Trump associate took Russia concerns to FBI, helping trigger investigation before ‘dossier’: Fusion GPS founder’s testimony
The closed-door testimony by Glenn Simpson apparently undermines concerns that his research firm’s unconfirmed ‘Steele dossier’ set the FBI’s Russia investigation in motion
An associate of Donald Trump expressed concerns to the FBI about contacts between Russia and Trump’s presidential election campaign team, helping to trigger the probe into possible collusion, according to closed-door testimony made public on Tuesday by a senior Democrat.
Glenn Simpson, who leads the Washington research firm Fusion GPS, made the claim in his August remarks.
He said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received intelligence from a “voluntary source” in Trump’s orbit in 2016, before a former British spy gave the Bureau his own “dossier” of allegations about collusion.
Fusion GPS hired former spy Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s business dealings with Russia.
During the hearing Fusion GPS’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, also claimed that “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work.”
He did not expand on that claim in the testimony, nor is there any public information that would tie a specific killing to information in the dossier.
However, a person close to the investigation said Fusion GPS has long worried that Steele’s sources could be in danger, given a handful of killings that took place in the months after the dossier’s existence became known.
Some Republicans critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials have claimed the initial FBI probe was triggered by Steele’s dossier.
They have raised questions about whether the FBI may have relied on the Steele document to improperly obtain surveillance warrants to spy on Trump’s campaign associates.
Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August contradicted those claims.
“They had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and … they believed Chris’ information might be credible,” Simpson testified. “I think it was a voluntary source, someone who was concerned about the same concerns we had.”
Simpson later said he was not sure if the FBI informant was from the Trump election campaign or the Trump Organisation, the president’s real estate firm, which is now run by his two older sons.
Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate committee, dramatically released the testimony without Republican approval, in an apparent bid to neutralise Republican criticism of the Russia investigation.
On Wednesday morning, in the wake of the release, Trump tweeted his fury, saying: “The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough Primary!”
Soon afterwards, he added: “The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes.
“Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!”
The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough Primary!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
Steele’s dossier contains a number of inflammatory and salacious allegations about Trump and his alleged connections to Russia. Trump has slammed the dossier as “bogus” and denies his campaign colluded with Russia.
On Tuesday, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen filed two defamation lawsuits, one in New York state court against the popular website BuzzFeed News, which published the Fusion GPS dossier last year, and the second in federal court against Fusion GPS itself, ABC News reported.
Both lawsuits say the dossier compiled by Fusion GPS and contained “false and defamatory” allegations about Cohen that resulted in “harm to his personal and professional reputation, current business interests, and the impairment of business opportunities,” according to ABC News.
Cohen is mentioned in the dossier as having suspicious ties to Russian figures. Those allegations have not been verified.
BuzzFeed responded with a Twitter post that said the dossier continues to be the subject of investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies, was shown to two US presidents and described in detail by news outlets worldwide.
“Its interest to the public is obvious. This is not the first time Trump’s lawyer has attacked the free press, and we look forward to defending our First Amendment rights in court,” BuzzFeed said.
The lawsuits were not immediately available on online court websites.
Trump and some Republicans have attacked both Simpson’s firm and Steele in recent months and also questioned the impartiality of the FBI and the Justice Department in an apparent effort to discredit Mueller’s probe.
Mueller’s team has produced two indictments and two guilty pleas by former Trump campaign aides.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Charles Grassley, had declined to release Simpson’s testimony, saying he had refused to testify at a public hearing and failed to answer questions or turn over records.
Grassley’s office slammed Feinstein for releasing the testimony, saying it came as the panel was still trying to interview other witnesses, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardises its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony,” said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy.
Democrats accused Republicans of withholding Simpson’s testimony in order to spread false information about his firm’s role and undermine the Russia probe.
“The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”