The dossier, which was compiled by the research firm Fusion GPS, was originally commissioned by unknown right-wing sources while Trump was making his bid for the Republican candidacy. When it became clear the iconic businessman would win the nomination in spite of establishment opposition, the Republican donors stepped aside — but someone else took their place.
According to the Post, the new donors were the Clinton campaign and the DNC. This was done through Washington lawyer Marc Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie. The newspaper's anonymous sources said the two organizations shared the cost, but they would not provide a specific dollar sum. None of the parties involved responded to requests for comment.
Kenneth Vogel, a New York Times reporter, claimed in a tweet that Elias told him "you (or your sources) are wrong" and "vigorously pushed back" on the story when Vogel himself tried to report on it. Elias himself has not commented on the latest report. Maggie Haberman, another New York Times correspondent, also appeared to condemn the delayed revelation, noting that people involved in funding the dossier "lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year."
Fusion GPS claims that the original purpose of the dossier was simply to discredit Trump by revealing negative information about his past business dealings. However, once the DNC and the Clinton campaign hired them, they retained former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who worked undercover in Moscow for several years. Around the time Steele joined the project, the dossier had narrowed its focus to alleged ties between Trump and Moscow.
The stop-and-start dossier, which has been abandoned by its benefactors no less than three times, eventually grew to 35 pages.
Perkins Coie reported that the Clinton campaign paid them $5.6 million between June 2015 and the end of 2016, while the DNC paid them $3.6 million between November 2015 and the present day. It isn't known how much of that money was passed on to Fusion GPS to work on the dossier.
The Democrats then stepped aside in October 2016, and a new organization took their place: the FBI, which offered to pay Steele to continue to dig into Trump. This offer was later rescinded when Steele was publicly identified as the dossier's author in January, and he was reportedly never paid by the FBI. However, the report was allegedly used as part of the basis for the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Trump's alleged ties with Russian actors, which would make it highly relevant regardless of the credibility of its claims.
The dossier was finished in October 2016, but multiple outlets refused to publish it as its contents were unverified. Finally, BuzzFeed News, admitting that they had no proof of the serious allegations in the document, published the dossier in January.
The incendiary dossier is packed with scandalous claims, most infamously that Trump commissioned Russian sex workers to urinate in front of him during a visit to Moscow. The vast majority of claims within the dossier have yet to be verified, nine months after it was unveiled to the public.
Trump, too, has demanded that Fusion GPS reveal their benefactor. After two of the company's co-founders pled the Fifth, invoking their right not to incriminate themselves rather than testify before the US House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted that the "Justice Department and/or FBI should immediately release who paid for [the dossier.]"
Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2017
In response to Fusion GPS' leadership refusing to testify, HIC chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) subpoenaed the firm's bank records so Congress could identify their benefactor. Fusion GPS has resisted the release of their bank records in court, arguing that "compliance with the subpoena poses an existential threat to [Fusion GPS'] business" because it would "result in the disclosure of several thousand financial transactions and the revelation of [Fusion GPS'] relationship with approximately 25 clients and approximately 30 contractors."