Matthew Continetti, the editor of the neoconservative website Washington Free Beacon, wrote in a letter posted online just after 7 p.m. on Friday that the Free Beacon hired Fusion GPS during the Republican primary to do research on Republican candidates. That research kicked off what became known as the “dossier” used to smear Donald Trump.
The Washington Free Beacon is funded by New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who backed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Republican primary, and was vigorously opposed to Donald Trump.
Continetti is the 36-year-old editor-in-chief. He started the website with Michael Goldfarb after marrying the daughter of Never-Trumper Bill Kristol. Goldfarb previously worked for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The letter signed by Continetti starts off by saying that the Free Beacon has regularly retained “third-party firms” to conduct research since its founding in 2012 — a declaration that most people working in journalism would find odd, even bewildering, given that research is at the core of what journalists do and so is not normally contracted out, and given the cost of such outsourcing. Fusion GPS was reportedly paid $9 million for the opposition research on Trump that it produced in the general election for the DNC and the 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. 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.”
Continetti goes on to write that representatives of the Free Beacon contacted the House Intelligence Committee on Friday and offered to answer questions about Fusion GPS, a controversial firm founded by three former employees of the Wall Street Journal.
“They get paid to destroy people,” Venezuelan human rights activist Thor Halvorssen said on “Fox & Friends” this week, referring to his personal experience with the firm when he tried to expose corruption in U.S. companies operating in Venezuela.
Continetti ended the letter by defending the hiring of Fusion GPS.
“But to be clear: We stand by our reporting, and we do not apologize for our methods,” he wrote. “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.”
Legendary political operative Roger Stone reported on Wednesday that it was Singer who had paid for the dossier, though he did not mention the Washington Free Beacon or Continetti.
Singer and his company, Elliott Management Corp., contributed more than $5 million to the presidential campaign of Marco Rubio in 2016. But when contacted by LifeZette on Friday morning, Rubio’s Washington office said the senator and his staff do not know who had paid for Fusion GPS’ work during the primary campaign.
In the general election, Fusion GPS subcontracted with a firm run by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, to research Trump’s connections to Russia. This research resulted in the “Steele dossier” — a collection of memos that contain many unverified claims. Steele did not travel to Russia himself, but obtained the information third- or fourth-hand, working from an office in the United Kingdom.