‘Confounding’ release of Fusion GPS transcript sparks rift in Senate Russia probe
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has released the 312-page transcript of the interview Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee last August as part of its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Fusion GPS, being hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign arms in the Democratic Party and a law firm, had commissioned ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele to collect opposition intelligence on President Donald Trump during the campaign season.
The transcript, which was released Tuesday, states that during the interview with congressional investigators, Simpson’s lawyer, Josh Levy, said that someone has already died because of the GPS Fusion commissioned dossier.
“He wants to be very careful to protect his sources,” Levy said of Simpson. “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.”
The transcript of the interview further revealed that Simpson had said Steele, the former MI6 agent, handed over the information compiled on the president in the dossier to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in September 2016, NPR reported.
Simpson testified to investigators that Steele wanted to give the dossier to the FBI because he “thought from his perspective there was an issue – a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed.”
Simpson recalled telling Steele that he had to think about whether they should contact the FBI about information gathered in the document, stating that he wasn’t sure who to give the dossier to.
According to Simpson, Steele replied to his reservations by saying: “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,” referring to the ex-spy’s alleged connection to someone in the FBI.
Steele also allegedly told Simpson at the time that the FBI had “an internal Trump campaign source” that confirmed the same information that Steele mentioned about the president being blackmailed, according to the transcript.
Simpson elaborated on this in the interview and said the FBI “believed Chris’s 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.”
Simpson, who was a journalist before starting Fusion GPS, also confessed in the interview with committee investigators that he was opposed to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
“I think it’s safe to say that, you know, at some point probably early in 2016 I had reached a conclusion about Donald Trump as a businessman and his character and I was opposed to Donald Trump,” Simpson said, according to the transcript.
Trump has dismissed the information in the dossier that was handed over to the FBI, and several Republican-led committees are currently investigating whether the document formed the basis for the FBI’s initial investigation into alleged Russian election meddling 2016’s presidential race.
The findings of the funding eventually reached the FBI, and the bureau’s dealings with Steele leading up to the 2016 presidential election have been a large focus of Republican-led investigations into the FBI currently underway in Congress.
According to Feinstein, she released the transcript on Tuesday in order to fight off misinformation circulating about the interview with Simpson.
“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,” she said in a statement, referring to alleged strategic ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. “The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
The release provoked controversy, as a spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Feinstein’s release “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,”Fox News reports.
“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,” spokesman Taylor Foy said.
Foy stated that "Feinstein’s unilateral decision" to release the transcript "was made as the committee is still trying to secure testimony from other witnesses, including Jared Kushner," Politico reported.
Foy further stated that Feinstein's "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."