Did Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS or Christopher Steele Pay Russian Agents? Fact Check

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If you listen carefully, you'll hear it all the time on cable news: "Hillary Clinton indirectly paid Russians!" Republican congressmen like to slip it in during conversations and then let it sit there as "fact." And it almost never gets challenged.

The assertion is brought up in different ways.

Sometimes, it's this: "The real scandal is that Hillary Clinton paid Fusion GPS, which paid Russian agents for the dossier..." Other times, it's this: "The real scandal is that Christopher Steele was paying Russians..." And still other times, it's this: "The only evidence of collusion was that Hillary Clinton colluded by paying Russians for the dossier."

Regardless of how it's worded, the same assertion comes across: that Fusion GPS via Christopher Steele somehow paid Russians for information.

You hear it every day: "Christopher Steele pays Russians"

Even the most skeptical hosts on TV seem to let the "paying the Russians" claim go unnoticed during debates, preferring to go on and argue other points.

This morning, for example, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and his co-hosts spoke with Senator Rand Paul, who used the assertion in response to a question about Robert Muller.

The Trump-Russia investigation has gone on for months, and there's no evidence of collusion, Rand Paul said.

He continued, "We now have evidence that Russian agents were paid for by a campaign.

We have evidence that Christopher Steele paid Russian agents, and he was paid for by Hillary Clinton, so the only direct linkage we have to Russians, so far in the evidence, is actually the Hillary Clinton campaign."

Scarborough and his co-hosts let that one slide, without even addressing it. You can watch the video below:

So what's the truth? Did Christopher Steele pay Russians?

One thing's for sure: Hillary Clinton's campaign helped pay Fusion GPS. Countless sources have shown that Fusion GPS received payment indirectly from the Clinton campaign, although it also received money from Republican-leaning groups.

What's in dispute, however, is whether somehow that money indirectly was used to pay Russian sources -- whether Christopher Steele or others took the money from Clinton and spent some of it on paying Russians.

Here is what Fusion GPS head Glen Simpson said in Senate testimony (page 271) regarding that question. Note that although Simpson was not under oath, it is illegal to make false statements in Senate testimony.

Q. To the best of your knowledge, did Mr. Steele pay any of his sources or subsources in the memoranda for information?

A. I don't know. I think there's been a little bit of confusion I would like to clear up. Some people were saying that he was paying people for information. I don't know whether he does or not, but that's not basically how I understand field operations to work. You commission people to gather information for you rather than sort of paying someone for a document or to sit for an interview or something like that. That's not how I understand it works.

Q. To make sure I understand, are you saying you don't pay for particular information, you would have an established financial arrangement with someone?

A. If he did at all, but I did not ask and he did not share that information. He did not invoice me for any such.

So according to Simpson, he is not aware of any payments made by Christopher Steele to Russian source.

That's not saying that there weren't payments, but Simpson insists (under penalty of law) that he doesn't know of any payments.

He also says that he wasn't invoiced for any such payments -- it seems hard to believe that Steele would make large payments to Russian agents out of his own pockets, although it's certainly possible.

Nevertheless, as we noted earlier, Republicans like Rand Paul continue to state that there is "evidence" that these payments were made. So we searched through countless news stories looking for any such evidence.

No evidence of payments has been reported on by any reputable publication.

It is possible that there is classified evidence of payments that hasn't been released to the public, but Republicans never suggest that the evidence is classified.

In fact, they imply the opposite -- that the evidence is out there and well known.

So we're left with this: Glenn Simpson says he doesn't know if Russian sources were paid by Christopher Steele. And there is currently no public evidence contradicting his statement.

The upshot: while it's definitely possible that the Russian sources were paid by Steele (and thus Fusion GPS, Clinton), when people like Rand Paul state this as fact, they are at best not telling the truth, and at worst, lying.

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Gage Skidmore