Lawyers for the conservative online news outlet the Washington Free Beacon told the House Intelligence Committee Friday that the Free Beacon had paid Fusion GPS for opposition research against Donald Trump. Fusion GPS would later go on to work with former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“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,” admitted editor in chief Matthew Continetti and chairman Michael Goldfarb. “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.”
Continetti and Goldfarb insisted that “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.”
They further insisted that the Free Beacon did not know about the relationship between Fusion GPS and the DNC, or its relationship with Perkins Coie, the law firm through which the Clinton campaign paid Fusion GPS for the Trump dossier.
“We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods,” Continetti and Goldfarb added. “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.”
York reported that the Free Beacon funded the anti-Trump research from the fall of 2015 until the spring of 2016, at which point it withdrew funding. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dropped out of the race on March 15. York’s original sources stressed that the Free Beacon’s project had nothing to do with Russia or Steele.
When the Free Beacon was founded, it was part of a 501(c)(4) organization called the Center for American Freedom, but in 2014 it became a for-profit organization.
Conservative billionaire Paul Singer, a major funder of the Free Beacon, opposed Trump at the time of the project and funded Rubio’s campaign. William Kristol, former editor of the Weekly Standard, was on the board of directors for the Center for American Freedom, and blamed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for Rubio’s defeat in his home state, a defeat that sealed his fate in the primaries. Kristol has remained a consistent Trump opponent.
It has not yet been revealed whether the Free Beacon is still working with Fusion GPS. The firm is infamous for attacking former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 election and for compiling a misleading report for Planned Parenthood purporting to disprove the 2015 Center for American Progress “sting” videos.
(Full disclosure: This reporter used to work for the Free Beacon, and he does not appreciate the publication’s hiring of a left-wing smear factory for opposition research.)