, we believe it is appropriate to release Fusion GPS from this obligation as it relates to the identity of Perkins Coie.”
Mr. Gehringer also called for Fusion GPS’s other clients during the presidential campaign to void the firm’s confidentiality obligations. It remains unknown who the Republican donors were who initially funded the firm’s research on Mr. Trump during the primary.
The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid Perkins Coie a total of $12.4 million for legal and compliance services during the 2016 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The law firm’s involvement in funding the dossier was reported Tuesday by the Washington Post.
Fusion GPS was founded in 2011 by former Wall Street Journal reporters. A Fusion representative didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
While Democratic donors’ role in funding the dossier was already known, the extent of the Clinton campaign’s involvement wasn’t. The revelation is likely to intensify partisan debate over the federal probes into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia—conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators—as part of their examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign colluded with Moscow.
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On Wednesday, after reports about the Clinton campaign’s role in paying for the dossier, Mr. Trump tweeted a quote from Fox News that noted Mrs. Clinton’s role and said: “The victim here is the President.” He has previously called the dossier “fake news.”
U.S. intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent months trying to substantiate claims in the dossier—including that the Kremlin colluded with the Trump campaign and that Russia has material that could be used to blackmail the president. Senior U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement officials deemed the material sufficiently significant to summarize them in a two-page addendum to the classified briefing Mr. Trump received in January about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential campaign.
The Wall Street Journal earlier this year identified Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is now a director of a private security-and-investigations firm, as the author of the dossier. The dossier consists of memos that appear to have been written between June and December 2016.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign last year, said he didn’t learn about Mr. Steele or the dossier until after the election, but added: “If I had gotten handed it last fall I would have had no problem passing it along and urging reporters to look into it.”
Hillary Clinton addresses her staff and supporters in New York last November after losing the election to Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton addresses her staff and supporters in New York last November after losing the election to Donald Trump. PHOTO: /CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS
The DNC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sen. John McCain, who late last year received the dossier alleging contact between the Trump campaign and Moscow and passed it on to the FBI, said new information about who funded the research hasn’t made him reconsider having passed it on.
“I received a document, I looked at it, I thought that it ought to be seen by the proper authorities and I took it immediately over to Mr. Comey, ” he said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey. “Who else was involved or whoever else, players there were, it was my duty to give it to him and not to do anything else with it.”
Last week, two partners at Fusion GPS invoked their constitutional protection against self-incrimination, declining to answer questions after being subpoenaed to appear behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee. Joshua Levy, an attorney representing Fusion GPS, said at the time: “No American should be required to appear before Congress simply to invoke his constitutional privileges.”
According to a January report from the U.S. intelligence community, Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was directed at the highest levels of its government. Its tactics included hacking state election systems; infiltrating and leaking information from party committees and political strategists; and disseminating through social media and other outlets negative stories about Mrs. Clinton and positive ones about Mr. Trump, the report said.