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GOP Probes Russia Allegations That Reached Steele -- WSJ

10 Feb 2018 7:32 am
By Byron Tau 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (February 10, 2018).

WASHINGTON -- Republicans on Capitol Hill are probing a collection of unverified and salacious allegations against Donald Trump that was compiled in late 2016 by a freelance journalist and researcher named Cody Shearer, who then passed his work along to an associate of Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Shearer wrote eight pages of raw and unverified notes that are purportedly drawn from interviews with two prominent journalists and Russian intelligence contacts, among others. Mr. Shearer's memoranda make a number of unverified claims about Mr. Trump's business ties to Moscow and sexual history. The document, which consists of notes written on Sept. 24, 2016 and Oct. 12, 2016, was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The claims are similar in nature, though not identical, to those contained in a 35-page dossier of allegations compiled by ex-British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Mr. Steele was being paid through intermediaries by the Democratic Party and Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign for his research on Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations in the Steele dossier.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Shearer's notes were passed indirectly to Mr. Steele, multiple people familiar with the matter said, who then gave them to federal law enforcement. The information was passed from Mr. Shearer through Sidney Blumenthal, a close associate of the Clintons, and another official who worked for the State Department during the Obama Administration, Jonathan Winer, these people said.

Mr. Shearer, who didn't respond to a request for comment, compiled his information after many of the memos that make up the Steele dossier were already written, according to the dates in the documents.

Mr. Shearer's notes circulated in political and journalistic circles in Washington in late 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added that there was no contact with the Clinton campaign or Democratic Party regarding the sharing of the information.

Mr. Winer wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published online Thursday that he got the notes from Mr. Blumenthal and shared them with Mr. Steele out of concern about the nature of the allegations against a presidential candidate. He said that the State Department played no role in the matter.

"On my own, I shared a copy of these notes with Steele, to ask for his professional reaction. He told me it was potentially 'collateral' information. I asked him what that meant. He said that it was similar but separate from the information he had gathered from his sources. I agreed to let him keep a copy of the Shearer notes," Mr. Winer wrote.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are examining what role if any Clinton associates may have played in circulating politically damaging allegations against Mr. Trump that were eventually shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and used in government warrant applications for sensitive surveillance against an associate of Mr. Trump's.

In a criminal referral to the FBI released publicly this week, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) wrote: "It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele's work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility."

The referral redacted the names of Messrs. Shearer, Winer, and Blumenthal, but a person familiar with the matter said that the letter from the senators refers to them.

Mr. Shearer's notes contain a prominent reference to purported conversations with reporters from two media organizations, including a reporter from The Wall Street Journal who at the time was reporting on Mr. Trump's ties to Russia.

Mr. Shearer's notes allege that the Journal reporter shared with him unverified allegations about Mr. Trump's sexual behavior, and told him that two researchers with the firm Fusion GPS were being paid by the Democrats to probe these issues. Fusion, a firm founded by former Journal reporters, hired Mr. Steele to conduct his research.

Mr. Shearer also said he was told by the reporter that the Journal was "gun-shy about pursuing" the allegations because "no one would go on the record and Mr. Trump's litigious background."

The Wall Street Journal disputed the characterization of the communication between the reporter and Mr. Shearer.

"In the summer of 2016, during the course of reporting on then-candidate Donald Trump's connections to Russia, a Wall Street Journal reporter was contacted by Cody Shearer. Mr. Shearer claimed to have compromising information about Mr. Trump's activities in Russia," said Steve Severinghaus, a spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

"Our reporter was unable to corroborate these allegations, and determined the information provided by Mr. Shearer did not meet our high standards for fair and accurate reporting. The matter went no further," Mr. Severinghaus said.

He added: "Among the many inaccuracies in Mr. Shearer's account of his conversations with our reporter in summer 2016 is his claim that the Journal knew who was funding Fusion GPS's efforts. The WSJ reporter had no such knowledge until it became public."

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications The Wall Street Journal reporter who spoke with Cody Shearer had no knowledge of who was funding Fusion GPS's efforts until it became public, which was in 2017. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the reporter had no such knowledge until it became public earlier this year. (Feb. 9, 2018)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 10, 2018 02:32 ET (07:32 GMT)

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