Research that led to the compilation of a dossier detailing allegations about President Trump's ties to Russia and possible coordination with the Kremlin were funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to the Washington Post.
A Clinton campaign lawyer and the DNC retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, in April 2016 to conduct the research. The firm hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity.
Before the agreement, research by Fusion GPS was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary. The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund the research through the end of October 2016, days before election day.
The revelation is likely to fuel complaints by Trump that the dossier, which the president has derided as "phony stuff," is a politically motivated collection of salacious claims. Yet the FBI has worked to corroborate the document, and in a sign of its ongoing relevance to investigators, special counsel Robert Mueller's team — which is probing potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign — weeks ago questioned the former British spy, Christopher Steele, who helped compile the claims in the dossier, the Associated Press reports.
The dossier, which circulated in Washington last year and was turned over to the FBI for its review, contends that Russia was engaged in a long-standing effort to aid Trump and had amassed compromising information about him. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the document as false and in recent days has questioned on Twitter whether Democrats or the FBI had helped fund it.
Trump has also attacked the findings of the FBI, NSA and CIA that Russia waged a large-scale influence campaign to interfere in the election. The FBI and the CIA have said with high confidence that the effort was aimed at hurting Clinton's candidacy and helping Trump. The NSA found the same with "moderate" confidence.
Marc E. Elias and his firm, Perkins Coie, did not immediately respond to media requests seeking comment, and representatives of Fusion GPS declined to comment.
Clinton campaign officials did not immediately comment, but in a statement, a DNC spokeswoman said chairman Tom Perez was not part of the decision-making and was unaware that Perkins Coie was working with Fusion GPS.
"But let's be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened," the statement said.
Former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter that he regretted not knowing about Steele's hiring before the election, and that had he known, "I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him."
"I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent," he wrote in another tweet.
According to a letter obtained by the AP on Tuesday night, representatives of Fusion GPS reached out to the firm in early March 2016 to express interest in continuing research on Trump it had begun "for one or more other clients during the Republican primary contest."
At that time, the Clinton campaign was looking toward the general election and was pivoting attention toward Trump, who was emerging as the Republican front-runner. The person said Trump, by virtue of his extensive international business dealings, was seen as a natural target for complicated opposition research abroad.
Perkins Coie then engaged Fusion GPS in April 2016 "to perform a variety of research services during the 2016 election cycle," according to the letter.
The dossier created a political firestorm in January when it was revealed that then-FBI Director James Comey had alerted Trump to the existence of allegations about him and Russia. Since then, Trump has repeatedly attacked it and Republicans in Congress have worked to discredit it, even issuing a subpoena to force the disclosure of Fusion GPS'sbank records.
The letter, sent Tuesday by the law firm's general counsel to a lawyer for Fusion GPS, was intended to release the research firm from its obligation to keep confidential the identity of its client.