7 eye-opening revelations from the Fusion GPS testimony
On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the Senate Judiciary Committee testimony of Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS and "among the most significant players in the Trump-Russia affair," The New York Times writes. Fusion GPS is famously behind a controversial dossier that alleges Russia possesses compromising information about President Trump. It was compiled by British spy Christopher Steele, who Simpson hired.
The Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), previously told the Times that Simpson was "uncooperative" during his interview, although the transcript is full of a number of potentially explosive details. Here are seven. (And you can read the full transcript here.)
1. Fusion GPS had no idea what it was getting into.
The way our firm runs we pursue things, you know, somewhat out of curiosity. So we didn't know — it was opaque what Donald Trump had been doing on these business trips to Russia. We didn't know what he was doing there. [Glenn Simpson, page 82]
2. Steele decided to seek out the FBI over fears that Trump was being blackmailed.
[Steele's] concern, which is something that counterintelligence people deal with a lot, is whether or not there was blackmail going on, whether a political candidate was being blackmailed or had been compromised. And the whole problem of compromise of Western businessmen and politicians by the Russians is an essential part of — it's like disinformation, it's something they worry about a lot and deal with a lot and are trained to respond to. So, you know, a trained intelligence officer can spot disinformation that you or I might not recognize, certainly that was Chris' skill, and he honed in on this issue of blackmail as being a significant national security issue. [Glenn Simpson, pages 161-162]
3. Simpson agreed Steele needed to tell the FBI, saying they were witnesses to a potential "crime in progress."
So he proposed to — he said we should tell the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence of these events, but my recollection is that I questioned how we would do that because I don't know anyone there that I could report something like this to and be believed and I didn't really think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do that. In any event, he said don't worry about that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am, I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So, you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate way, I said it was okay for him to do that. [Glenn Simpson, page 160]
4. Someone from "the Trump organization" might have already beat Steele to the FBI.
Essentially what [Steele] told me was [the FBI] had other intelligence about this matter from an internal Trump campaign source and that — that they — my understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris' information might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization. [Glenn Simpson, page 175]
Note: A source told NBC that Steele makes a mischaracterization here of an Australian diplomat's tip that Russia has dirt on Hillary Clinton, as had been shared with him by George Papadopoulous "during a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016." [via The New York Times]
5. Steele ultimately severed his ties with the FBI after a report claimed they found no connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. Steele feared the report was evidence the FBI was being "manipulated ... by the Trump people."
On Oct. 31, The New York Times posed a story saying that the FBI is investigating Trump and found no connections to Russia and, you know, it was a real Halloween special. Sometime thereafter the FBI — I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn't know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn't really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them. [Glenn Simpson, pages 178-179]
6. Somebody has already been killed because of the Steele dossier.
It's a voluntary interview, and in addition to that [Simpson] wants to be very careful to protect his sources. 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. [Simpson's lawyer Joshua A. Levy, page 279]
Note: Levy is likely referring to the death of Oleg Erovinkin, a former KGB general who was found dead in Moscow under mysterious circumstances. "Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, who is repeatedly named in the dossier," The Telegraph writes. "Erovinkin has been described as a key liaison between Sechin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Steele writes in an intelligence report dated July 19, 2016, he has a source close to Sechin, who had disclosed alleged links between Mr. Trump's supporters and Moscow."
7. Fusion GPS was working on collecting dirt on Trump in other parts of the world, too.
We had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump generally at this point in the project and we began to drill down on specific areas. He was not the only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of the world required other people. For example, we were interested in the fact that the Trump family was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in the United States that was made in sweat shops in Asia and South America — or Latin America. So we needed someone else for that. So there were other things. We were not totally focused on Russia at that time, but we were at a point where we were — you know, we'd done a lot of reading and research and we were drilling down on specific areas. Scotland was another one. [Glenn Simpson, pages 77-78]