Fusion GPS, producers of the Trump dossier, offer what they call ‘journalism for rent’

The Washington Post reports: Fusion GPS bills itself as a corporate research firm, but in many ways it operates with the secrecy of a spy agency. No sign marks its headquarters above a coffee shop in Northwest Washington. Its website consists of two sentences and an email address. Its client list is closely held.

The small firm has been under intense public scrutiny for producing the 35-page document known as the Trump dossier. Senior executives summoned to testify before Congress in October invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and the firm is resisting a congressional subpoena for bank records that would reveal who has paid for its services.

But hundreds of internal company documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal how Fusion, a firm led by former journalists, has used investigative reporting techniques and media connections to advance the interests of an eclectic range of clients on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in the nation’s capital. The firm has played an unseen role in stories that dominated headlines in recent years.

In the years before it produced the dossier, records show, Fusion worked to blunt aggressive reporting on the medical-device company Theranos, which was later found to have problems with its novel blood-testing technology. It was also hired to ward off scrutiny of the nutritional supplement company Herbalife, which ultimately paid $200 million to distributors to settle claims by regulators.

In another case, the firm sought to expose what it called “slimy dealings” by a competitor of a San Francisco museum proposed by filmmaker and “Star Wars” director George Lucas. And it dug up information about domestic disputes involving a former mayor of Beverly Hills, Calif., as part of an investigation into a proposed real estate development that the mayor supported.

Fusion’s other past research targets, documents show, included tech giants Google and Amazon; 2012 presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama; and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Bob Corker of Tennessee. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Fusion assigned code names to the projects — many of them after cities in Texas and Maine — and avoided identifying its clients in internal documents, making it difficult to determine who was paying for the research. The firm also minimized its public footprints by paying outside contractors to collect public records from courthouses, police stations and federal agencies.

The Post’s review provides a glimpse at the tactics that have fueled Fusion’s rise in the growing and secretive industry of opposition research and corporate intelligence. The review represents the most comprehensive look at the firm’s work at a time when it is being examined by those who seek to gauge the veracity of the dossier, and it reveals methods that have drawn criticism from the targets of the company’s research, including President Trump.

Fusion’s work on the dossier went beyond ordinary opposition research, the kind that might explore a candidate’s past legislative history or embarrassing gaffes — known in the industry as “votes and quotes.” Instead, it paid a former British spy to compile intelligence from unnamed Russian sources.

Only a handful of internal documents obtained by The Post relate to the examination of Trump during the 2016 election, a project that was code-named “Bangor” and was financed in part by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Fusion declined to comment on specific cases or identify clients, but said in a statement that it is “proud of our methodology and the rigor of our research, amply demonstrated by the records cited by The Washington Post. They show what we’ve always stated: Our secret sauce is diligent and exhaustive analysis of public information.”

It continued: “The reason we are so effective is that we unearth facts that stand up to scrutiny — presumably why we are still talking about our work detailing the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia more than a year later.” [Continue reading…]

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