A conservative website with strong ties to the Republican establishment first retained the firm that investigated Donald Trump's past — and ultimately produced a dossier that alleged a compromised relationship between the president and the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, CNN reported, citing sources briefed on the matter.
The charges are sealed under orders from a federal judge, CNN said. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, CNN reported, citing the unnamed sources. It is unclear what the charges are, CNN said.
The Washington Free Beacon on Friday confirmed it had originally funded research compiled by the firm Fusion GPS. But leaders from the Free Beacon, which is funded in large part by the Republican donor Paul Singer, insisted that none of the early research it received appears in the dossier released later in the year detailing explosive allegations, many uncorroborated, about Trump compiled by a former British spy.
"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," wrote the site's editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti, and chairman Michael Goldfarb.
They continued: "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."
Earlier in the week, reports revealed that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee continued funding Fusion's work after the original GOP source lost interest.
Trump this week called it a "disgrace" that Democrats had helped pay for research that produced the document. The White House had no immediate comment about the Free Beacon's involvement.
The Washington Free Beacon was initially founded as a project of the conservative nonprofit group Center for American Freedom, as an alternative to liberal news sites run by progressive nonprofits. The Center for American Freedom was organized as a 501(c)4 and did not reveal its donors, but a person close to Goldfarb said Singer was an early backer of the project. Later, the Free Beacon was spun-off into a for-profit website.
Goldfarb was deputy communications director on John McCain's presidential campaign.
Singer has been a major player in Republican politics in recent years and maintains ties to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and several powerful Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
A representative to Singer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Singer was backing Rubio's presidential bid at the time of the Free Beacon's involvement. Rubio's team insisted this week that they had no knowledge of the dossier. Singer's close associate Dan Senor also served as Speaker Ryan's chief adviser during the 2012 president campaign.
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