Steele dossier: Fusion GPS chief says Trump may have aided Russians

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19 January 2018

In more than 150 pages of testimony released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the firm behind the so-called ''Steele dossier'', pointed to a number of business deals that he said suggested the Russians could be laundering money through then-candidate Donald Trump.

Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson used his six-hour interview with the House Intelligence Committee in November to defend the crafting of the now-infamous opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia and detail the suspicious connections his firm found between the Trump world and Russia.

Simpson's interview was released by the committee on Thursday following a unanimous vote to make it public.

The transcript sheds new light on the work Fusion GPS and ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele did in investigating real estate deals from the Trump Organization and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, connections between the Trump world and Russian oligarchs and the possibility that the Russians had blackmailed Trump, which is what prompted Steele to go to the FBI with the dossier.

Simpson stopped short of saying the firm had found definitive proof of such dealings, telling investigators that, ''evidence, I think, is a strong word''.

Some of Trump's dealings, Simpson told lawmakers, showed ''patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering''

"I'm an ex-journalist, so I'm not really in a position to prove that anyone's engaged in a crime. I mean, you know, sometimes you do find proof of criminal activity in an investigation, but more often than not you find things that are suggestive or raise questions," he said.

The testimony is likely to reinforce battle lines surrounding the dossier, a compendium of opposition research memos compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele as part of the firm's research into the real estate mogul.

Some of the allegations in the memos have been disproven, and Republicans have largely argued that the document is a politically motivated hit job on the president.

Democrats, meanwhile, have argued that the dossier could provide the framework for meaningful inquiry into Trump's alleged ties to Russia, citing Steele's credibility in the intelligence community. Other elements of the dossier have been confirmed and supporters of the document say it broadly describes an observable pattern of contacts between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Simpson said that in retrospect, the "wide-ranging conspiracy" described in the memos by Steele resembles the "well-established patterns of surreptitious contacts that occurred last year" that have since surfaced.

The release of the 165-page transcript of Simpson's interview, one week after California Democratic Sen Dianne Feinstein unilaterally published her committee's interview, is unlikely to change minds over the partisan fight that's broken out about the dossier and how it was used by the FBI in its investigation of Trump and Russia.

But there's plenty of fodder for both sides to point to, as the dossier continues to be a focal point in the congressional investigations into Russia.

California Rep Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, said the transcript reveals "serious allegations that the Trump Organization may have engaged in money laundering with Russian nationals".

Simpson "testified that if the Trump Organization did engage in money laundering with the Russians, it would be with the knowledge or approval of the Kremlin and constitute powerful leverage over the President of the United States", Schiff said.

"Thus far, Committee Republicans have refused to look into this key area and we hope the release of this transcript will reinforce the importance of these critical questions to our investigation."

But during the testimony, Republicans questioned whether the allegations Simpson was making actually had evidence to back them up.

Simpson said that he felt the research showed a crime could have been occurring.

Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat on the committee, also said that Simpson "did not provide evidence", and suggested that the question of criminality was better suited for special counsel Robert Mueller than the intelligence panel.

"I think that's an important point," Himes told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "They're very serious allegations, and, again, not one that this investigative committee has the resources to pursue, but one hopes that if there's anything to the allegations, those who live in the criminal realm, that is to say Special Counsel Bob Mueller, would be doing the investigation of those allegations if he feels that there's reason to do so."

Simpson explained part of the reason he was motivated to go to the media with the dossier, which has been a sore spot with Republicans.

Simpson said he felt what the dossier had uncovered was "historic" and was something the press needed to investigate.

But he was also motivated by the then-FBI Director Jim Comey's decision in late October 2016 to announce the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server - while at the same time not disclosing it was also investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.





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