The editors of the conservative news site Washington Free Beacon disclosed Friday night that they were the entity that first contracted the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Donald Trump during the 2016 GOP primary—work that later led to the production of a controversial dossier on Trump’s ties with Russia.
“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,” the editors wrote in an open letter Friday. “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.”
The Free Beacon insists that none of the research they paid for made it into the dossier written by former British government spy Christopher Steele about Trump’s connections with the Russian government, who was brought onto the project in June of 2016. Though the publication had previously reported that an “unknown GOP client” first funded the project—its editors admitted to both the House Intelligence Committee and the public on Friday that the unknown client was in fact the Free Beacon itself.
“We do not apologize for our methods,” the editors wrote. “The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit.”
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the Fusion GPS research was later taken over by a law firm with ties to the Democratic National Committee and the president campaign of Hillary Clinton—revelations that Republican officials have called the “real Russia scandal.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.