The former British spy who wrote the infamous dossier about Donald Trump was so concerned that Trump might be blackmailed by the Russian government that he reached out the FBI in July 2016, a Senate transcript released Tuesday revealed.
By that time, the FBI already had an informant in Trump’s network, according to Glenn Simpson, one of the co-founders of the firm that produced the notorious Trump dossier.
Simpson spent around 10 hours testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in August, and for months, the details of that meeting were kept secret — until Tuesday, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office released Simpson’s full testimony to the public.
Sen. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a press release Tuesday that Simpson, who co-founded the research firm Fusion GPS, had requested the release of the transcript. “The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” Feinstein added.
The dossier contains unverified, and crude, information about President Donald Trump. It’s also been the subject of intense partisan disagreement.
Simpson, during the interview, said the FBI put its trust in Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump dossier: “My understanding was that they [the FBI] believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris 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 said.
Here are the takeaways from the 312-page transcript:
Steele wanted to go to the FBI
Steele felt it was his professional obligation as a “national security expert” to let the FBI know that Russian operatives appeared to have compromising information on Trump and his associates. Simpson said Steele did reach out to the FBI, but ended up cutting his ties with the agency following its reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the publication of a New York Times story announcing that the FBI had failed to unearth any link between Trump and Russia.
“I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn't know what was happening inside the FBI,” Simpson said, “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.”
Simpson also suggested that the FBI already had a source inside the Trump organization by the time Steele reached out to the agency, who backed up some of his findings. But questions surround the veracity of that claim.
It’s also unclear, based on Simpson’s testimony, whether the FBI paid Steele for his assistance with their investigation. Simpson thinks that the agency did reimburse Steele for travel expenses: a flight to Rome to meet with the “lead FBI guy” there.
The dossier has apparently already led to at least one death
When the committee tried to press Simpson on his sources, Simpson’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, stepped in with a remarkable claim.
“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 told the committee, adding, “We've had death threats come to the company.”
No one asked Levy who he was referring to, and Levy never elaborated.
The Russian lawyer who set up the Trump Tower meeting didn’t know Fusion GPS was researching Trump.
Though Simpson interacted with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in the course of another project, and later had dinner with her on June 8 and June 10, 2016, Simpson said he didn’t tell her about his work on the presidential election.
Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump, Jr. at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, after an intermediary promised Trump’s eldest son that she had compromising information on Clinton.
To which he replied: "I love it."
Trump Jr. has repeatedly insisted that nothing came of the meeting, though he initially denied that the meeting was even about Clinton.
Just like everybody else, Fusion GPS had a lot of questions about Trump’s true wealth
When Fusion GPS was first asked to look into then-candidate Trump, Simpson says they took a good long look into whether Trump is actually a billionaire.
“We looked at the bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion dollars in personal assets,” Simpson said. “One of the things we found out was that, you know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump organization. So they would make filings with various state and local authorities saying that their buildings weren't worth much.”
Simpson also pointed out that Trump settled a libel case against a journalist who claimed he wasn’t a billionaire. “In other words,” Simpson said, “he didn’t prevail in his attempts to prove that he was a billionaire.”
No one likes Carter Page
When Fusion GPS started scoping out Trump staffers, Simpson concluded that the former Trump campaign advisor might be an issue.
“He was on the younger side, a little bit — considered to be a striver who was ambitious and not terribly savvy, and those are the kind of people that the Russians tend to compromise,” Simpson said. “That was the general sense we had. He was also, you know, from early on described as somewhat eccentric.”
Page now finds himself in the middle of several investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to swing the 2016 election.