Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm commissioned a controversial dossier alleging secret ties between President Donald Trump and the Kremlin, told congressional investigators in August that the FBI found the dossier credible because an unnamed “human source” associated with Trump had offered the bureau corroborating information.
In a 312-page transcript of Simpson’s August 2017 interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson’s attorney also said it was dangerous to discuss the dossier’s sources because its public release last year had already led to murder.
“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,” said the lawyer, Joshua Levy.
The transcript was released unexpectedly Tuesday by the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, angering the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley.
It’s unclear to whom Levy was referring. He didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment. But Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported last year about a former KGB chief who was mysteriously killed around the same time amid questions about his relationship to dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British spy contracted by Fusion.
Feinstein’s decision to publish the dossier represents an escalation of partisan tensions that have long been simmering on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Simpson had called for the transcript of his appearance to be made public, but Republican leaders so far had not agreed to release it.
“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, said in a statement about her decision to release the Simpson transcript. “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. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public,” she said.
A spokesman for Grassley said Feinstein posted the transcript with “no agreement” from committee Republicans.
“It’s totally confounding that Senator Feinstein would unilaterally release a transcript of a witness interview in the middle of an ongoing investigation – a witness that Feinstein herself subpoenaed last year for lack of cooperation,” said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy. “Feinstein’s unilateral decision was made as the committee is still trying to secure testimony from other witnesses, including Jared Kushner. Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollections of future witnesses.”
Simpson and his co-founder Peter Fritsch complained in an op-ed last week that Republicans had leaked selected details of the testimony and called for the full transcript’s release.
“Fusion GPS commends Sen. Feinstein for her courage,” a spokesman said Tuesday.
Republicans have criticized the dossier for containing unsubstantiated — and in some cases highly salacious — charges, and are seeking more information about how it might have influenced the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. After it was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, the dossier was handed over to the FBI in the fall of 2016. BuzzFeed and obtained it last January.
In his testimony, Simpson rejected suggestions from Trump allies that Fusion paid journalists to publish anti-Trump material. But he acknowledged briefing journalists before the election.
“There were things that Chris knew and understood to be the case that only he could really explain in a credible way, and… we thought that he should be the one that explains them,” Simpson said. “So we sat down with a small group of reporters who were involved in investigative journalism of national security issues and we thought were in a position to make use of him as a resource.”
Simpson also said Steele initiated communication with the FBI in July 2016 with “someone that he said he knew.”At the time, Simpson said, Steele was told that his information tracked with what they had heard from a source from the “Trump organization.” It was unclear whether he might have been referring to Trump’s business or his presidential campaign. Simpson said he wouldn’t share the identity of that source for “security” reasons.
“I know that I just don’t feel comfortable sharing because obviously it’s been in the news a lot lately that people who get in the way of the Russians tend to get hurt,” he said.
Steele later briefed a senior FBI official in Rome, Simpson testified, but later “broke off” communications with the bureau.
“Chris was confused and somewhat disturbed and didn’t think he understood the landscape and I think both of us felt like things were happening that we didn’t understand and that we must not know everything about, and therefore, you know, in a situation like that the smart thing to do is stand down,” Simpson said explaining Steele’s decision.
Elsewhere, Steele added that “there was concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people.” He did not provide further detail.
He added that Steele told him the FBI didn’t pay him for his work.
Simpson said Steele first brought his concerns to the FBI in July, shortly after a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails were posted publicly, calling the matter “a national security issue.”
Simpson said that Steele told him “I know the perfect person, I have a contact [at the FBI], they’ll listen to me.”
Feinstein’s move came days after Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) referred Steele to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. Feinstein said Grassley and Graham did not consult committee Democrats beforehand.
In the interview, committee aides told Simpson that Steele’s lawyers had revealed that Steele passed his findings to a “senior United Kingdom government national security official.”
Simpson then recounted, with new detail, the tale of how the Steele dossier reached the desk of then-FBI Director James Comey after the 2016 election — delivered personally by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
He said Steele bumped into longtime McCain aide David Kramer at a conference in Nova Scotia and ended up discussing the dossier. Later, Kramer followed up with Steele.
Simpson said Kramer told him that McCain wanted to “ask questions about it at the FBI… All we sort of wanted was for the government to do its job and we were concerned about whether the information that we provided previously had ever, you know, risen to the leadership level of the FBI.”
“It was our belief that Director Comey if he was aware — if he was made aware of this information would treat it seriously,” he added.
After revelations that Steele’s work was funded, indirectly, by the Clinton campaign, McCain told POLITICO that he had no regrets about delivering the dossier to Comey.
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